Courtesy of the usually garrulous Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, Nigerians now know that nearly one trillion of the country’s hard earned cash is either missing or somewhere in the accounts of the 36 state governments; or, simply just mismanaged by States and Local Government councils who allegedly got the money.
Amaechi, believed by the Presidency to be the self-styled Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, said there was $9b in the excess crude account in January, this year, but the account had mysteriously diminished to $4 billion by November. So, if this huge amount was missing for 10 months, why did it take the activist governor so long to speak up? Was he investigating all this while or he knew where the money was going and maintained a mischievous silence before dropping his annoying bombshell?
The country was flummoxed by the revelation, but some discerning persons chose to ignore the comment because it came from Amaechi, known these days to make a mountain out of every mole hill. His loquacious tendencies over the past few months have put a question mark on his credibility, and many were not willing to fall for his game this time.
But when the relevant agencies were not willing to take him on for over 24 hours, even those who disdain Amaechi began to wonder if he was not right after all. As if Amaechi’s onslaught was not enough, his political cohorts in the new Peoples Democratic Party (nPDP), who have all massed into their cousin, All Progressives Congress (APC), parroted and exaggerated his views.
Read them: “We consider this development too weighty to be swept under the carpet in view of the stature of the person making the allegation and the realities on ground. For all intents and purposes, Governor Amaechi is not a frivolous person and is not known for making frivolous claims. We told Nigerians about the poor handling of our common patrimony by this administration and sadly, nobody took us seriously. As at today, the unmistakable evidence is that Nigeria is broke as the Federal Government now finds it difficult to meet its obligations to states, local governments and contractors.
“We wish to commend the NGF Chairman for bringing this matter to the open and hereby challenge the Federal Government to come to tell Nigerians what it did with the money. We also hereby challenge the anti-graft agencies to prove their relevance by unearthing the whereabouts of this huge sum of money.
“…. That this administration is running for a price award as the most corrupt administration in the annals of governance in Nigeria is not in doubt but we urge Nigerians to heed the advice of the NGF and stop being docile in the face of monumental impunity in the country. This, in reality, is the only way to rescue Nigeria from the path of doom.”
When the Ministry of Finance responded to Amaechi, the muddled water of misinformation became clearer. The Ministry stopped short of accusing the Governor of suffering from selective amnesia. Reeling out figures, the Ministry relentlessly pounded the governor, accusing him in a statement of spreading falsehood.
According to the Ministry: “Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State cannot deny knowledge of the status of the Excess Crude Account (ECA); Rivers State has received N56.2 billion from the Excess Crude Account between January and September 2013.
“Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has been quoted in recent media reports as saying that $5 billion is missing from the Excess Crude Account (ECA). This statement is absolutely shocking and false. Governor Amaechi cannot credibly deny knowledge of the status of the ECA. He has been closely involved and actively participated in making requests to the Presidency for the ECA to be shared for the purpose of augmenting the regular allocations from the Federation Account whenever there is a shortfall.
“The $5 billion in the ECA which Governor Amaechi referred to in his statement has been shared to the three tiers of government to make up for the revenue shortfalls during the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee process. Part of this fund also went for SURE-P payments and the balance for subsidy payments to oil marketers.
“Rivers State received N56.2 billion, the second highest share among the states, for January to September 2013 from the Excess Crude Account. This amount includes N43 billion for shortfalls plus N12 billion released for SURE-P. In fact, earlier this month (November 2013) Rivers State along with other states, benefitted from the sharing of $1 billion from the ECA to augment the allocations. It is therefore curious that Governor Amaechi seems not to know the whereabouts of the N56.2 billion which Rivers State has received from the ECA this year.”
The back and forth battle of words revved higher with a less convincing retort from the Rivers State Information Commissioner, Ibim Semenitari, that the state government did not know that all the money it was getting included funds from the ECA. Semenitari said that contrary to Okonji-Iweala’s claim that Amaechi was closely involved and actively participated in making requests to the Presidency for the account to be shared for the purpose of augmenting the regular allocations from the Federation Account whenever there was a shortfall, Governor Amaechi and his colleague governors have only attended one meeting where one request was made for the sharing of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account.
But that appears a big, fat lie as the country has been constantly inundated with the ballyhoo of state governments over the shortfall in their monthly take home pay. Once or twice, it would be recalled, the Minister has been left alone in Abuja holding the purse because states were not willing to collect paltry sums. Governors had visited Abuja and the paltry sums had swelled. How did they swell, and why the whining then? If the Rivers State and its propaganda machinery had selective amnesia, it should not expect watchers of the political terrain and economics of the country to forget so soon.
The Rivers’ team declared that beyond the last meeting where it was agreed that $1 billion be shared “there has been no other meeting where it was decided that money from the ECA be shared among the three tiers of government.” Is that so? So why did the Governor not subtract that whopping sum when he made the allegation?
Recalling the position of the National Executive Council’s (NEC) that the ECA savings belonging to all the states were not to be touched except for the rainy day and not to be shared for frivolous reasons, the Rivers government observed that it was curious and very disturbing that the rainy day savings had been shared in “complete breach of the known procedure for doing such and in what might be considered an under-the-table and clandestine manner.”
Very funny! The police in Nigeria have a way of arresting a person caught in possession of stolen property. If all these deals were carried out by our leaders in an under-the-table and clandestine manner, everyone, the sharers and beneficiaries, should be tied to the stakes and shot, including the Chief Executives of states that benefitted from “ill-gotten” wealth for months and kept mute. Anyway, how come it was only Amaechi, of all the 36 governors, that suddenly discovered that nearly one billion of our commonwealths was missing? And how come since he raised the matter, not one of the remaining 35 colleagues of his and 774 Local council chairmen has uttered a word except his co-rabble rousers who have moved the mischief train to APC?
- Okoro sent this piece from Enugu.