The Federation Account Allocation Committee on Tuesday faulted comments credited to a former Minister of Finance, FAAC Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that it approved the withdrawal of $2bn from the Excess Crude Account.
The committee, in a statement issued on its behalf by Forum of Finance Commissioners in Abuja, stated that the law setting it up did not give it the power to approve withdrawals from the ECA.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had while responding to allegations made by state governors that she made withdrawals from the ECA without authorisation, said issues relating to expenditure were usually discussed at FAAC meetings attended by finance commissioners of the 36 states of the federation.
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She had said through a statement issued by her spokesperson, Paul Nwabuikwu, “The allegation by some governors that former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, spent $2.1bn out of the Excess Crude Account ‘without authorisation’ is false, malicious and totally without foundation.
“But Nigerians know that collective revenues, allocations and expenditures of the three tiers of government are the concern of the monthly FAAC meetings.”
But reacting to the ex-minister’s comments, the committee said in its statement that Okonjo-Iweala’s expalnation “is far from the fact and is misleading.”
It said, “It has come to our notice the statement credited to the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that the Federation Account Allocation Committee approved the withdrawal from Excess Crude (Foreign) Account the sum of $2bn. This statement is far from the fact and is misleading.
“We wish to state unequivocally that FAAC does not have the authority to approve withdrawals from the ECA and, therefore, could not have approved the withdrawal from the Excess Crude (Foreign) Account the sum of $2bn.
“According to the law setting up FAAC, which pre-dates the ECA, it cannot approve withdrawal and has not done so in the past.
“If anything, FAAC, as records of its meetings indicate, had often queried the activities on the ECA, and, therefore, did not decide any withdrawal.”
The statement noted that while FAAC had in December 2014 observed the withdrawal of $2bn from the ECA, the then Minister of State for Finance and Chairman of FAAC, Bashir Yuguda, had when asked during the plenary of FAAC meetings of the respective months explained that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave approval for the withdrawals to pay oil marketers’ subsidy claims.
Yuguda reportedly stated that the action would be ratified by NEC.
FAAC stated in the statement, “It should be noted, therefore, that FAAC did not and could not have approved nor taken the decision to withdraw the sum of $2bn from the ECA.
“We would want to excuse Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala on this misrepresentation because she was not in attendance during FAAC plenary and may not have been fully and adequately made abreast of every FAAC activity.”
But Okonjo-Iweala, while reacting to the finance commissioners’ statement on Tuesday, said the approval for the withdrawal of the funds was given by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
She said in a statement by Nwabuikwu, “Payments made were used for petroleum subsidies for the Nigerian people and were approved by Mr. President. Therefore, there is no question of mismanaging any resources here.
“For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did Dr. Okonjo-Iweala say that FAAC approved such expenditures. What she said was that all these expenditures were discussed at FAAC meetings attended by finance commissioners from the 36 states.
“It is, therefore, clear that there was no misrepresentation by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
“The question before us is: why is there such an excessive attempt to batter her name in an attempt to damage her reputation? It is clear, as I said in my previous statement, that the motive is malicious and very political, and, therefore, will not succeed.
“If monies were used to pay for subsidies for the Nigerian people and duly approved, why is Okonjo-Iweala’s name being battered in this way? This persecution should stop.”