Amaechi, NGF and missing $49.8 billion, By Chijama Ogbu

Amaechi runs the risk of losing credibility

For man, credibility is an indispensable asset, which is also hard won. It defines a person’s worth in the eyes of the public. It is difficult to build but even harder to rebuild when it is lost. Often in the quest for fame or wealth or power, many self-conceited men have squandered credibility while pursuing objects of their obsessions and or feeding into their hyper-inflated sense of self-worth.

Politicians are often victims of this cancerous social disease with high sounding name – megalomania. Surrounded by a coterie of praise mongers and parasitic hangers-on, they sometimes lose sense of wisdom and allow themselves to be deceived into the pursuit of self-destructive agenda and senseless acts of braggadocio.

It is in this light that I am saddened, really saddened, each time I watch or read Governor Rotimi Amaechi’s purported acts of gallantry against President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency.

In Mr. Amaechi, many of us saw a man, who combined in a political office, wisdom, charisma and panache; hard to find in our political clime. But it appears he has chosen to trade all that off for his obsession with seeking a pound of flesh from the Jonathan presidency; probably for messing up his chance of becoming chairman of the wholesome Nigeria Governors Forum for the second time. Of course, he has given several reasons for his unrelenting stand off against Mr. Jonathan, but that is beside the point here. His daily tantrums against President Jonathan, deserved or undeserved, may be generating unintended consequences.

Many Nigerians no longer take stories from or about him seriously. They dismiss it merely as “Amaechi politics.” He may be right in some of the things he says, but any fact too often repeated would sound like a broken record – jarring and repugnant to the ear. Suddenly, his stories no longer move newspaper sales. Wise editors, except in a few cases, just give his stories perfunctory attention.

The last time governors under the aegis of Amaechi-led faction of NGF claimed that there was no record to show that the alleged missing $49.8 billion (N7.9 trillion) was paid into the Federation Account or was duly appropriated as explained by functionaries of the Jonathan administration, the claim was attributed to a group. However, from antecedents, it is easy to see that wide allegations of this kind now hallmarks Mr. Amaechi’s now broken mandate as NGF chair.

After a similar meeting of NGF last November, he had come up with the allegation that the Jonathan presidency had withdrawn a whopping $5 billion (N797 billion) from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, which elicited an immediate response from the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The minister explained then that the money was actually drawn to make up for shortfall in statutory allocation and shared by the three tiers of government. The governor bandied this charge about for a while before going silent on it.

The issue of the alleged diversion of $49.8 billion now appears over-flogged that returning to it makes the intention behind it palpable. In the first place, it is obvious to most Nigerians that the money was not actually missing. Even the Central Bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, who stirred the hornet’s nest ab initio, has since gotten clarification on how the money actually flowed into the system. This can easily be inferred from Mr. Sanusi’s statement on Friday when he was quoted as saying that that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, had no right to retain $10 billion (N1.59 trillion) income, an action which he blamed for the drop in savings that had left the nation exposed to possible price shocks. The CBN governor is no longer talking about missing or diverted fund, but about appropriateness of the action taken by the NNPC.

It will be recalled that the issue of the appropriate way of handling NNPC costs dates back to the days of former Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Gauis Obaseki.

In 2002, the former Chairman of Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Haman Tukur, raised a similar alarm over such a huge sum of money that was not appropriately remitted into the Federation Account in the CBN. While Mr. Tukur insisted that by constitutional stipulation, all monies accruing from crude oil sales must be paid into the Federation Account and then distributed by the three tiers of government, the NNPC then insisted that it must recover all its cost and pay the remainder into the Federation Account, so that it would not default in cash call obligations and other exigencies.

This was a serious issue then and remains a serious one today, which ought to be properly defined in the constitution under review. But that is not the same as insinuating that the Federal Government would just in one fell swoop clean out $49.8 billion from the collective resource of the country.

In a similar manner, in trying to explain the reasons for his differences with Mr. Jonathan, Mr. Amaechi has at different times come up with several charges. First, he said that the President was fighting him because he refused to cede Rivers State’s oil wells to Bayelsa State, the home state of the president. He next said that he was fighting the president because Mr. Jonathan had not done anything for the South-south people, citing non-completion of East-West Road. At another time, Mr. Amaechi attributed their differences on the intrusive tendencies of the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, whom he claimed tried to run his government for him. He also once said it was his perceived ambition to run for vice presidency (or is it presidency), that set off their disagreement. Not quite long ago, he alleged that the presidency was plotting to assassinate him, and all these without any concrete supportive facts.

It is difficult to know which one to believe. And if one, knowingly or unknowingly, becomes consistently inconsistent in postulations and facts, he runs the risk of putting his credibility in jeopardy.

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