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On the excess crude account

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PHOTO: nta.ng

The anomaly and illegality that is the Excess Crude Account, came to the fore the other day when President Muhammadu Buhari, using the umbrella of the National Economic Council (NEC) sought and got the consent of the state governors to draw one billion dollars ($1 billion) from the account presumably to prosecute the war on the Boko Haram sect in the North East of the country. Expectedly, there has been vigorous opposition to the proposal. In getting the consent of the governors, the Presidency gave an inducement by approving payment of the last tranche of the Paris Club Refund. This, it would seem, is corruption. And no wonder the raging debate over such a conduit for non-accountability.

The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, charged with the unseemly task of softening the public anger came out to say that the funds would also be used for other purposes. The National Assembly has questioned the legality of the process. The Senate President has promised the Red Chamber that the Executive Arm will not spend the money without approval from the National Assembly. The militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, has also threatened to unleash violence and stop oil production in the region if the region does not get its ‘share’ of the fund.

Significantly, the Ekiti State government, along with all the Local Government chairmen, has sued the Federal Government on the proposal. The Buhari administration must act with caution and within the framework of the Federal Constitution of the Republic. Relying on Section 80 (sub-section 1) which states that ‘all revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other monies payable under the Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose) shall be paid into and form one Consolidated Revenue Fund for the Federation,’ it is appropriate, to say that the Excess Crude Fund should be scrapped.

The President rode on the crest of transparency, accountability and an anti-corruption campaign to win the 2015 presidential election. He promised ‘change’, change from the disgraceful methods of operation for which the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP government under President Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessors became notorious. Two years down the line, it would seem that Buhari and his men in government have adopted the same tactics and methods they once questioned. The scandals around the NNPC which the Minister of State openly complained about, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) funds-in-a-private-apartment fiasco, and the Maina mess are cases in point. The President must reflect on these and get back on track so as not to lose the confidence of the people. It is difficult to believe that the President is not aware of the implications of authorizing expenditure outside budgetary provision. It is corruption.

The Excess Crude Account is unconstitutional. Section 80 (1-4) of the 1999 Constitution makes the Excess Crude Account illegal. Specifically, sub-section 3 states that “no money shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of these moneys has (sic) been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly.” The Excess Crude Account therefore is one of those creations of the Executive arm of government to surreptitiously deploy funds without due process. By law, all expenditures and financial commitments in the country must be properly appropriated through the National Assembly. There is no record that the Excess Crude Account is part of the proposed expenditure profile for 2017 or 2018.

It is indeed contradictory to set aside some funds from the sale of oil and operate same outside the budget. Apparently, it has been the tradition of the Federal Government to under-project its revenue so that the current scenario can emerge. It is for this reason that some have opined that the requested sum of one billion dollars is, in reality, funds in preparation for the coming elections. While this cannot be conclusively proven as the motive it is difficult to understand why the Armed Forces would still require such a staggering sum to confront a sect that has been technically defeated as announced by the President.

Once again, all funds, in whatever form should be properly appropriated and expended in a transparent manner. Nowhere in the world does a nation share money once there is an economic windfall. Nations invest funds against a rainy day. The current practice is a frivolity that the Executive arm of government controlled by politicians who always have an eye on the next elections have devised for purposes far from patriotic and must end. The era of pillaging the national treasury in any guise is over. President Buhari should listen to the Senate which voted to abolish the Fund and keep his promise of probity to the Nigerian people by stopping the charade and fraud that is the Excess Crude Account.


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