By Henry Umoru & Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA— Governors of the 36 states of the federation insisted, Wednesday night, that the deadlock at the Federation Accounts and Allocation Committee, FAAC, meetings will continue until the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, remits what is due to government coffers.
The governors also said the NNPC cannot continue to spend money meant for the Federation Account without the approval of the President and the National Economic Council, NEC.
The NNPC had remitted N147 billion into the federation account in May but the governors faulted that amount, saying it did not reflect the current economic realities and prices of oil in the international market. They also queried the amount the NNPC said it paid for petroleum subsidies.
The governors, who met in Abuja, said their final decision on the issues would be presented at yesterday’s National Economic Council, NEC, presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
However, the issue was not even on the agenda of the NEC meeting, which said the $1 billion security fund to fight Boko Haram in the North East and other acts of criminality across the country was yet to be disbursed.
The allocations of May and June are yet to be distributed among the three tiers of government, following rejection of NNPC’s remittances.
When FAAC meeting held on June 27, representatives of the 36 states rejected the NNPC remittance for that month.
Again, when the meeting reconvened last week, the state commissioners for finance insisted that a permanent solution must be explored to resolve the recurring issue around NNPC’s remittances to the federation account.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the governors’ meeting Wednesday night, Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, said the governors still disagreed with the figures presented by the NNPC.
Govs disagree with NNPC
Yari said: “There is a disagreement between the figures presented. I have been on the saddle for seven years and I have been attending NEC for the past four months and if I see discrepancies, I should be able to tell,” he said.
According to him, the agreement NNPC claims to have with state governors to remit a maximum of N112 billion per month was done when oil price was $48 per barrel per day but now the price is $78.
Governor Yari said further: “NNPC said it paid N88 billion for subsidy and in the month of June, it said it paid N31 billion but it claimed N57 billion is for payment of subsidy in 2017. That is not acceptable and we won’t give the approval.
“You can’t just dip your hand into the public purse and take money, you have to seek approval from NEC or Mr. President. NNPC said they have N15 billion for miscellaneous, N9 billion for pipeline maintenance, N3 billion for crude loss; all those things were not approved by anyone.
“NNPC is owned by the federal, states and local governments. The states and local governments get 48 per cent, while the federal government gets 52 per cent. We have to agree whatever we get, the Federal Government is getting 52 per cent. We are saying this money should be brought to the public for sharing.”
Meanwhile, NEC met at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, with Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, saying the $1 billion approved by National Economic Council, NEC, in December last year to be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, to boost the fight against insurgency by the military is yet to be released.
NEC equally backed the recommendation for the setting up of Federal Project Coordinating Unit on flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness programme, while also resolving to take action to decongest the prisons, including the 2,359 condemned convicts nationwide.
Briefing State House correspondents after the monthly meeting presided over by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, Governor Obiano, while responding to a question on if governors were not worried that after such an amount was released, the killings in the country had not stopped, said the $1 billion had not been disbursed.
Recall that the NEC had at its meeting in Abuja in December last year, resolved that $1 billion be withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, to boost the fight against insurgency by the military.
The proposal to withdraw the $1 billion from the ECA account generated controversies as some Nigerians argued that only the National Assembly could make appropriations to the security agencies. Besides, some Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors had also rejected the decision of NEC.
On April 5, this year, it was reported that President Buhari had approved the release of $1billion for the procurement of security equipment to fight Boko Haram insurgence.
The Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had made that known to State House correspondents at the end of a meeting President Buhari had with security chiefs at the Presidential Villa.
Five days later, the Presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senate, Senator Ita Enang, stated that the President had not given the order as the approval would have to be given by the National Assembly, adding that the executive was conscious of the relevant provisions of the law concerning security fund.
The President had said his administration was also conscious of the provision of Sections 4 and 5 of the 2017 Appropriation Act (relating to Excess Crude Account).
But Obiano said: “It (security fund) was not deliberated at NEC, with respect to the $1 billion to be spent on saving lives and property across the nation. However, I have been properly informed that the money has not been expended yet. There is a growing concern, including at the council and elsewhere, that issue of killing must stop.
“I believe that all the appropriate agencies are aware that concern is growing and I am confident that they listen to the pleas of people and do something more drastic than they have done so far.”
Obiano also said the Minister of State for Environment, Usman Jibril, briefed the Council, urging collaborative partnership between the federal and state governments against flooding and other erosion disasters in the country.
