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Senate scraps Excess Crude Account, says it’s illegal

…Describes it as ‘biggest slush fund’ for govs

By Henry Umoru

ABUJA— THE Senate has unanimously called on the Federal Government to urgently abolish Excess Crude Account, ECA, describing it as illegal.

This is even as some senators alleged that the ECA constituted the “biggest slush fund” for governors.

Senate chamber

The Senate said, yesterday, that the move to scrap the ECA, which was set up in 2004, ostensibly to provide savings for the country during periods of shortfalls in oil revenue, became imperative because it was alien to the 1999 constitution as amended or any known law in the country.

It also asked the executive to act in conformity with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, in its revenue receipt and expenditure.

The resolutions of the Senate were sequel to a motion by Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North), co- sponsored by 43 other senators, entitled: “The Excess Crude Account: An illegality and a drain pipe.”

In the motion, Senator Oko had called for the suspension of the Excess Crude Account, but there was an amendment to the prayer by Senator Muhammed Hassan (PDP, Yobe South), that rather than suspend, the motion should be to abolish the Excess Crude Account and this was accepted by the senators.

The upper chamber also asked the Federal Government to pay the amount above the oil benchmark into the Federation Account in compliance with the constitution and appropriate some of the amount above the oil benchmark into the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, and other sectors.

16 ex-govs, 2 ex-deputies force Senate to reject moves to probe account

The Senate, however, rejected the last prayer in the motion that senators should mandate an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the revenue that accrued from the amount above the oil benchmark from 2004 to date and its utilization.

The committee is also to be charged with the responsibility of identifying any further  infractions and report back within two months.

The Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, thereafter, put the prayer to voice vote and the nays had it.

This led to a rejection of the prayer that called for probe of the utilisation of the Excess Crude Account from 2004 to date.

The rejection of this very strong prayer may be in connection with the 8th Senate, which has in its fold 16 former civilian governors and two ex- deputy governors whose presence or body language may have forced the Senate to unanimously reject what should have been a holistic investigation into the account and to ascertain the roles of former and current governors in the management of the ECA.

In his contributions, Senator Adamu Aliero (APC,   Kebbi Central), who supported the abolition of the ECA, however, recalled that it was introduced during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to protect planned budgets against shortfalls due to volatile crude oil prices.

According to him, if the account, of which the independent power project, IPP, among others, were sponsored was stopped, it would ensure transparency and accountability in revenue generation and payment into the Federation Account.

Also contributing, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (PDP, Abia North), argued that the ECA should be abolished, despite the fact that there was the need for the country to save for the rainy day due to alleged impunity and arbitrariness in the account’s operation.

He, however called for the setting up of an ad-hoc committee to investigate the revenue that accrued from the country’s oil benchmark from 2004.

Biggest slush fund for govs

Speaking in the same vein, Senator Atai Ali Aidoko (PDP, Kogi East), described the current operations of ECA as the “biggest slush fund” in the country for governors, adding that one-third of the spending were done with illegality.

In his contribution, Senator Suleiman Hunkuyi (APC, Kaduna North), who advised the National Assembly to look into how to regulate the ECA for surplus funding rather than its complete abrogation, said the exigency of the time called for the introduction of the account.

He, however, noted that the way the ECA was poorly managed should be urgently addressed.


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