Governors Ayo Fayose of Ekiti and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara on Tuesday disagreed over the decision of the Nigeria Governors Forum to approve the release of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to the federal government for the fight against insecurity in the country.
The two governors were seen openly arguing over the matter and State House correspondents engaged them afterwards. Below is what they said:
“Gentlemen, this is democracy and each and every person has his own way to want to look at things and you cannot stop him from agitation.
“One, Nigeria Governors Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing has been done in 2014 where $2 billion was taken in agreement with the governors at that meeting and (former Akwa Ibom) Governor Akpabio was the one that moved the motion.
“This time, we realised that there was need to purchase equipment for the military, so we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1 billion out of our own share of excess crude account, which we are going to back up with state assembly resolution at a later time.
“This is not the first time that a decision like this is being taken, it happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2 billion.
“We all agreed at that time collectively in the same chamber to withdraw $2 billion to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us whether it was true or false that our soldiers were being killed. Some came on the social media saying that they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment. That was what generated discussions at the same Chamber and there was no controversy, there was no opposition to the decision at that time.
“Secondly, there was this decision also under Yar’Adua’s time when they were sourcing for funds for Niger Delta Power Holdings, they also took over N5 billion for power generation, we followed the same process to withdraw the money from the same account and our respective houses of assembly confirmed the resolution.
“The $2 billion taken under Jonathan’s time was not even backed up by any resolution from the state assemblies.
“Gentlemen we shouldn’t play politics with the issue of national security.
“By the way, at the governors’ forum, 12 members form a quorum and at the time we took this decision we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision.
“If anybody has his own way that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there was no even minority opinion at that meeting. We look at the country, Nigeria, first before any other issue, it is only when you have the country that you can have the politics.”
On giving out $1 billion despite not paying salaries
“You see, if you are not an economist you may not understand what you are talking about. This monies are kept there for the rainy days. And how much are those monies? It is $2 billion. Except in 2015 when we came begging, now we are asking for what is our own.
“Federal governments was deducting the money illegally in those days, we were asking federal government to give us what is our own. We were appealing and they were not listening.
“Thank God today we have a listening government who makes attempts to pay 50 per cent and now we are looking forward to the last balance of 50 per cent. And graciously, understanding the economies of the states, federal government has agreed to pay so that the state governments can pay salaries and meet their obligations to their citizens.”
“I am not in support of $1 billion and will never be in support. In my state we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right, all accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice I have got to go to court.”
What was the consensus here at the meeting today?
“The issue was not discussed at all. But for me I have taken appropriate steps because the money belongs to Ekiti people not to any other use.”
Are you alone in this fight or the entire PDP states are with you?
“Excuse me, I am speaking for Ayo Fayose. With the PDP and the stakeholders we have not met. I did not attend the meeting, even if I was part of the meeting I would have made it expressly clear that I will not support it.
Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. Ekiti State has hunger, where hunger is catching people everywhere. A lot of people are being kidnapped daily, whatever is in that money for me we should share it, let everybody go and solve his own problem. I have challenges and they should give me my money. It is Ekiti money.”
On whether this would have been a good platform to raise the issue
“May I say this to you, I filed the case in court as early as 12 noon today, if it was not listed as part of the meeting, how am I going to raise the issue? I have options and I have said it expressly, I have gone to court.”
On rumours that there was disagreement over the issue at this meeting
“No no. If it was one of the issues discussed I would have said so. I am not a pretender I won’t suffer in silence.”