Immediate past Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has responded to allegations that she spent $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account without the approval of the National Economic Council. While speaking to newsmen after the inauguration of the National Economic Council yesterday June 29th, Governor Adams Oshiomole accused the former minister of spending $2.1 billion from the Excess Crude Account without the necessary authorization.
"We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account. The last time the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported to the council, and it is in the minutes, she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 bn. Today, the Accountant-General Office reported we have $2.0bn. Which means the honourable minister spent $2.1bn without authority of the NEC and that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government,” Adams Oshiomhole said
However in a statement released and signed by her spokesperson Paul Nwabuikwu today June 30th, Dr Okonjo-Iweala said there was no authorized spending from the Excess Crude Account under her watch as Minister of Finance. She described the allegations as a political witch hunting.
"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. 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.
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. How can some governors who fought FG’s 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? The world knows that it was Okonjo-Iweala who pioneered, during her first stint as Minister of Finance in the Obasanjo administration, 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 continued this practice when she returned in 2011 and even added 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. Against this background, 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. We believe that Nigerians are too smart to be hoodwinked by this partisan desperation to tar the name of Okonjo-Iweala. In the interest of the country, we advise that public officials should avoid the temptation to politicize economic issues so that balanced analysis can lead to real solutions.”the statement read