The last appears not to have been heard on the claim that part of the money in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) is missing as Governor Rotimi Amaechi of River State, yesterday, faulted the Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on the matter.
In a point by point response to the position of the minister, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, that the $5 billion allegedly missing from the ECA had been shared to the three tiers of government to make up for the revenue shortfalls during the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee process while part of it also went for SURE-P payments and the balance for subsidy payments to oil marketers, the governor asked Okonjo-Iweala to shed more light on subsidy savings since the reduction in petroleum subsidy, among many other questions.
Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), had, at the second retreat of the group, penultimate Saturday, raised the alarm about the depletion of the ECA from $9 billion to $4 billion, saying the Federal Government had questions to answer about the $5 billion balance.
Okonjo-Iweala debunked the allegation, saying no money was missing from the ECA.
In a statement, Saturday entitled, ‘Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala – $5 billion is not missing from ECA – Rivers State Government’s position’, the state government said that contrary to the Finance Minister’s claim “that Amaechi was closely involved and actively participated in making requests to the presidency for the account to be shared for the purpose of augmenting the regular allocations from the Federation Account whenever there was a shortfall, Governor Chibuike Amaechi and his colleague-governors have attended only one meeting where ONE REQUEST was made for the sharing of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account”.
Beyond that one meeting, the statement said, there has been no other meeting where it was decided that money from the ECA be shared among the three tiers of government.
“There is a position of the National Executive Council’s (NEC) on the matter of the Excess Crude Account. This position is that the savings in the ECA belonging to all the states is not to be touched. Indeed this is in tandem with the position of the Honourable minister that the ECA is savings for all to be set-aside for the rainy day and not to be “shared” in the manner she now seems to suggest. The Rivers State Government finds it curious and very disturbing that our rainy day savings has been “shared” in complete breach of the known procedure for doing such and in what might be considered an under the table and clandestine manner,” the statement said.
“The appropriate procedure as the Honourable Minster knows is that usually members of the NEC have to make recommendations to Mr. President should there be need recourse to the Excess Crude account. The Rivers State Government is certain that its Chief Executive and Governor did not participate in any such meeting where any such approval was requested or even discussed and given.”
On the minister’s claim that Rivers State received N56.2 billion from the ECA between January and September 2013, the statement said the state would not have any inkling that the money it received among other state governments was funded from the ECA. “According to a communiqué issued by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation after the June allocation meeting, the sum of N7.617 billion refunded by NNPC and the N35.547 billion from the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P) formed part of the total distributable revenue for the month. The communiqué confirmed that the gross revenue for the month was N863.026 billion. This was higher than the N590.777 billion received in May by N272.249 billion. It said very unambiguously that the higher revenue was a result of increased crude oil production due to the completion of pipeline repairs in some terminals.
There was also a significant increase in non-oil revenue uring the period due to the receipt of accumulated arrears on companies,” the statement said.
“Rivers State government therefore finds it puzzling the suggestion by the Honourable Minister that the savings for 2012 has been used to fund the budget for 2013”.
Raising posers on Okonjo-Iweala’s explanation, the statement said: ”For the purposes of clarity and for avoidance of doubt, the Rivers State government may respectfully request the Honourable Minister to shed more light on the following:
· How much oil does the country produce per day?
· Clarification that the benchmark price for oil in the 2013 budget is $79?
· Is it a fact that crude oil was sold at prices that hovered around $110 per day throughout the year?
· How much exactly has Nigeria earned from its oil sales in 2013 and what percentage of the budget is funded by these receipts?