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Published On: Thu, Dec 18th, 2014

Missing $1bn excess funds spent on oil marketers – Okonjo-Iweala

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okonjo-iwealaBy Patrick Andrew, Ali Abubakar Abare & Ikechukwu Okaforadi

Minister of Finance, and Coordinating Minister of Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, yesterday said the federal government was re-strategizing to block leakages in all revenue yielding agencies of government with a view to increasing non-oil revenue accruable to the federation account.

This even as she said that the $1 billion said to be missing from the Excess Crude Account(ECA) was used by the Federal Government to settle debts to petroleum products marketers.

The minister stated this in Abuja on Wednesday while presenting the breakdown of the 2015 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly for approval .

The minister said the explanation was necessary to clear the air on allegations by the Chairman of the State Finance Commissioners Forum, Timothy Odaah, who said at the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting on Tuesday that the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) were unaware of the whereabouts of the money.

According to Mr. Odaah, the states were shocked that no explanations had been given by relevant government officials regarding the $1billion difference between the balance of $4.11 billion in the ECA in October and $3.1billion presented at the end of the November meeting on Tuesday.

Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala was however silent on whether the Federal Government withdrew from the ECA without the knowledge or consent of the 36 states.

Speaking after presenting the 2015 budget estimates of about N4.3trillion before the House of Representatives, Okonjo-Iweala, said the sharp drop in the crude oil price to about $59 per barrel- the lowest in five years- has necessitated a rethinking and refocusing on non-oil sources of revenue.

The Coordinating Minister said government would step up efforts at internally generated revenue as well as on solid minerals and other non-oil sources in order to raise considerable sum of money in the 2015 fiscal year.

Speaking to journalists, Okonjo-Iweala said, “I’ve laid the budget on behalf of his Excellency, Mr President. This budget is based on few indicators, the $65 a barrel benchmark and we are going to stick to it for now in spite of the declining prices because we feel the average price next year will be around $65 to $70.

“The production level is 2.27 million barrel per day. The revised growth rate based on the new parameters for the country, down from 6.35 to 5.5 percent next year, that is still one of the fastest growth rate we are experiencing in the world today.”

“We have a budget expenditure of about N4.3 trillion, revenue of N3.6 trillion, we’ve tried to make up for the drop from $78 per barrel to $65 by raising non-oil revenues. This budget points to the fact that this country is a non-oil country and I think we want Nigerians to start to think of the country that way,” he said stressing that the government would adopt panicking measures on the account of the drop in oil price.

Meanwhile, the Senate President, David Mark, has pledged that the upper chamber would consider the appropriation bill within two days on resumption.

Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma – Egba, while moving the motion for the adjournment till January 13, 2015, said the idea was to enable senators participate effectively in the political activities ahead of next year general election.

 

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