Mr. Paul Nwachukwu, Media Adviser to immediate past Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has called for a stop to the persecution of the former minister by some interests in the new administration.
This came following allegations by a group called Forum of Finance Commissioners that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) never approved the withdrawal of $2 billion from the Excess Crude Account, ECA, late last year, as they said the minister claimed.
In an unsigned statement sent to journalists, the group claimed that Okonjo-Iweala’s statement about withdrawal from the ECA was misleading.
“It has come to our notice the statement credited to the former Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) approved the withdrawal from Excess Crude (Foreign) Account the sum of Two Billion U.S. Dollar ($2,000,000,000.00). This statement is far from the fact and is misleading.
“We wish to state unequivocally that FAAC does not have the authority to approve withdrawals from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), therefore could not have approved the withdrawal from Excess Crude (Foreign) Account the sum of Two Billion U.S. Dollar ($2,000,000,000.00). According to the law setting up FAAC, which pre-dates the ECA, it cannot approve withdrawal and has not done so in the past. If anything FAAC, as records of it meetings indicates, had often querried the activities on the ECA, and therefore did not decide any withdrawal.
“Indeed, FAAC noted and observed accordingly withdrawal from the ECA of a total sum of Two Billion U.S. Dollar ($2,000,000,000.00) in December. The then Minister of State Finance and Chairman of FAAC when asked during the plenary of FAAC meetings of the respective months explained that the former President gave approval for the withdrawals from the ECA to pay oil marketers subsidy claims as they had threaten to stop importing petroleum products. He further explained that this action will be ratified by NEC.
“It should be noted, therefore, that FAAC did not and could not have approved nor taken the decision to withdraw the sum of Two Billion U.S. Dollar ($2,000,000,000.00) from the Excess Crude Account. We would want to excuse the Honourable Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala on this misrepresentation because she was not in attendance during FAAC plenary and may not have been fully and adequately made abreast with every FAAC activity,” the statement read.
Responding to the position of the group, Nwachukwu said the said sum was used to pay for fuel subsidy.
“We thank the Finance Commissioners for their clarification on the use of the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and for acknowledging that this is not an Okonjo-Iweala issue.
“The statement clearly shows that Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) is a statutory body which is chaired by the Hon. Minister of State for Finance in which all the states are represented.
“Payments made were used for paying for petroleum subsidies for the Nigerian people and were approved by Mr President.
“Therefore there is no question of mismanaging any resources here.
“For the avoidance of doubt, at no time did Dr. Okonjo-Iweala say that FAAC approved such expenditures. What she said was that all these expenditures were discussed at FAAC meetings attended by Finance Commissioners from the 36 states.
“It is therefore clear that there was no misrepresentation by Dr. Okonjo-Iweala.
|The question before us is: why is there such an excessive attempt to batter her name in an attempt to damage her reputation? It is clear as I said in my previous statement that the motive is malicious and very political and therefore will not succeed.
“If monies were used to pay for subsidies for the Nigerian people and duly approved, why is Okonjo-Iweala’s name being battered in this way? This persecution should stop,” Nwachukwu said.