Since last week when chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulaziz Yari, announced to a very shocked nation that they had during a meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), asked the Federal Government to withdraw $1bn (over N360 billion) from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight Boko Haram, the public space has been abuzz with reactions, mostly of condemnation.
The ever busy social media, for instance, is flowing with stories of disaffection with the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government over the planned withdrawal. Many are wondering why a degraded Boko Haram has suddenly become quite an expensive project, while the cleanup of the heavily polluted Ogoniland where the crude comes from still remains on paper.
Among critics is the Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, who quickly dissociated himself from the plan.
“For posterity sake, I wish to place it on record that I was not among the governors, who approved the withdrawal of $1bn, almost half of our savings in the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government, to fight an already defeated Boko Haram,” he said.
Fayose didn’t just stop at that as he went on to tell anyone willing to listen that though the APC promised to wipe out Boko Haram within six months in office, it would seem that after 31 months, what they’ve succeeded in wiping out is the economy and the means of livelihood of the people.
According to him, N360bn is equivalent to what the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) shares to the FG, 36 States and 774 LGs monthly and Nigerians deserve proper explanations from the Federal Government on the rationale behind spending such huge sum of money to fight an already defeated war.
In the same token, public discourse since that announcement has generally toed the same line.
And you will not blame those that think the national treasury is daily being looted in readiness for the 2019 elections under the pretense of fighting Boko Haram among other dubious means.
This is even more so when taken into cognizance that not long ago, a House of Reps committee had exposed another corruption where over N50 billion meant to be in the Treasury Single Account (TSA) was allegedly lodged into a secret account in total contravention of Nigeria’s TSA policy.
Who will also ever believe that under President Muhammadu Buhari, who was massively voted for in 2015 under the ‘change mantra’ with huge expectations that he will fight and bring corruption to a conclusive end, an Abdulrasheed Maina would happened?
How about Babachir Lawal and the grass cutting saga? What about Ayodele Oke, sacked Director-General of the National Intelligent Agency (NIA) in relation to the $43.5 million locked in a private apartment in Ikoyi area of Lagos, as well as the controversy surrounding the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)?
As a matter of fact, a good number of top government officials in the Buhari-led government have been accused of one corruption allegation or the other, all of which the president is equally accused of turning a blind eye to.
All of these go to justify the angry reactions that trailed the proposed ECA deduction, which the Federal Government, through various official and unofficial communications, has been justifying.
But who spends $1 billion on a finished defeated foe? If $1bn (almost half of ECA) from the excess crude oil account is used to fight Boko Haram, how much would be needed to rebuild the whole nation, which in a manner of speaking, is in serious need of rebuilding?
Though the narrative has changed, apparently because of the heat generated by the idea, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s damage control, indicating that the planned deduction was not after all just for the fight against Boko Haram but would be used to assist all of different security challenges in the states, Nigerians are not fooled.
And assuming that is even the case, Nigerians need a breakdown of how the money is to be shared.
As it is, 16 local government chairmen in Ekiti state have sued the Attorney General of the Federation and governors of the 36 states over the issue, “demanding an order of injunction restraining the Federal Government and the 36 states governors, their agents, servants, privies, representatives in interest, howsoever called and by whatsoever name designated, from giving effect to the appropriation and/or approval of appropriation of the sum of $1 billion or any other sum whatsoever, from the Excess Crude Account of the Federation.”
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Governors’ Forum during the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration had sought legal action against the Federal Government for making such deductions to offset fuel subsidy, saying it negated the principle of federalism and budgetary provision.
If that was the case then, when and who must have amended the constitution for the action to be right now, more so when the same government had on several occasions, announced to the world that Boko Haram had been decimated?
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