Oshiomhole Hits Back At Okonjo-Iweala

Following a statement by former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on Tuesday, describing claims that she made an unauthorised $2.1 billion expenditure from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) as false, malicious and baseless, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, on Wednesday, accused her of being economical with the truth on the state of the economy inherited by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Okonjo-Iweala, former Coordinating Minister for the Economy, in the statement by Paul Nwabuikwu, her media aide, said she was ready to face any panel set up by the new administration.

Oshiomhole, who was guest on the Channels Television talkshow, Sunrise Daily, noted that as pointer to the equally pitiable state the federal treasury inherited by the new government is, the Federal Government would have been in a worse shape than states, but for the resort to borrowing to pay wages.

“I speak on my honour that the federal government is just as broke and that they are borrowing using CBN instruments in trillions of naira to pay salaries,” he affirmed, blaming Okonjo-Iweala for granting waivers running into several billions of naira to various organisations.

According to him: “With all due respect to the former Minister Okonjo-Iweala, she knows how to play around with statistics. I have made the point; she keeps opening part of the pages and not the entire book.

“The logic of transparency is that every minister must publish in full what is accruing to the Federation Account month to month, and what is distributed to them. What she has been publishing is that this is what went to the Federal Government, this is what went to the state government and this is what goes to the local government.

“What she never published simultaneously, is what accrued during the period out of which this was distributed. So we can now know what was collected to what was distributed, so we can know what is left in the excess crude account. You can see her changing the goal post.

Reacting to a statement by the ex-minister that the decisions on such expenditures were discussed at meetings of the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC), attended by Finance Commissioners from the 36 states,  the governor retorted: “Look at the constitution and tell me which section gives the Commissioner of Finance the power, all of them, they are unknown to ballot, they are not elected, but the membership of NEC is clear, Governors chaired by the Vice President representing the President, the CBN and other relevant ministries. How will she avoid this level of accountability?”

The governor insisted that only the NEC, which is a creation of the constitution, has the power to authorise spending from the excess crude account and not any other administrative arrangement.
He insisted that as a member of the council, “I am on record as telling her, ‘don’t give us verbal reports on matters of federation account, give us written report’ and the power to spend is not vested on Commissioners.

“The $2 billion is her last sum, because in her last report, she said we had $4.1 billion, she said so orally, but it was captured in the minutes, only for her to come around again at the last minute to say “X” figure is left. We asked her, what did you pay for?”

“The federal finances are even worst hit. Over the past 9 months under the past government, federal government could not and have not been able to pay salaries from her legitimate income. What she has been doing which states could not do; was to borrow, uses the CBN through various instruments termed security, etc  and basically draw down the pension funds because they are the ones who have liquidity to patronise the bond market.

“So if we were to be able to stop the Federal Government from borrowing to pay salaries, it would have defaulted in payment of salaries much earlier than states and the number of months the federal government would have been owing would be worse than the worst state in the federation.

“Just look at the budget of the Federal Government over the past four years and you will see the level of deficit finances that was built into the budget. So in trying to understand the financial crisis, you shouldn’t limit yourself to those who can pay.” Continuing, the governor lamented: “Even those who purport to pay, look at their source of funding the payment. If you do, you will find out that whereas the federal government frees itself to borrow quite recklessly, reckless in the sense that no serious manager goes month after month to borrow for the payment of salaries.

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