Finally, Buhari Liquidates Excess Crude Account | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Finally, Buhari Liquidates Excess Crude Account

Posted: Jul 7, 2015 at 1:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

•   Shares N400b With States, LGs In Massive Bail Out

By Chesa Chesa and  Ignatius  Okorocha and Isuma Mark,  Abuja


After days of insisting that there would be no bailout for states and local government councils in the country, President Muhammadu Buhari, may have finally yielded to pressure, shifting grounds on the matter.

The Federal Government, on Monday agreed to share about $1.7 billion (N391 billion) left in the controversial Excess Crude Account, a move that would ensure that states and local councils pay salaries and meet other obligations.

State governors had last week at the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting demanded the sharing of the funds in the account, which they had then put at $2 billion.

Accountant-General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, after meeting with President Buhari, told journalists at the Presidential Villa that the sharing would be done at a meeting of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) scheduled for Monday evening.

According to Idris: “Today, we are going to meet; the FAAC is going to meet, and we are going to distribute as agreed and directed during the NEC meeting last week.

“The position is very clear, what we met on ground is what we are going to distribute. It is hovering between $1.6 and $1.7 billion, and that is what we are going to distribute among all the three tiers of governments, the federal, states and local governments based on the approved formula.”

He said the President was clear in his instructions that concerning more efficient management of the meagre resources available to the country now.

“Mr. President had a clear direction which we all have to fall in line – prudent management of resources and to identify more alternative ways of generating revenue – which we are set to do; and to manage the meagre resources we found on ground very efficiently and effectively for the betterment of the economy”, Idris added.

But against the backdrop of insinuations that it is only the sub-national governments that urgently need bailout, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, said last week that the Federal Government is just as broke.

Oshiomhole, who was guest on the Channels Television talkshow, sunrise Daily, noted that as pointer to the equally pitiable state the federal treasury inherited by the Buhari government is, the Federal Government would have been in a worse shape than states, but for its resort to borrowing to pay wages.

“I speak on my honour that the federal government is just as broke and that they are borrowing using CBN instruments in trillions of naira to pay salaries,” he affirmed, blaming former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for granting waivers running into several billions of Naira to various organisations.

Also on Monday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Anastasia Nwaobia, who accompanied Idris to meet with Buhari, explained that but for the sharp drop in global oil prices, Nigeria’s financial status remains okay, although the President underscored the need for prudent management of resources, blockage of revenue leakages and shoring up revenue.

“The state of Nigerian finances is okay, our finances are still okay, though we are still going through challenges of revenue stream to government, and this you know obviously is from the oil shock – the price of oil that has dropped.

“It has significantly reduced the revenue stream to government but we are working on other ways to see how we can shore up the revenue, so that we will be able to meet our expenditure”, she said.

Nwobia said her team was at the Villa essentially to brief the President on the activities of the Ministry of Finance which have been going on despite the absence of a Minister.

According to her: “Government is a continuum, even if you have political heads there, the engine room of the service is the civil servants, and we have continued to do our work.

“What I will say is that the briefing is to bring Mr. President up to speed one-on-one on what is happening in your agency.

“Though handing over notes were presented but I think discussing the handing over notes and clarifying certain issues in the handing over notes is very important and that is what we have done with Mr. President and at this briefing you have a bit of insights on how he wants you to run the Ministry in the interim.”

On reports of massive looting in the ministries as a result of the absence of ministers, Nwaobia said: “It is an unfair statement to make, if people have evidence that there is large scale looting going they are free to come with such.

“The Freedom of Information Act allows that you ask questions, so if there are ministries they are suspecting of embarking on large scale looting, which I think is not true, but everybody is free to ask.”

She also reiterated the Ministry’s position that subsidy payments owed petroleum products importers would be settled only after they have been verified by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

“We did not say that we will not pay subsidy. Like the former Minister said, there is a liability on subsidy, which is being verified by the CBN and Budget Office of the Federation.

“The issue had to do with the forex differentials which they were claiming and this committee is looking into it, and as soon as it is resolved we will be able to pay the verified amount”, she added.

Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki, on Tuesday in Abuja, blamed corruption for non-payment of salaries by states.

Speaking when Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC), Etok Ita and other members of the Commission paid him a courtesy visit in his office, Saraki identified the ICPC, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) as institutional tripod in the country’s war against corruption.

He assured that “the 8th Senate has zero tolerance to corruption. We believe it has got to stage where it is actually endangering the entire system. Some of the symptoms that we are seeing in the area on how it affects our national development is becoming clearer to us. Because of corruption in our national lives, we just bear financial cost.”

Saraki, a two-term Kwara State governor, noted that states are unable to pay salaries because of corruption, stressing that corruption has affected schools, health, increasing the cost of governance, besides causing failure in public institutions and infrastructure.

“We have taken upon ourselves that one of our deliverables is to bring an end and begin to tame those things call corruption.

“I can only disagree that the slight improvement is not something for us to count as an achievement. A country like Nigeria with her position in not only Africa but also the world must do better than that,” he said, expressing readiness to partner the agencies to reduce corruption significantly.

Earlier, Ita, while explaining the purpose of the visit said the issue of legislation has been taken care of, but identified three cardinal thematic areas that the world is using to fight corruption. It listed these as: Enforcement, prevention, public enlightenment, and mass mobilization against corruption.

“The preventive mode was the best mode to adopt in the fight against corruption.” According to him, “Nigeria has gone through several changes and institutional changes starting from the three regional structures to thirty-six states structure, all the institutions have been diluted”.

The sub-structures that support corruption need to be addressed first, he said, before the symptom is tackled, calling for strengthen of the civil service.