Former Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs)Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that the allegation by the National Economic Council, NEC, that she withdrew 2.1billion dollars from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, unapproved, was false.
Okonjo-Iweala, stated this in a statement issued in Abuja by her spokesman, Mr Paul Nwabuikwu, obtained by the Street Journal on Wednesday.
The ex-minister claimed that the withdrawal was authorised by the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), attended by finance commissioners from the 36 states.
The statement said that the FAAC, which is a potent expression of Nigeria’s fiscal federalism, is recognized by the Constitution, and so any expenditure approved by it was legitimate.
It said: “The allegation by some governors that former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala spent 2.1 billion dollars out of the Excess Crude Account without authorisation is false, malicious and totally without foundation.
“We want to state categorically that no unauthorised expenditure from the ECA was made under Okonjo-Iweala’s watch in the Finance Ministry.
“Decisions on such expenditure were discussed at meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) attended by finance commissioners from the 36 states.
“It is sad that the esteemed National Economic Council and the persons behind these allegations acted as if the constitutionally recognised FAAC, a potent expression of Nigeria’s fiscal federalism, does not exist.’’
The statement further said that Nigerians know that collective revenues, allocations and expenditures of the three tiers of government were the concern of the monthly FAAC meetings.
It acknowledged the efforts of governors working hard to overcome the current revenue challenges facing their states
Okonjo-Iweala, it said, was ready and willing to respond to legitimate enquiries about issues under her purview as Finance Minister.
More so, the statement, added, the Ministry of Finance had on May 25, 2015, published a news release and an advertorial in national newspapers, giving details of what the Federal Government and states received from the ECA in the last four years.
It would be recalled that the National Economic Council, chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, on Monday accused the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, of spending $2.1bn from the ECA without authorisation.
Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, Edo State Governor, had told State House correspondents after the NEC’s 58th meeting in Abuja thus:
“We looked at the numbers for the Excess Crude Account. The last time the former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, reported to the council, and it is in the minutes, she reported by November 2014 that we had $4.1 bn.
“Today, the Accountant-General Office reported that we have $2.0bn. Which means the honourable minister spent $2.1bn without authority of the NEC and that money was not distributed to states, it was not paid to the three tiers of government.”
The account was set up 10 years ago by the Obasanjo administration to save unspent money accruing from the sale of crude oil, meant for the three tiers of government in Nigeria.