By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Omeiza Ajayi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Egufe Yafugborhi
•32 govs were party to decision — Yari, NGF chair
•I wasn’t there — Fayose; 16 Ekiti LGs sue FG, govs
•Treat all geo-political zones fairly, Wike tells FG
•$1bn not to fight B-Haram alone — Osinbajo
ABUJA — Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governors Forum, Ayodele Fayose, yesterday disagreed over the recent approval of $1 billion by the National Economic Council, NEC, for the fight against insurgency.
While Yari said 32 of 36 governors were in attendance when the decision was taken, Fayose said he was not part of the decision and that his state had gone to court to challenge the decision.
The two governors spoke separately to State House correspondents after an emergency meeting between the NGF and Speakers of State Houses of Assembly at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Meanwhile there was indication that as the $1 billion approval from the Excess Crude Account continues to generate controversy, the governors have involved speakers of State Assemblies to give legislative backing to the approval.
Fielding questions from journalists on the objection of Fayose to the approval, Governor Yari said: “Gentlemen, this is democracy and each and every person has his own way of looking at things and you cannot stop him from agitating.
“One, Nigeria Governors Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing has been done in 2014 where $2 billion was taken in agreement with the governors at that meeting.
“Governor Akpabio was the one that moved the motion. This time we realize that there was need to purchase equipment for the military, so we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1 billion, our share of Excess Crude Account which we are going to back up with state assembly resolution at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken, it happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2 billion.
“We all agreed at that time collectively in the same chamber to withdraw $2 billion to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us, whether it was true or false, that our soldiers were being killed, some came on the social media, saying they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment.
“That was what generated discussions at the same chamber and there was no controversy, there was no opposition to the decision at that time.
“Second, there was this decision also under Yar’Adua’s (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) time when they were sourcing funds for Niger Delta Power Holdings. They also took over N5 billion for power generation. We followed the same process to withdraw the money from the same account and our respective houses of assembly confirmed the resolution.
“The $2 billion taken under Jonathan’s time was not backed up by any resolution from the state assemblies. Gentlemen, we shouldn’t play politics with the issue of national security.
“By the way, at the Governors Forum, 12 members form quorum; at the time we took this decision we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision.
“If anybody has his own way that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there was not even a minority opinion at that meeting. We look at the country, Nigeria, first before any other issue, it is only when you have the country that you can have politics.”
On why governors should give out $1 billion, despite not paying salaries, he said: “You see, if you are not an economist, you may not understand what you are talking about. This monies are kept there for the rainy day. And how much are those monies, it is $2 billion. Except in 2015 when we came begging, now we are asking for what is our own.
“The Federal Government was deducting the money illegally in those days; we were asking the Federal Government to give us what was our own. Then we were appealing, they were not listening, thank God today we have a listening government that makes attempt to pay 50 per cent and now we are looking forward to the last balance of 50 per cent.
“Graciously, understanding the economies of the states, the Federal Government has agreed to pay so that the state governments can pay salaries and meet their obligations to their citizens.”
I’m not in support, Fayose insists
But Governor Fayose insisted that neither him nor his state gave approval for the money.
He said: “I’m not in support of $1 billion and will never be in support. In my state we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right; all accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice I have to go to court.”
When asked what was the consensus at the emergency meeting, he said: “The issue was not discussed at all. But for me I have taken appropriate steps because the money belongs to Ekiti people; not for any other use.”
Also asked whether he was alone in this fight or the entire PDP states are with hm, Fayose said, “Excuse me; I am speaking for Ayo Fayose. With the PDP and the stakeholders, we have not met. I did not attend the meeting. Even if I was part of the meeting, I would have made it expressly clear but I will not support it.
“Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. Ekiti State has Hunger Pangs where hunger is catching people everywhere. A lot of people are being kidnapped daily; whatever is in that money for me we should share it, let everybody go and solve his own problem. I have challenges and they should give me my money. It is Ekiti money.”
On whether the emergency meeting would have been a good platform to raise the issue, he replied, “May I say this to you, I filed a case in court as early as 12 noon today; if it was not listed as part of the meeting, how am I going to raise the issue? I have options and I have said it expressly, I have gone to court.”
On rumours that there was disagreement over the issue at this meeting he said: “No, no, no. If it was one of the issues discussed I would have said so. I am not a pretender I won’t suffer in silence.”
However a statement read after the meeting explained that the two arms met to resolve some issues concerning the ongoing constitutional amendment.
$1bn not for fighting B-Haram alone — Osinbajo
Meanwhile, the federal government has clarified that the $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account is not meant to fight Boko Haram alone.
While the move had generated a debate, with some querying President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for attempting to spend such a huge amount on an “already defeated” terrorist group, the government said the money was actually to fight insecurity across the country.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who made the clarification in his keynote address at a retreat organized by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, for secretaries to state governments in Abuja, said the purpose of the approval was misconstrued by the public.
He said: “Barely two months ago, NEC hosted a security summit. The summit was crucial in understanding and dimensioning the security problems of the country and the weaknesses of our security architecture.
‘’The summit examined issues of kidnapping, small arms trafficking, terrorist activities of Boko Haram in the North East, the problem of farmers and herdsmen clashes, cattle rustling etc. ‘’Several initiatives were approved and it was on account of the security summit that the governors at the Governors’ Forum subsequently decided that they would vote a certain sum of money, which has become somewhat controversial, the $1 billion, to assist the security architecture of the country.’’
In a veiled reference to Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, who had dissociated himself from the approval endorsed by fellow governors, Osinbajo said all the governors met across party lines to take the decision.
