Home Business $2.1 b ECA funds: Okonjo-Iweala replies FG

$2.1 b ECA funds: Okonjo-Iweala replies FG

by Business News Report
Immediate past Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minuister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday described as “false and malicious,” the allegation by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, that she spent $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, without authorization.
Speaking through her Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, in Abuja, the ex-minister said that there was no unauthorized expenditure from the ECA under her watch in the Finance Ministry.
  According to her, decisions on withdrawals from the ECA were discussed at monthly meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee, FAAC,  attended by Finance Commissioners from the 36 states.
 “It is curious that in their desperation to use the esteemed National Economic Council for political and personal vendetta, the persons behind these allegations acted as if the constitutionally recognized FAAC, a potent expression of Nigeria’s fiscal federalism, does not exist.
“But Nigerians know that collective revenues, allocations and expenditures of the three tiers of government are the concern of the monthly FAAC meetings,” the minister said. She added that Governor Oshiomhole and some others like him, had made futile efforts at rubbishing her in the past and that the current effort would fail like the ones before it.
 “It is clear that this is the latest chapter of a political witch-hunt by elements who are attempting to use the respected National Economic Council for ignoble purposes having failed abysmally in their previous attempts to tar the Okonjo-Iweala name.
“It will be recalled that one of such attempts took place in May when some of these governors, hiding under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors Forum asked Okonjo-Iweala to explain $20 billion alleged to be missing from the same ECA.
“The Finance Ministry subsequently issued a news release and published an advertorial in national newspapers on May 25, 2015 giving details of what the Federal Government and states received from the ECA in the last four years. It also provided details of the use of the funds for payment of petrol subsidies for the Nigerian public and SURE-P allocations to the three tiers for development purposes.
 “After the publication, the accusers lost their voice. But the latest allegations show that these persons are still in the business of throwing up wild, unsubstantiated figures to damage Okonjo-Iweala’s name. For instance, within the last few months, Governor Oshiomhole and his fellow travelers have asked Okonjo-Iweala to account for “missing” $30 billion, $20 billion and now $2.1 billion. What they don’t seem to understand is that the strategy has lost all credibility because the falsehood is clear for all to see,” she said. 
She wondered that some governors who fought federal government efforts to leave robust savings in the ECA and even took the Federal Government to court over the matter turn around to make such unfounded allegations

It is important to acknowledge the efforts of governors who are working hard to overcome the current revenue challenges facing their states without resorting to character assassination and blame games.

According to the ex-minister, she pioneered the practice of publishing monthly updates of all allocations to different tiers of government in order to empower Nigerians with information and knowledge of government revenues and expenditure.

“This enabled the Nigerian public to ask questions about the utilization of these resources. Of course many elected and appointed public officials were not happy with this development”, she claimed.
Publishing government revenues and expenditure, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, said, continued to the end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration and that as such   periodic updates on the Excess Crude Account, subsidy payments for verified claims by oil marketers for fuel imports as well as SURE-P payments to the three tiers of government.
She insisted, “the idea that she spent $2.1 billion ‘without authorization’ is simply not credible given that details of government receipts and expenditure are public knowledge”.

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