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Money in ECA belongs to States; If govs decide to withdraw $1bn from it to fight Boko Haram, so be it- AGF



Money in ECA belongs to States; If govs decide to withdraw $1bn from it to fight Boko Haram, so be it- AGF

Concerns that the Nigerian government may have acted beyond its constitutional powers in withdrawing $1bn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight Boko Haram insurgents, without recourse to the National Assembly, were addressed Saturday by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris.
Addressing media men in Abuja at the special Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting for December where States agreed to share a total of N609.96 billion for the month, Idris said, “There is a process that needs to be followed before money is withdrawn from the account. The instruction needs to be given before money is taken. Unless it is taken, the balance in the account remains the same as at the reporting date, which is December 15, 2017.
“Ordinarily, savings in the ECA should have been distributed to the three tiers of government, who are the owners of the money. So, if the same owners decide that part of the money be utilised to provide security for life and property in the country or make the system work, I don’t think there is any issue in that.”
The National Economic Council (NEC), which has all state governors as members, at it’s Thursday meeting claimed that its members had authorized the Federal Government to withdraw $1 billion from the $2.3 billion currently in the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

Edo State’s Governor Godwin Obaseki, who made the decision of the meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, known to State House correspondents, said that the money was meant to help the Nigerian government fight against the Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast.

However, the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, on Friday expressed deep reservations over the acclaimed resolution, alleging that the said withdrawal was a clandestine move to put money in the hands of President Muhammadu Buhari to assist him return to power in 2019.
He said, “For posterity sake, I wish to place it on record that I was not among the governors, who approved the withdrawal of almost half of our savings in the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government to fight an already defeated insurgency.
“Since they said they have defeated Boko Haram, what else do they need a whopping sum of $1 billion (over N360 billion) for; if not to fund the 2019 elections?”
Fayose’s strong position elicited strong condemnation from Governor Abdullaziz Yari of Zamfara State who is also Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.
Yari said, “I am saying that that statement by Governor Fayose was an unfair cut against the Forum. When a decision is taken by the Forum in one’s absence, once there was a quorum at the meeting where the decision was taken, (it) becomes binding on all. I am sure Fayose was not making the statement to undermine the Forum. He was just doing his thing.”
The Boko Haram insurgency remains a major threat to the peace and stability of the country. The decision to commit another $1bn to the war appears to have hurt public confidence in Nigerian government’s handling of the war under the Buhari administration, especially against the backdrop of touted claims that the terrorists had been ‘decimated.’

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