A fresh crisis is brewing between governors and the Federal Government as the presidency for the sixth time, postponed yesterday a scheduled meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC).
Governors, who were already in Abuja, were left fuming with disappointment as they had arrived the nation’s capital prepared to raise issues on the controversial $49.8b oil money in dispute between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Vice President Namadi Sambo is the chairman of NEC.
The meeting was fixed for today (Thursday). A new date was not announced.
Although the “missing” oil proceed was reduced to $10.8billion after a reconciliation meeting, the governors are demanding a probe of the $49.8billion.
It was learnt that the postponement followed security reports that the governors had adopted six more posers, including some that had been raised earlier by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, for discussion at the meeting.
The posers are:
•How much oil does the country produce daily?
•Clarification that the benchmark price for oil in the 2013 budget was $79?
•Is it a fact that crude oil was sold at prices that hovered around $110 per day throughout the year?
•Where is the $30 differential between the benchmark price of $79 and the actual sale price which averaged $110 per barrel during the period?
•How much exactly has Nigeria earned from its oil sales in 2013 and what percentage of the budget is funded by these receipts?
•Why was NEC not consulted on 2014 Budget before presentation?
Some of the governors, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have all arrived in Abuja for the meeting on the state of the economy, but it has been shifted. No date has been communicated to us.
“This is the sixth time they have postponed the NEC meeting, a constitutionally, recognised organ. Nigerians should ask: what are they hiding that they do not want NEC meeting to hold?
“Do you know that governors were not consulted on the 2014 Budget before it was presented to the National Assembly?”
Another governor said: “They are afraid that most of us had prepared to take up issues with the Federal Government on the controversial $49.8billion which neither the NNPC nor the Minister of Finance has been able to clear.
“We cannot be suppressed in any manner; we will certainly address all these issues whenever they deem it fit to cause a NEC meeting”.
A third governor said: “It is sad that for many months, the NEC session has not been convened by the presidency. This is a violation of the 1999 Constitution.
“The Presidency has refused to invite us to either NEC or Council of State meeting because they are afraid that we will ask questions on the economy on behalf of Nigerians.
“We learnt that they are afraid that we might cause upset at the meeting. This is based on false reports that governors were already agitated”.
In reaction to the concerns over why the meeting was postponed for the umpteenth time, the spokesperson for the Vice-President, Alhaji Umar Sani, said: “The postponement, I think, was due to an administrative problem. Those at the secretariat in the National Planning Commission have not been able to send invitation to everybody. It has nothing to do with the Vice President Namadi Sambo.
“We will hold the meeting, I think by next week. You cannot avoid something that you must do. It is the National Planning Commission that calls for the meeting. And so many meetings have been cancelled because of some circumstances”.
Dismissing insinuations that the NEC meeting was postponed because of the controversy surrounding the ‘missing’ $49.8billion, Sani added: “Are we not the people who called for the meeting? Why would we be afraid of anything to be discussed?
“Is there any issue of $49.8billion when even the CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, came back to say that the money in question was $10.8billion?
“Even if the governors raise the issue at NEC meeting, we will call on NNPC to give account”, he said.