Chuks Okocha, Francis Ndubuisi in Abuja and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
• NGF: Please explain, Finance Minister: You have spent it
• Zamfara governor now NGF chair
There is probably no better way of summing up the eventual reconciliation of the factionalised Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) than to say all is well that ends well.
After almost two years of deep crisis, the 36 governors of the federation in the early hours of yesterday put their partisan differences aside and asked the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to account for the $20 billion oil revenue the nation earned.
This is the first joint meeting of all the governors since May 24, 2013, when the governors’ crisis broke out, following the election that produced the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, with 19 votes to beat Jonah Jang of Plateau State who polled 16 votes.
Reading the resolution of the meeting at about 1.08 am, the Chairman of the forum, Governor Amaechi, said: “In the light of the fact that funds in the Excess Crude Account were last disbursed in May 2013, there is need for the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to provide explanation for accruals to the account from June 2013 to April 2015, which is estimated at over $20 billion.”
The governors in the communiqué said: “We are hereby reconciled and united as a single united umbrella association of the 36 state governors of Nigeria regardless of party or region.”
In view of this, Amaechi said in the communiqué that Governor Abdullazeez Yari of Zamfara State has been elected as the Chairman of the NGF by consensus for one year period of May 2015 to May 2016.
The governors also congratulated the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, and commended the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for conceding defeat.
Amaechi announced that there would be a retreat in June for the incoming governors, adding that it is aimed at equipping the new and returning governors with knowledge of global best practices for running their offices.
The communiqué further said that the NGF would establish an academy to be known as the “NGF Leadership Academy”, which would be responsible for capacity building for governors and other officials holding public office. The academy will be overseen by the NGF secretariat.
In her response to the demand for an explanation on the $20 billion accruals to the Excess Crude Account, Okonjo-Iweala described as strange demands by the governors for an explanation on alleged missing $20 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
In a statement issued last night by her Special Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, the minister affirmed that the governors’ allegation was totally strange because the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meets every month “and the ECA is discussed at every session with all the state commissioners of finance present”.
“Nothing is hidden. At these meetings, the Honourable Minister of State, who is the Chair of FAAC announces the balance in the ECA, which is then discussed. So governors who want any information about the ECA should ask for details from their commissioners who should have the records of what was discussed and agreed upon,” Okonjo-Iweala stressed.
According to her, details of the ECA are also published every month along with the allocations to the three tiers of government.
“The reference to June 2013 in the statement is probably because the National Economic Council last met in May 2013. But this is immaterial because the FAAC meetings during which the ECA and similar issues are discussed have generally held regularly every month.
“It is interesting that Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who was reported to have read the communique on behalf of the governors made a similar unsubstantiated allegation in November 2013 that $5 billion was missing from the ECA.
“We subsequently showed with facts that not only was the amount not missing, Rivers State received N257.6 billion from the Federation Account between January and October 2013, the second highest among the states, of which N56.2 billion from the Excess Crude Account was a part.
“In the interest of transparency and accountability, and to throw more light on this issue, the Federal Ministry of Finance will publish details of the ECA for the last four years within the next few days,” the statement concluded.
Speaking about the new aura of reconciliation in the NGF, the Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, described the peaceful resolution of the NGF crisis and the election of a new leadership for the body as a victory for democracy.
Governor Ahmed made this known in a congratulatory message to the new chairman of the forum and Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Yari, and the new Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima.
Ahmed noted that Nigerian governors have displayed a high level of political maturity in resolving the crisis which almost set the body into irrelevance in the national politics.
The governor, in a release by his Chief Press Secretary, Abdulwahaab Oba, yesterday in Ilorin, said with the elections and peaceful resolution of the needless polarisation of the body, the NGF has now repositioned itself for the immeasurable benefits of a peer review body.
The governor charged his colleagues to remain focused in sustaining the ideals which gave birth to the union for it to remain as the bastion of good governance and leadership in the country.
Governors from both factions in attendance at the Monday reconciliation meeting included Shettima of Borno, Amaechi of Rivers, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Deputy Governor of Imo State Eze Madumere, Abdulrahaman Yero of Kaduna, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Deputy Governor of Kano, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun, Idris Wada of Kogi, the Governor-elect of Akwa Ibom State Emmanuel Udom and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.
Others in attendance were Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, Babangida Muazu of Niger State, Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdulaziiz Yari of Zamfara, Saidu Dakingari of Kebbi, Ahmed of Kwara State and Gabriel Suswam of Benue State.
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