The Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has denied that $30 billion is missing from the Excess Crude Account as alleged by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State.
“The widely published comment by Gov. Adams Oshiomhole alleging that 30 billion dollars is missing from the Excess Crude Account is shocking and totally untrue,” a spokesperson for the minister, Paul Nwabuikwu, said in statement Saturday.
“The comments reflect, once again, the unfortunate tendency of some political players to politicise the management of the economy on the basis of half-truths and sundry distortions.
He said Mr. Oshiomhole’s comments gave the impression that the Federal Government doles out whatever it wished to the states from the Federation Account.
“But anyone who is familiar with the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) process knows that this is simply not true.
“The meetings are held every month and Commissioners of Finance and other officials represent their states and agreements are reached on issues including the distribution of proceeds from the Account.
“There is no 30 billion dollars missing from the Excess Crude Account as alleged by Governor Oshiomhole,” it added.
The response followed an allegation by Mr. Oshiomhole that given the number of barrels of oil produced in the country and the dollar rate in the last three years, the amount raised in the Excess Crude Account fell by at least $30 billion.
The governor also said the revenue in the account had not been shared in the last 18 months and yet the account went empty.
“Over the past three years, whereas the budgets have been based on an average price of between $78 and $79 a barrel, the average price of Nigeria’s sweet crude has been around $108 per barrel. That gives a surplus of over $30. Ideally, we ought to be saving $36 per barrel.
“With 2.3 million barrel a day over the past three years, if you look at these numbers, you will find that what we should have in our excess crude oil account should be over $30billion. But, as we speak, we have barely $3 billon,” Mr. Oshiomhole said.
The Chairman of the Commissioners Forum in the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), Timothy Odaah, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on telephone on Saturday expressed surprise at the allegation, saying he would not comment on the allegation till he confirmed with the authorities at the Ministry of Finance.
“I am yet to get in contact with the AGF (Accountant General of the Federation) or the Minister of State for Finance on the issue. There is need for me to verify from them to confirm if the allegation is true that Edo State have not been getting anything,” he said.
“I cannot competently comment on the information, because none of my members (Commissioners for Finance from the 36 states and FCT) have called me to complain,” he added.
But the minister, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, said the governor’s claim could never be true.
“How can such a huge amount be missing from the ECA and the Edo State governor will be the only one privy to this?”
After sharing about N1.196 trillion wind-falls as revenue allocation for the months of August and September 2013, the then Minister of State for Finance and Chairman of FAAC, Yerima Ngama, had announced a resolution by members to henceforth stop the “culture of augmenting monthly allocations by drawing from the ECA, whenever available revenue fell short of the budgeted for the month.”
The resolution was in line with the Federal Government decision to ensure that at no time would the ECA balance be allowed to fall below $10 billion, to provide cushion to the economy in times of unexpected shocks.
Despite the resolution, members of the FAAC, consisting the Commissioners of Finance and their Accountants General from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, continued to withdraw from the ECA to augment statutory allocations.
As at December 2013, the balance in the ECA was about $6.9billion.
Mr. Yerima said an additional $2billion transferred to the account had raised the balance to $8.9billion in January 2014.
Mr. Yerima said another $1billion was withdrawn at the end of the month for sharing among the three tiers of government, bringing the new balance in the account to about $7.9billion.
Between May and June, various deductions were also made from the account. Another $2.7billion was withdrawn in September 2014.
At the end of the FAAC meeting in October, Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, said the balance in the ECA was about $4.11 billion.
But, the meeting for November ended on a controversial note on December 16 as representatives of the 36 states and the FCT accused the federal government of not accounting for about $1billion (about N168 billion) of excess crude oil money withdrawn from the account.
The minister later denied that $1 billion was missing.[Premium Times]