•It’s illegal; only N-Assembly can appropriate money—Abaribe
•Lawyers split, give mixed reactions on NEC’s approval
By Kingsley Omonobi, Abdulwahab Abdulah, Henry Umoru, & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA — The National Economic Council, NEC, at its meeting in Abuja yesterday resolved that $1 billion be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account to boost the fight against insurgency by the military, just as it came to light that at least five soldiers were killed during an attack by Boko Haram militants on Nigerian Army positions in Mainok village in Borno State on Wednesday night.
The proposal to withdraw the $1 billion from the ECA would leave the account with a balance of $1.31 billion, a development that was flayed by Senator Enyinannya Abaribe who said that only the National Assembly could make appropriations to the security agencies. Lawyers, however, expressed mixed reactions on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has lamented the failure of some state governors to comply with the conditions laid down to draw from the budget support facility loan and threatened to withdraw such support from the defaulting states.
Spokesman of the Theatre Command and Control Centre, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, who told an online newspaper yesterday that normalcy had been restored in the Mainok area, was not able to give an exact figure of casualties from the attack.
“Our troops had a fierce encounter with elements of the Boko Haram terrorists yesterday night at Mainok in Mobar LGA,” he was quoted as saying in a text message.
“There were casualties on both sides, and troops have been reinforced, and we are in control of the area,” he added.
Several Boko Haram militants were killed during the attack that also consumed two of their vehicles, sources in the area disclosed.
Govs okay $1bn from ECA for Boko haram — Obaseki
Briefing State House correspondents after NEC, Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State observed that the approval by the state governors to the President to take $1 billion from the ECA was part of their contribution towards ensuring that insecurity that has ravaged different parts of the country especially the Boko Haram onslaught in the North East was tackled frontally.
He said: “The NEC resolved through the chairman of the Governors Forum (Abdullaziz Yari) to support the effort of the Federal Government in the area of security. We are pleased with the achievements that have been made till date in the fight against insurgency, particularly in the North East.
“The governors of Nigeria through their chairman announced at the NEC meeting that the governors had given permission to the Federal Government to spend the sum of US$1 billion in the fight of insurgency.
“This money is supposed to be taken from the Excess Crude Account.”
Explaining further, he said, “We expect that the amount will include but not be limited to purchase of equipment, procuring intelligence, logistics and all what is required to ensure that we finally put to an end the scourge of insurgency.”
“We also discussed the issue of fuel supply. As you know, there has been challenge of fuel supply in the country. The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources assured council that within the next 48 hours fuel supply will be restored nationwide because there is enough fuel in our strategic reserves and that the ministry has released fuel from these reserves and it expects distribution will reach all parts of the country within the next 48 hours.”
Also, briefing journalists, the Gombe State Governor, Ibrahim Dankwambo, said that the balance in the Natural Resource Development Fund Account as at 13th December 2017 stood at N106.984 billion. Dankwambo said:
“Council was also informed by the Accountant-General of the Federation that the balance in the Natural Resource Development Fund Account as at 13th December 2017 stands at N106.984 billion.
“The Accountant-General of the Federation also informed council that the balance in the Excess Crude Account as at 13th December 2017 stands at $2.317billion dollars.
“Update of the current balance of the Stabilisation Fund Account was also reported by the Accountant-General of the Federation which as at 13th of December 2017 stands at N7.78 billion.
FG threatens states on budget support facility
“Update on budget support facility loan granted to states was also reported to council and that for the month of June, July, and August, states have been paid and the Federal Ministry of Finance is working on the payment of the month of September budget support.
“The Minister of Finance informed council that the budget support facility to states is also based on certain conditions as agreed under the fiscal responsibility plan, but she complained that most states are yet to comply and added that non compliance would make her ministry stop any further to be given to states that do not comply.”
Abaribe, lawyers, give mixed reactions on withdrawal from ECA
Speaking with Vanguard, Senator Abaribe said that only the National Assembly could appropriate for the federal government, adding that when former President Goodluck Jonathan wanted funds to fight Boko Haram, he rushed to the National Assembly to seek approval.
“Only the NASS can appropriate funds for the Federal Government. Recall that when President Jonathan wanted funds to fight Boko Haram, he approached the NASS,” he said last night.
A senior advocate, Norrison Quaker said the action of the National Executive Council “was in order for the simple reason that the issue under examination affects lives of the people. Therefore, no amount of money approved for such project is too much.”
A law teacher, Gbenga Ojo argued that “the NEC has power to do so. Any amount approved for such critical matter is worth it, and it can be approved because we are talking on issues that affects human lives. However, there must be caveat. That must be done by the monitoring of the funds by the National Assembly. This could come in the way of carrying out oversight function by the legislative arm of government. We see what happened in the case of the former National Security Adviser which turned out to be controversial now. Also, see what happened in the case of Babachir Lawal, where money was appropriated for IDP, but it was misappropriated. It requires monitoring and accountability. The appropriation is immaterial, but the monitoring of the spending of the funds allocated.
Debo Adeleke criticised the appropriation, saying it is illegal. He argued that such “huge amount should be approved by the National Assembly, considering our previous experiences. It is wrong for a government to just wake up suddenly and sit around the table and approve such huge amount without reverting to the National Assembly, especially when it wasn’t appropriated for in the budget.
“So, no matter how important and urgent it is, the National Assembly must approve it.
“All of them were sworn-in to protect and obey the constitution and any step that goes or contradict this may lead to anarchy. We are not in the military era; things must be done according to the law.”