In the latest round of confrontation between Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi and functionaries of the Federal Government, the governor on Saturday took Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela to task on the Federal Government’s handling of the national economy.
In response to the minister’s claim that the governor knew everything about the $5 billion said to be missing from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), Amaechi raised four posers for the minister on the state of the nation’s economy
In a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Ibim Seminatari, Amaechi said that contrary to the minister’s position that he (Amaechi) was part of the decision making to share the $5 billion by the three tiers of government, he and the other 35 governors were privy only to the withdrawal of $1 billion from the ECA.
He insisted that due process was not followed by the Federal Government in the withdrawals made from ECA.
The governor acknowledged his state’s receipt of N56.2billion, for January to September 2013 as statutory allocation from the federation account but explained that federation account is funded from receipts from oil and other sales (with oil accounting for over 90 percent and taxes – VAT- custom duties etc.).
“When more crude is produced and sold above the quantity anticipated by the budget for any given year, the funds are by law meant to be kept as future savings in a stabilization account, also known as the excess crude account,” he said.
According to the statement, “There is a position of the National Economic Council’s (NEC) on the matter of the Excess Crude Account. This position is that the savings in the ECA belonging to all the states is not to be touched.
“Indeed this is in tandem with the position of the minister that the ECA is savings for all to be set-aside for the rainy day and not to be “shared” in the manner she now seems to suggest.”
The Rivers State Government, he stressed “finds it curious and very disturbing that our rainy day savings has been ‘shared’ in complete breach of the known procedure for doing such and in what might be considered an under the table and clandestine manner.”
“The Rivers State government is certain that its Governor did not participate in any such meeting where any such approval was requested or even discussed and given.”
He said it was worrisome that ECA was being managed like a “piggy-bank.”
The governor said the minister’s statement that the SURE-P is being funded from the ECA contradicts President Jonathan’s broadcast that SURE-P “is designed to manage and reinvest the Federal Governments share of the savings from the partial reduction of subsidies on petroleum products.”
“It was not and is not meant to be that SURE-P is to be funded from ECA nor can the Federal Government unilaterally withdraw money from the ECA to balance payments to oil marketers.
“Indeed the statement of the accountant general of the federation previously quoted lays credence to this position – “N35.547 billion from the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P); formed part of the total distributable revenue for the month, he said”
The governor then requested the minister to provide answers to the following questions for ” the purposes of clarity and for avoidance of doubt”:
*How much oil does the country produce per day?
* Clarification that the benchmark price for oil in the 2013 budget is $79?
* Is it a fact that crude oil was sold at prices that hovered around $110 per day throughout the year?
* How much exactly has Nigeria earned from its oil sales in 2013 and what percentage of the budget is funded by these receipts?
He added that ”The position of the Federal Government has been that there are shortfalls in production but does this position also take into cognisance the over $30 differential between the benchmark price of $79 and the actual sale price which averaged $110 per barrel during the period.
The position of the Rivers State Government is that the differential of over $30 should have been enough to fund the shortfall in production, the said.
“Rivers State has received N56.2 billion from the Excess Crude Account between January and September 2013.” Neither Rivers nor any other state would have any inkling that the money received by Rivers State government and other state governments for that matter was funded from the ECA.
“According to a communiqué issued by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation after the June allocation meeting, ” the sum of N7.617 billion refunded by NNPC and the N35.547 billion from the Subsidy Re-investment Programme (SURE-P); formed part of the total distributable revenue for the month.”
“The communiqué confirmed that the gross revenue for the month was N863.026 billion. This was higher than the N590.777 billion received in May by N272.249 billion. It said very unambiguously, “the higher revenue was a result of increased crude oil production due to the completion of pipeline repairs in some terminals.
“There was also a significant increase in non-oil revenue during the period due to the receipt of accumulated arrears on companies.”
“The Rivers State government therefore finds puzzling the suggestion by the minister that the savings for 2012 has been used to fund the budget for 2013.”