Friday, December 6, 2013

RIVERS CRISIS: Okonjo-Iweala, Tell Us The Truth - Rotimi Amaechi
The Rivers governor challenged the minister to respond to Rivers’ enquiry.
Rivers Governor challenges minister to tell Nigerians how much the nation earned from oil sales in the last one year
The Rivers State Government on Thursday challenged the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to disclose publicly how much oil Nigeria produces, the price it is being sold and how much the country earned from crude oil sales in the last one year.
It also asked the minister to tell Nigerians the differential between the oil pump price, the percentage of budget 2013 the country’s crude oil sales revenue funds, and shed more light on the subsidy savings since the reduction in petroleum subsidy.
The state government made the demands in response to a statement by the minister two days ago, in which she said she was not the problem the Rivers State governor, Chibuike Amaechi, was going through.
The governor, had during the second retreat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, in Sokoto three weeks ago, accused the minister of delaying an African Development Bank, ADB, meant for Rivers. Mr. Amaechi accused the minister of refusing to sign the $200 million loan agreement, meant for water projects, between Rivers State and the ADB, due to the disagreement between him and President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mr. Amaechi also alleged that about $5 billion was missing from the Excess Crude Account, which jointly belongs to all tiers of government; and asked the Federal Ministry of Finance to explain the whereabouts of the money.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala (NOI) , who is also the coordinating minister of the economy, had in a statement by her media aide, Paul Nwabuikwu, explained that the loan was going through the required processes and must get final approval from the board of the ADB and the Federal Executive Council, FEC, before she could sign it.
“So the idea that Dr NOI has refused to sign it is preposterous and totally false,” Mr. Nwabuikwu said.
The minister also said her ministry was not responsible for managing the N257 billion the Rivers State Government received in the first ten months of 2013.
She said, “The governor is advised to look in the mirror if he wants to identify the source of his problems.
“It’s sad that a state governor can engage in this kind of undignified charade. The question that fair minded people must ask is: is Amaechi the only governor the ministry deals with? Why is he the only one obsessed with Okonjo-Iweala? The ministry has a good relationship with many governors and deals with their issues based on professionalism and equity.
“In spite of this false and unfounded statement, the Ministry will continue to observe the highest standards of fairness and professionalism in handling any issues involving Rivers and every other state.”
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had also earlier denied that money was missing from the Excess Crude Account, ECA. She said the money was distributed to the three tiers of government to augment monthly statutory allocations.
Earlier in September, while speaking after a meeting of the NGF, which he chairs, Mr. Amaechi had asked Ms. Okonjo-Iweala to resign her position if she could not improve on her management of the nation’s economy in accordance with the provisions of the Appropriation Act 2013.
In a statement by its Commissioner of Information and Communication, Ibim Semenitari,on Thursday, the Rivers State Government said it regretted that for weeks Ms. Okonjo-Iweala had continuously attacked the person and office of Mr. Amaechi, through her statements responding to the concern raised by the governor over the management of the ECA during the NGF retreat in Sokoto.
“The spat from the Minister’s office since the governors’ complaint has been suggestive of chasing a red herring. Instead of answering the questions raised by Governor Amaechi, and clarifying the issues, the Honourable Minister is simply muddying the waters,” it said.
The state government contended that what it earned as allocation was not the issue, but how much the nation earned from crude oil in the last one year, the differential between the oil pump price and the percentage of the current federal budget the nation’s crude oil revenue sales fund, and savings it made since the reduction in petroleum subsidy.
It stressed that the minister should know the figures and provide them to Nigerians.
“Certainly these figures must be as available to the Honourable Minister as are the figures of how much Rivers State has received which, by the way, is not the bone of contention,” the statement said.
“The Rivers State Government therefore most respectfully wishes to request Madam Minister to please answer the questions it has raised and clarify the issues for Rivers people.
“The red herring of how much Rivers state has received from the federation account can be the matter for another day as right now those figures are not in contest, and the spat against Governor Amaechi unnecessary.”
The state government noted that it had never contested that it received funds from the Federation Account, adding that in its response to the claim by the minister that it received N56.2 billion from the ECA, it simply explained the well-known fact that the monies received were from the federation account and part of its statutory allocation.
It added that all state governments received their statutory allocation from the Federation Account and therefore it was not different.
The government said it was evident that funds from ECA were not one of the statutory sources of revenue for the federation account as was also explicitly outlined in the response of the Rivers State Government.
It insisted that the ECA was not expected to be touched except when the appropriate processes had been followed as it earlier explained in a previous statement.
It stressed, “It is therefore misleading and a threat to our practice of fiscal federalism, for the Minister to suggest that the ECA is now one of the means through which the FAAC is funded and to expect the governors to know about this aberration when the Ministry of Finance hasn’t made this information public.
“The Rivers State Government as a policy publishes what it earns from all revenue sources and what it expends as well. Since we have nothing to hide, the Honourable Minister is welcome to re affirm these figures for the public as they are already in the public domain.”
Source: Premium Times