Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, has accused the former Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, of illegally withdrawing $1 billion from the Federation Account to execute former president Goodluck Jonathan‘s re-election campaign. However, she has denied the allegations.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Edo State Government for Permanent Secretaries, Directors and Deputy Directors, here is what he stated, as reported by ThisDay:
“The truth is, many things went wrong even at the federal level. As you might have read in the papers, while the federal government, under President Jonathan, with the then coordinating minister for the economy liked to blame “governors” for wasteful spending, for not saving for the rainy day, for not investing properly, the truth is that the real weakness in the Nigerian federal chain has been the federal government.
Our hope is that with the new President, given his pedigree, we will break from the past.
As I’m sure you will soon begin to hear when all the numbers are published. Last week, I complained aloud that Edo State lost about N10 billion over a four-year period from only one source: the NLNG remittance to the federation account.
How did I arrive at the figure? I used my four-figure table and I asked myself at $2.1 billion remitted by NLNG as taxes and Shell, and by the way, Shell is not the only oil operative, we have Chevron and several others. They shared the $2.1 billion based on the revenue allocation formula, Edo State got about N2.27 billion. So I said, thank God this money came after the departure of Okonjo-Iweala and President Jonathan. If the PDP were still in charge in Abuja, this money would have been taken.
That is not the only money Edo State Government has lost. You have heard of the last instalment of $4.1 billion that was in the ECA as of November, 2014, and from that time till today, we have not; when I say we, federal, states and local governments, have not touched that money.
We have not agreed to take anything out of it, and yet it has been drawn down to about $2 billion. Which means $2.1 billion disappeared. If you listened and followed the conversation, when I made this allegation after the National Economic Council meeting that Okonjo-Iweala took $2.1 billion without approval and spent it in a manner that was never accounted for, she replied that I lied and said it was the commissioners and herself who agreed to distribute that money to the three tiers of government and that FAAC is the most visible expression of our true federalism. And that we shouldn’t claim that FAAC is unknown to us. That FAAC is a creation of law and so on and so forth.
I’m going into this because as public servants, you need to understand not just the finances of Edo State but also the finances of Nigeria, particularly as they affect our state.
Now the Commissioners of Finance met and they looked at themselves and they looked at Okonjo-Iweala and they submitted to Okonjo-Iweala that ‘madam, you lied, not Oshiomhole, because in truth, we have no powers to decide withdrawals from the ECA and that that power is vested in the state governors at the level of the National Economic Council.’ But whether vested or not, we never, resolved to share money from that account.
Now, Okonjo-Iweala, confronted with these hard facts, shifted the argument that ‘oh no it is not FAAC that approved it, it was the former President Jonathan that approved it.
President Jonathan as far as the law of Nigeria is concerned, or any president, his approval is limited to funds of the federal government, not funds of the federation. Funds of the federation can only be approved by governors and representative of the president as reflected in the composition of the National Economic Council, which is made up by governors and chaired by the vice-president, with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor and Minister of Finance and others as members. But there’s so much confusion now that Okonjo-Iweala can say one thing in the morning and tomorrow she will say I never said so. If she were a witness in a court of law, she would be declared a pathological liar whose evidence is of no value.
So governments have lost a lot of money and the $2.1 billion, Edo State’s share of that, because that would have included derivation, and we would have made about N2.6 billion which we have lost now to Okonjo-Iweala.
Now that she claimed she used it, between herself and the former president, they agreed to take the money to pay oil marketers. But if you talk to those oil marketers, they will tell you that within that period, they were paid $1 billion not $2.1 billion. So in truth, about $1 billion was taken for election purposes and Edo State’s share of that should have been about N4.6 billion from that $2.1 billion that Okonjo Iweala, the former Minister of Finance illegally took from ECA.
For clarity, that is not the only money they have so illegally taken. If you look at the total number at a point, the excess crude account peaked at $10 billion and we now heard it dropped to $4.1 billion. This means at some point, another $6 billion was taken. So we are hopeful that by the time we carry out some forensic analysis, we will be able to show clearly how much of the funds accruing to the three tiers of government were unilaterally and illegally spent by the federal government under the former minister of finance.”
See Okonjo-Iweala’s response (press statement), as reported by Daily Post:
The allegation by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State that former Minister of Finance Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spent $1 billion out of the Excess Crude Account to fund the re-election bid of former President Jonathan is the kind of ludicrously false statement that has unfortunately become a trademark of the Governor in his public campaign of falsehood against Dr Okonjo-Iweala.
The statement is just another example of the numerical diarrhea that seems to have afflicted His Excellency in recent times in his effort to damage the reputation of the former Minister.
He has, within the last few months, asked Dr Okonjo-Iweala to explain all kinds of totally wild and unsubstantiated figures, ranging from $30 billion, $20 billion, $2.1 billion, N720 billion and now $1 billion.
To say the obvious, the accusations are totally lacking in credibility.
Governor Oshiomhole’s published comments also contain other falsehoods. For instance, he quoted Dr Okonjo-Iweala as saying that she and the Finance Commissioners of the 36 states approved the spending of $2.1 billion out of the Excess Crude Account, adding that the Commissioners had disowned the statement. This is also a complete distortion.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala never said the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) approved spending out of the ECA. Rather as the Commissioners themselves stated, the former Minister of State Finance informed them that former President Jonathan approved the expenditure to end the debilitating fuel queues across the country.
As Nigerians know, the Finance Ministry under Okonjo-Iweala regularly published details of revenue allocations from the ECA in national media. So Oshiomhole’s tortured “calculations” based on his “four figure tables” are mere political numbers conjured to achieve a political purpose. Nigerians can see through the elaborate antics.
Governor Oshiomhole’s latest statement, like earlier ones, labours to give the impression that the entire FAAC process which involves the Federal Government and the 36 states of the Federation is a personal monopoly of Dr Okonjo-Iweala.
This is, of course not true. FAAC is a long standing national platform for allocating revenues chaired by the Minister of State Finance. The governor’s insistence on pushing this clearly fictional narrative underscores his desperation.
It is instructive that Governor Oshiomhole is a key member of the committee set up by the National Economic Council to investigate the ECA spending. His continuing attacks against Dr Okonjo-Iweala seem to suggest that he has lost confidence in this platform which he deployed to make some of his initial false and baseless allegations. The Governor does not seem to appreciate that he is undermining the very credibility of the committee.
Once again, we ask: why are Oshiomhole and his cohorts so ready to sacrifice truth, precedent and decency in this political witch hunt against Dr Okonjo-Iweala?
We are confident that they will fail because truth will triumph.