Fayose, PDP, LP disagree with Buhari over the release of $1bn from ECA, says its unreasonable

John Alechenu and Olusola Fabiyi and Kamarudeen Ogundele

The Peoples Democratic Party has said it is wrong for President Muhammadu Buhari to say he wants to spend $1bn (N365bn) to fight insurgency when another general election is approaching.

The main opposition party insisted that it would not support the plan while calling on Nigerians to demand its reversal by the government.

The National Economic Council, had on Thursday, asked the Federal Government to withdraw $1bn from the $2.3bn currently in the Excess Crude Account and use it to fight insurgency in the North-East.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The council chaired by the Vice-President has all state governors as members.

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, disclosed the decision of NEC to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Obaseki said council members expected that the money would be spent on the purchase of security equipment, procurement of intelligence and logistics, among others.

The spokesperson for the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Friday.

“How can you justify that? Do you want to spend N365bn on insurgency you claimed you have defeated? No, that is not acceptable,” Ologbondiyan said.

It will be recalled that the governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum had, after their meeting in Abuja on Thursday, said they had given the Federal Government the authority to withdraw the said amount from the Excess Crude Account.

Chairman of the forum, who is also the Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, announced the decision of the governors.

But Ologbodiyan insisted that governors elected on the platform of the party were not on the same page with other governors on the issue.

He said the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, who is also the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, had dissociated himself from the NGF’s decision.

Ologbondiyan said, “No, it is wrong to say we are on the same page on this issue. One of our governors had dissociated himself from the governors that took the decision.”

Meanwhile, in a statement he issued later, Ologbondiyan said the PDP was alarmed by the manipulative plot by the All Progressives Congress administration to secure approvals without recourse to due process, and for purposes of fighting the same insurgents, it claimed to have since defeated.

He also wondered why the APC-led Federal Government sought the approval of the National Economic Council while “avoiding the direct constitutional appropriation channel of the National Assembly for funding of items already provided for in the federal budget if it has nothing to hide.”

He added, “The PDP supports the fight against insurgency. We hold our officers and men confronting the terrorists and securing our territorial integrity in high esteem, but we are concerned about the manipulative tendencies connected with the approvals as well as the veracity of claimed purpose of the fund.

“Nigerians would recall that the APC-led Federal Government claimed that it had since defeated the insurgents. If it would take one billion dollars from a nation’s savings to kill what they claimed was long dead, then we challenge the APC government to come clean and tell Nigerians the whole truth.

“The era of lies and propaganda is long gone and Nigerians now know the truth. The Federal Government must be held accountable and stopped from any move to fritter away our national savings.

“We, therefore, call on the National Assembly to interrogate this proposed disbursement and subject it to a thorough but rapid interrogation.”

While noting that the development had rubbished the integrity of the current administration, he demanded that the Federal Government should apologise to Nigerians for allegedly lying to them about the actual state of the fight against insurgency in Nigeria.

The statement said, “By accepting the $1bn for the fighting of insurgency, the APC-led Federal Government has admitted that it lied when it announced that it has defeated the insurgents. They should, therefore, apologise to Nigerians for giving them a false sense of security, resulting in their vulnerability to attacks by terrorists.”

He recalled that the three points upon which the APC hinged its manifesto were security, corruption and economy, insisting that the ruling party had failed in all.

“On the economy, the APC has taken us into recession; on security, Boko Haram is still ravaging our people; on the issue of corruption, the APC government has only embarked on the witch-hunt of the opposition while monumental corruption thrives unabated right inside the engine of its administration,” the statement said.

Ologbodiyan said that the PDP would ensure that the APC did not continue to play with the intelligence of Nigerians, whom he said were only waiting for 2019 to consign it to the dustbin of history.

FG withdrawing $1bn from ECA to fund Buhari’s 2019 election –Fayose

On his part, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State said the decision to withdraw $1bn from the Excess Crude Account was a ploy by the APC-led Federal Government to fund Buhari’s re-election in 2019.

“For posterity sake, I wish to place it on record that I was not among the governors who approved the withdrawal of almost half of our savings in the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government, to fight an already defeated insurgency,” he said.

In a statement issued in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, on Friday and signed by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor wondered why the Federal Government needed such a huge amount to fight an already “defeated” battle.

“Since they said they have defeated Boko Haram, what else do they need a whopping sum of $1bn (over N365bn) for, if not to fund the 2019 elections?

“The APC promised to wipe out Boko Haram within six months, now it is 31 months and what the APC government is wiping out is the economy of Nigeria and the means of livelihood of the people.”

The governor said N365bn was equivalent to what the Federation Account Allocation Committee shared to the three tiers of government.

He challenged the Federal Government to make available to Nigerians how the money released by the international donors for the fight against Boko Haram was spent.

The statement added, “Nigerians deserve a proper explanation from the Federal Government on the rationale behind spending such huge sum of money to fight an already defeated Boko Haram.

“Even the Transparency International once said in its report that some top military officials in the country were feeding fat from the war against Boko Haram by creating fake contracts and laundering the proceeds in the United States, United Kingdom and elsewhere.”

The governor also alleged that the N50bn kept by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation in different commercial banks outside the Treasury Single Account on the directive of President Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, was part of the fund being kept to fund President Buhari’s election in 2019.

“Nigerians are alarmed by the revelation from the House of Representatives that President Buhari exempted NNPC from transferring N50bn to the TSA and the Central Bank of Nigeria,” he added.

The governor also said that the decision to withdraw the $1bn was the sole idea of the Federal Government and that the National Executive Council meeting was arranged to achieve it.

He said, “The question is: how can the Federal Government alone spend almost half of the Excess Crude money that belongs to the three tiers of government?

“The reality is that our treasury is daily being looted in readiness for the 2019 elections. Nigerians are therefore alerted to this looting by the APC-led Federal Government to amass huge fund for the 2019 elections under the pretence of fighting insurgency in the North-East as well as other dubious means.”

Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the Labour Party, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, urged the Buhari-led administration to stop deceiving Nigerians over the Boko Haram insurgency.

Abdulsalam said this in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH in Abuja on Friday.

He was reacting to the news that the Federal Government asked for and received the blessings of state governors to withdraw $1bn from the Excess Crude Account to finance the war against Boko Haram.

The party chairman said it amounted to deceit for the same administration which claimed to have decimated the group of insurgents only a few months ago to turn round to withdraw $1bn under the guise of fighting members of the same group.

Abdulsalam said, “This is, unfortunately, the situation we have found ourselves in Nigeria today, the more you look the less you see. This administration must learn to tell Nigerians the truth because as things are today, we are all still being deceived.”

He said Nigerians would have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude for the truth behind the insurgency to fully unfold.

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