The Nigeria Governors’ Forum on Tuesday demanded an explanation from the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on how $20bn that allegedly accrued to the Excess Crude Account was disbursed.
The forum, in a statement issued at the end of a four-hour meeting of the NGF which ended in the early hours of Tuesday in Abuja, said the sum was paid into the ECA between June 2013 and April 2015.
“In the light of the fact that funds in the ECA were last disbursed in May 2013, there is a need for the minister, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, to provide explanations for accruals to this account from June 2013 to April 2015 which is estimated at over $20bn,” the NGF said.
Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who read the statement, also announced that the NGF had reconciled and reunited as a single umbrella association of the 36 state governors regardless of region.
He said, “The induction programme for new and returning governors will be held in June 2015.
“It is also aimed at equipping new and returning governors with the knowledge of global best practices for establishing and running their offices.”
Amaechi added that the meeting resolved to establish a Governors’ Forum Academy to be christened, “The NGF Leadership Academy.”
According to him, the academy will be responsible for capacity building of governors and other persons holding public offices.
The forum congratulated the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, for winning the March 28 election and President Goodluck Jonathan for accepting defeat.
Amaechi, whose tenure as the NGF governor has expired, unveiled Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, as his successor.
Yari emerged as the new chairman by consensus. He is to serve for one year – May 2015 to May 2016. But Okonjo-Iweala, described the NGF’s claim that $20bn accrued to the ECA in less than two years as baseless.
She said in a statement by her Special Adviser, Communications, Paul Nwabuikwu, that the demand was “totally strange” because issues relating to the management of the ECA were usually discussed by the state commissioners for finance at their monthly Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meetings.
She said since the commissioners were representatives of their respective governors at the meetings, there was no basis for the demand.
The statement reads in part, “It has come to our attention that governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum have requested that the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance should account for an estimated $20bn oil revenue from the ECA from June 2013 to April 2015.
“There is no basis for the demand and the stated amount. The statement by the governors is totally strange because FAAC meets every month and the ECA is discussed at every session with all the state Commissioners of Finance present.
“Nothing is hidden. At these meetings the Honourable Minister of State who is the Chair of FAAC announces the balance in the ECA which is then discussed.
“So governors who want any information about the ECA should ask for details from their Commissioners who should have the records of what was discussed and agreed upon. Details of the ECA are also published every month along with the allocations to the three tiers of government.”
The minister said the governors’ reference to June 2013 in their statement was probably because the National Economic Council last met in May 2013.
This, she added, was “immaterial because the FAAC meetings during which the ECA and similar issues are discussed have generally held regularly every month.”
The minister said that Ameachi had made a similar “unsubstantiated allegation” in November 2013 that $5bn was missing from the ECA only to be informed that Rivers State got N56.2bn from the account.
Okonjo-Iweala added, “It is interesting that Governor Amaechi who was reported to have read the communique on behalf of the governors made a similar unsubstantiated allegation in November 2013 that $5bn was missing from the ECA.
“We subsequently showed with facts that not only was the amount not missing, Rivers State received N257.6bn from the Federation Account between January and October 2013, the second highest among the states, of which N56.2bn from the Excess Crude Account was a part.”
“In the interest of transparency and accountability, and to throw more light on this issue’’, the statement said ‘‘the Federal Ministry of Finance will publish details of the ECA for the last four years within the next few days.”