According to him, the fund “was to assist all of the issues in the states, including policing in the states, community policing, all of the different security challenges that we have and it was after the summit that the Governors’ Forum met across party lines, again I must add, in order to approve and to accept that this is what needs to be done to shore up our security architecture.”
Speaking on the theme of the retreat, “Strengthening Inter-Governmental relations for Good Governance and National Security”, Prof. Osinbajo said that without the states, there was very little that the federal government could do to touch the lives of Nigerians.
According to him, the role of Secretaries to State Governments is, therefore, central to cascading the actions of government and conclusions to relevant MDAs in the states.
In his welcome remarks, Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the retreat was organized to “offer a platform for secretaries to come together and rub minds on how best the federal system of government which we practice, can be better positioned for growth and development.
‘’The principle of federalism is founded on separation of powers among tiers of government, while at the same time seeking to attain a balance in powers and responsibility sharing between the tiers.
‘’This retreat is aimed at creating a forum where we can better achieve that balance that allows for full, effective and efficient function of the state structure for the good of all.
“Issues of local government autonomy, internal security, improving our territorial economic prowess through enhanced internally generated revenues, infrastructure development, engaging public private partnerships and ease of doing business, are some of the compelling thematic areas of public discourse begging for solutions, which should be addressed in the most holistic manner for an enduring posterity and for the good of our people.’’
In his goodwill message to the occasion, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory FCT, Muhammad Musa Bello, said “no matter what we do at the national level, as long as it does not trickle down to the sub-national level, our efforts would have been in vain”.
Treat all zones equally — Wike
Meanwhile, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State yesterday called on the Federal Government to treat all geo-political zones in Nigeria equally, with reference to the recent approval of $1 billion to tackle insurgency in the North-East. Addressing visiting House of Representatives Committee on Local Content in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the governor restated his call for release of funds from the Excess Crude Account to tackle environmental challenges confronting the Niger Delta.
He said: “There should be balance in the way the Federal Government handles issues affecting different parts of the country. As they tackle Boko Haram with $1billion, they must remember that the environmental challenges facing the Niger Delta is the major security challenge.
“If something happens or there is crisis in the Niger Delta, there will be no excess crude for anyone to draw from.”
Issues of development and security, Wike stressed, should not be politicised as political parties were mere vehicles to convey politicians to desired destinations.
“This country belongs to all of us. We must work to salvage Nigeria. We shall always talk about the interest of Nigeria,” he said. He also commended the House Committee on Local Content for its role in ensuring that Shell did not leave Rivers State.
Reps c’ttee leader lauds Wike
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Local Content, Emmanuel Ekon, lauded Wike for quality leadership that has revived the PDP as the main opposition party in Nigeria.
“Governor Wike by his contributions, provided an alternative for all politicians, even those in the APC,” Ekon noted.
“The change of narrative by the APC controlled Federal Government on its attempt to pilfer $1bn from the Excess Crude Account has exposed the depth of corruption in the party and its government.
It is shameful, indecent and embarrassing for a ruling government to engage in denials like a common criminal caught in the act,” Kola Ologbodiyan, National Publicity Secretary, PDP.
16 Ekiti Lgs sue FG, govs over $1bn for Boko Haram
Also, sixteen local government chairmen in Ekiti State yesterday dragged the Federal Government and governors of 36 states of the federation to court over the approval of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account to support the ongoing war against insurgency in the North East.
The plaintiffs, in the suit they filed before the Federal High Court in Abuja, are seeking order of injunction restraining FG and the governors, their agents, servants, privies, representatives in interest, howsoever called, from giving effect to the appropriation and/ or approval of appropriation of the $1 billion or any other sum whatsoever, from the Excess Crude Account of the Federation, as contained in the decision made on December 15, 2017, unless and by means of statutory allocation by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
They also urged the court to declare that the approval of $1billion by the 36 state governors to purportedly execute the constitutional duty of the Federal Government, which has been sufficiently funded from the Federation Account, without their consent, was ultra vires, unlawful, null and void.
Aside the AGF and the 36 state governors, the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission was also cited as a defendant in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1264/17, which the plaintiffs filed through their lawyer, Mr. Ola Olanikpekun, SAN.
The Ekiti LG Chairmen behind the suit are; Deji Ogunsakin (Ado LGA); Bola Alonge (Ikere LGA); Lanrewaju Omolase (Ekiti South West LGA); Dapo Olagunju (Irepodun/Ifeelodun LGA); Samuel Adeniyi (Ekiti East LGA); Olumide Falade (Ise/Orun LGA); Sade Akinrinmola (Gbonyin LGA); Tayo Ogundare (Oye LGA); Chief Ayodeji Arogbodo (Ido/Osi LGA) and Taiwo Oguntuase (Emure LGA).
As well as Kolawole Omotunde (Ekiti West LGA); Bolaji Jeje (Efon LGA); Adesola Adeyanju (Ikole LGA); Ganiyu Bakare (Ilejemele LGA); Adeniyi Adebayo (Moba LGA) and Abiodun Dada (Ijero LGA).
The plaintiffs are seeking for an order declaring that in the discharge of its constitutional duty to safeguard the security and territorial integrity of Nigeria, the federal government must be funded in accordance with its Appropriation Act and by means of due accruals from the Federation account only. The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration that they are entitled to full share of all revenue accrued and accruable to the Federation Account and the Federation Excess Crude Account or any other Account whatsoever operated by and for the Federation of Nigeria, including the sum of $1,000,000,000 (which was purportedly approved for the expenditure of the Federal Government by the 1st-37th defendants at the 83rd, National Economic Council meeting of December 15, 2017, in accordance with section 162 of the 1999 constitution and the provisions of Allocation of Revenue (Federation Account) Act.
Meantime the case is yet to be assigned to any judge for hearing.