By Emma Amaize, Regional editor, south-south & Austin Ogwuda
GOVERNORS of the South-South geo-political zone challenged the Federal Government to explain the legitimacy of the Excess Crude Account, ECA, being kept by it since the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the Sovereign Wealth Fund, SWF, lately proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, saying both were unconstitutional and they (governors) would not succumb to pressure and intimidation to back the illegal policies.
Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, and governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who adumbrated the position of South-South Governors on the matter at the just ended 2nd South-South Economic Summit in Asaba, said the governors were not prepared to engage in unconstitutionality or allow state governments to be treated as a mere appendage in a democratic system.
Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo –Iweala, who took up the gauntlet for the Federal Government at the summit, however, said the ECA was necessary to make Nigeria a secure country. She was, however, silent on the constitutionality.
She stated that Nigeria had to save more and, in fact, needed to hit a N50 billion mark in its reserves to remain a secure country. Okonjo-Iweala described SWF as inevitable in order to save for the rainy day, noting that there was no way a country could survive without providing for any eventuality in the economy.
Amaechi, who was responding to a question from a participant on why the South-South governors were opposed to the SWF, said Nigerians should ask the Federal Government officials who were at the summit if the Excess Crude Account and Sovereign Wealth Fund were constitutional.
He said the governors were elected by the people and they swore to uphold the Constitution, and so, they would not allow themselves to be browbeaten by anybody to partake in unconstitutional acts. Amaechi queried where the Federal Government got the authority to unilaterally decide to save money for the states in the name of SWF.