He said: “The presentation informed the Council on the imminent onset of this year’s flood season and the need for collaborative partnership between the federal and state governments with the Presidential Committee on Flood Relief and Rehabilitation, PCFRR, for immediate intervention on flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness in the country.
“The occurrence and magnitude of flood continue to increase in Nigeria due to many factors, among which are excessive, prolonged rainfall, siltation of existing streams, human manipulation of drainage basins, undeveloped drainages, poor urban planning and dam collapse, etc.
“It is estimated that about 20% of the population is at risk from one form of flooding or another, resulting in property damage and loss of lives annually. Climate change projections indicate that there may be greater risk of flooding in the years ahead.
“Natural causes of flood are beyond human control, but human manipulation/human induced situation can either be prevented or at least have their impact mitigated.
“Enormous resources towards flood disaster mitigation have been committed by government at all levels. However, the menace continues unabated.
“There is need for a paradigm shift in the approach to solve the annual negative experience, hence the need for suggestive approaches for an efficient and effective collaboration among stakeholders.”
The recommendations and prayers, he said, included “short time and sustainable way of de-silting major tributaries and canals ahead of the flooding season – this is relatively inexpensive and executable within a short period of time.
“Need to set up a Federal Project Coordinating Unit to comprise officers from the collaborating entities (Federal, States and PCFRR), to be headed by a Director – this is to identify locations for critical actions and realistic cost estimates, and implement the flood prevention, mitigation and preparedness programme.
“Council to approve a project cost sharing of FG -30%, State Govt – 30%, and PCFRR – 40% on identified projects.”
On the Council’s decision, he said: “Council welcomed the recommendations.”
Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar, also stated that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, briefed the Council on prison decongestion and the cases of condemned convicts nationwide.
He said council noted the efforts by the federal government to decongest the prisons, which led to 1,310 inmates that committed minor offences being set free with options of fine.
Abubakar said the need to decide on 2,359 condemned convicts became necessary because of the threats they portended to the society.
He said: “The Attorney General of the Federation made a presentation on the vexed issue of prison decongestion. The problems bedeviling prisons in Nigeria is a matter of common knowledge and this presentation has special consideration for condemned prisoners.
“As at July 18, we had 2,359 condemned convicts nationwide and the threats they present to the prison system is very, very clear. Because these are a set of people who do not have any care in the world, the system has already condemned them and the need to carry out whatever sentence that has been passed by the courts is very, very eminent.”
According to him, the recommendations are: “That state governors may wish to carry out a review of the cases of condemned convicts within their jurisdiction as enshrined in Section 212 of the 1999 Constitution;
“That the Nigerian Prisons Service review it’s policy on inter-state transfer of prisoners to reduce incidences of prisoners being held outside their states of conviction; and
“Cases of convicts outside the state of conviction maybe forwarded to the governor of the state where they were sentenced for consideration.
“Council noted recommendations and welcome actions by governors. Most of the actions are to be taken by governors because, for example, for the condemned prisoners, it is the governors that have the responsibility of signing the warrant of execution. What usually bedevils this system is the fact that, for example, all the prisons in Bauchi do not have facilities for execution of condemned criminals.
“So if a prisoner is sentenced to death in Bauchi, he will have to be transferred to Jos prison for execution and when that is done, the two governors of Bauchi and Plateau will have to sign the warrant of execution. Usually what happens is that the Plateau State governor will say ‘I don’t know anything about this condemned prisoner, he was not condemned in my state.
“So, this is what is causing the congestion and the Attorney General is working on the administration of justice Act with a view to fine tuning it to give some powers to the states so that they can take care of these problems. So, council noted and directed governors to take action.
“Council informed that the Minister of Interior had presented an Executive Memorandum to the Federal Executive Council, FEC, on the need for immediate action to prevent failure and breakdown of the prison system.
“FEC on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, directed the Federal Ministry of Justice to put in place measures to fast track the decongestion of prisons nationwide – and National Stakeholders Committee on Prisons Reforms and Decongestion was inaugurated sequel to the FEC directive.”
Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Oluyemi Dipeolu, also said that Council was briefed on the gains of the National MSME Clinics.
He said: “MSMEs account for nearly 50% of Nigeria’s GDP and provide an estimated 70% of total employment. Among the challenges of the MSMEs are access to finance, poor infrastructure, multiple taxation, limited business development support, inconsistent policies, access to market etc.
“The Clinic demonstrated practical support to MSMEs, provided direct engagement with Regulatory and Service Agencies and created awareness for locally made goods by MSMEs.