THE illegality of the Excess Crude Oil Account and the uses it is put into, are among issues everyone talks about, and nobody does anything about them. For 10 years Nigerians, including the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), noted the illegality. No action followed.
A member of the House of Representatives last year condemned the National Economic Councilâ€™s approval of an illegal removal of $5.3 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Account purportedly for emergency power projects.
Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon pointed out the illegality through a motion. The withdrawal violated Section 162 (3) of the Constitution which states: â€œAny amount standing to the credit of the Federation Account shall be distributed among the Federal and State Governments and the local government councils in each State on such terms and in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.â€
More elaborate provisions are in Section 80 (1) â€œAll revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation (not being revenues or other moneys payable under this 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 from one Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation.
(2) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of Appropriation Act or an Act passed in pursuance of section 81 of this Constitution.
(3) No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of the moneys has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.
(4) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.â€
Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, a member of the National Economic Council, equally condemned the retention of the illegal account from which he aided the award of $5.3 billion to the Federal Government. He, like other Governors, usurped the powers of State Assemblies to allocate state funds for expenditure in Sections 120 and 121.
The words are already too many. Whatever economic decision informed the creation of the Excess Crude Oil Account is not a legal reason to sustain the wanton violation of the Constitution it occasions. If the account is necessary, there must be a law creating it and succinctly stating its purposes, such that bodies like the National Economic Council will not become legislative bodies.
Abuses of the account would continue because there is no clear law on how the money should be used. Between the President and the Governors, they can draw from the account as they please. An account that holds billions of idle dollars will not escape the attention of even an angel.