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The Federal Government on Monday denied an allegation made by the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, that $5bn was missing from the Excess Crude Account.

It stated that the governor could not deny knowledge of the management of the fund, adding that Amaechi’s claim was false.

But the governor, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. David Iyofor, said he would react to the Federal Government’s position on the missing $5bn after studying the FG’s statement of rebuttal.

At a retreat of the Nigerian Governors Forum in Sokoto on Saturday, Amaechi had said there was $9bn in the ECA in January this year, but regretted that the amount had been depleted to $4bn without the knowledge of the governors.

He had said, “The Excess Crude Account in January was $9bn. That account belongs to federal, states and local governments. Today, it is $4bn. We don’t know who took the $5bn.”

But in defending how the account was managed, the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in a statement issued in Abuja, described the claims by the governor as “absolutely shocking and false.”

Specifically, the statement said the governor could not credibly deny knowledge of the status of the ECA as Rivers State received N56.2bn in the first nine months of this year from the account.

It said, “Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has been quoted in recent media reports as saying that $5bn is missing from the ECA. This statement is absolutely shocking and false.

“The governor cannot credibly deny knowledge of the status of the ECA. He has been closely involved and actively participated in making requests to the Presidency for the ECA to be shared for the purpose of augmenting the regular allocations from the Federation Account whenever there is a shortfall.

“The $5bn in the ECA, which Governor Amaechi referred to in his statement, has been shared to the three tiers of government to make up for revenue shortfalls during the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee process. Part of this fund also went for SURE-P payments and the balance for subsidy payments to oil marketers.”

Giving a breakdown of the N56.2bn allocated to River State from the ECA, the ministry said N43bn was given to the state to augment revenue shortfall from the Federation Account, while N12bn was released for SURE-P.

It said, “Rivers State received N56.2bn, the second highest share among the states, for January to September 2013 from the ECA. This amount includes N43bn for shortfalls plus N12bn released for SURE-P.

“In fact, earlier this month (November 2013) Rivers State, along with other states, benefitted from the sharing of $1bn from the ECA to augment the allocations.

“It is, therefore, curious that Governor Amaechi seems not to know the whereabouts of the N56.2bn which Rivers State has received from the ECA this year.”

On the allegation that the finance minister refused to approve the state’s request to obtain a loan from the African Development Bank for water project, the ministry said Amaechi’s claim was wrong.

The statement further said the minister handled issues concerning the states on the basis of professionalism and equity.

But Ameachi said the state would respond to the N56.2bn that the Federal Government said it gave to the state from the ECA after carefully studying the response of the FG.

Amaechi’s media aide, Iyofor, who said this in a statement on Monday, also insisted that his principal (Amaechi) remained the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.

He said that the Presidency lied when it said that Amaechi was not the chairman of the forum.

He said the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Ahmed Gulak, who was credited with the statement, portrayed the Presidency as undemocratic.

He said, “It is a known fact that in the election for the chairman of NGF held on May 24, 2013, Governor Amaechi got the mandate of the majority of his colleagues to continue to serve as their chairman when 19 governors voted for him as against 16 that voted for Governor Jang.

“But for the Presidency (according to Gulak), 16 is greater 19. We, like most Nigerians, are further saddened that the likes of Gulak in the Presidency are so ignorant and lack the capacity to comprehend the quantum of damage that comments like that do to the President and the Presidency.”

 

[Punch]

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