By Christiana Ekpa and Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Senate yesterday ordered the abolition of the operation of Excess Crude Account ECA, describing the creation as an illegality and a slush fund spent at the whims and caprices of the executive.
This was just as the lawmakers allegedly pointed out that the sum of $35.2m was missing under the President Muhammad Buhari’s watch between May, 2015 and August, 2017.
The Senate equally asked the Executive to pay the amount above the oil benchmark into the Federation Account in compliance with the Constitution, and appropriate part of the amount into the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and other sectors.
The apex legislative chamber further requested the Executive to act in conformity with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, in its revenue receipt and expenditure.
However, to the chagrin of observers, the Senate rejected one of the prayers, seeking to mandate an ad hoc committee to investigate the revenue that accrued from the amount above the oil benchmark from 2004 to date.
The rejected prayer had also sought that, if established, the ad hoc committee should investigate the utilization of the fund within the period under review, identifying any further infractions committed and report back within two months.
The resolutions of the Upper Chamber followed a motion sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North), entitled, “the Excess Crude Account: an Illegality and a drain pipe”.
Leading the debate on the motion, Oko noted that the Excess Crude Account (ECA) was set up in 2004, ostensibly to provide savings for the country and stabilization for the economy during periods of shortfalls in oil revenue.
She also noted that the accruals to the ECA were expected to be the amount above the benchmark of crude oil sales while pointing out that the establishment was alien to the 1999 constitution or any known law in the country.
The politician expressed concerns that the ECA was not in conformity with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribed revenue receipts and expenditure, saying that these breaches of the Constitution in setting up and operating the ECA had created room for a pool of funds from revenue accruing to the Federation being operated without legal backing and without any checks and balances.
She lamented that the ugly scenario had produced loopholes for imprudence and financial recklessness within government, and that the motion was designed to end the trend.
Part of her statement reads: “the Senate further alarmed that a report by the National Resource Governance Institute rates Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account as one of the most poorly managed around the world, where its operation is discretionary and at the whims of the Executive;
“The Senate notes that for instance, it was reported that the ECA increased from $5.16 billion in 2005 to over $20billion in 2008, and decreased to less than $4billion by 2010 with no known tracking of its operations;
“Further notes that at various times and from several quarters in 2013, it was purported that $5billion was missing from the ECA, and that $2billion was withdrawn without authorization;
“Further observes that however, between May, 2015 and August, 2017 about US $122.2million had accrued and ought to have been paid to the ECA;
“Deeply saddened by the continued impunity of the ECA and its discretionary operation in contravention of the 1999 Constitution, creating room for imprudence, recklessness and arbitrariness”
Contributing, Senators Mao Ohuabunwa, Adamu Aliero, Suleiman Hunkuyi, and Atai Idoko all agreed that the ECA was an illegal entity and must be abrogated by the present government, to avoid further constitutional breaches and reckless spending of the tax payers money.