The row over the planned withdrawal of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to battle insecurity grew yesterday.
Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) chairman Abdulaziz Yari and Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose clashed over the issue in Abuja after a meeting of the representatives of the governors with speakers of the houses of Assembly over the 1999 constitution amendment plan.
But Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said the money was not only for the Boko Haram battle rather for general security in the country.
Yari, the governor of Zamfara State, insisted that 32 governors endorsed the decision. Fayose said he had gone to court over the matter. Both of them spoke to reporters at the State House.
Yari said: ” This is democracy and each and every person has his own way to want to look at things and you cannot stop him from agitation. Nigerian Governors Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing had been done in 2014 when $2 billion was taken in agreement with the governors at that meeting.
“Governor Akpabio moved the motion. This time, we realised that there was need to purchase equipment for the military, so we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1 billion of our own share of excess crude account which we are going to back up with state assembly resolutions at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken; it happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2 billion. We all agreed at that time collectively in the same chamber to withdraw $2 billion to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us whether it was true or false that our soldiers were being killed. There was no opposition to the decision at that time.
“Secondly, there was this decision also under (the late President Umaru) Yar’Adua when they were sourcing funds for Niger Delta Power Holdings. They also took over N5 billion for power generation; we followed the same process to withdraw the money from the same account and our respective houses of Assembly confirmed the resolution.”
He noted that the $2 billion taken under Jonathan was not backed up by any resolution from the state assemblies.
He urged Nigerians not to play politics with national security.
Yari added: “By the way, at the Governors’ Forum, 12 members form a quorum. At the time we took this decision, we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision. We had the majority and there was not even minority opinion at that meeting.
“We look at the country Nigeria first before any other issue; it is only when you have the country that you can have the politics.”
On giving out $1 billion despite not paying salaries, he said: “You see, if you are not an economist you may not understand what you are talking about. These monies are kept there for the rainy day. And how much are those monies? It is $2 billion. Except in 2015 when we came begging, now we are asking for what is our own.
“The Federal Government was deducting the money illegally in those days. We were asking the Federal Government to give us what is our own. Then we were appealing; they were not listening, thank God today we have a listening government, which makes attempt to pay 50 per cent and now we are looking forward to the last balance of 50 per cent. And graciously understanding the economies of the states, the Federal Government has agreed to pay so that the state government can pay salaries and meet their obligations to their citizens.”
But Fayose said he was not in support of the $1 billion approval.
He said: “In my state, we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right. All accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and, for me to get justice, I had to go to court.”
On what the consensus was at yesterday’s meeting, he said “the issue was not discussed at all. But, for me, I have taken appropriate steps because the money belongs to Ekiti people.”
Asked if he was alone in the fight or if the entire PDP states were with him, he said: “ I am speaking for Ayo Fayose. With the PDP and the stakeholders, we have not met. I did not attend the meeting. Even if I was part of the meeting, I would have made it expressly clear that I will not support it.
“Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. Ekiti State has ’Hunger Ram’ where hunger is catching people everywhere. A lot of people are being kidnapped daily. Whatever is in that money for me we should share it, let everybody go and solve his own problem. I have challenges and they should give me my money. It is Ekiti’s money.”
Vice President Osinbajo, opening the retreat of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation with Secretaries to the State Governments (SSGs) at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said: the decision followed a security summit hosted two months ago by the NEC, which was crucial in understanding and dimensioning the security problems of the country and the weaknesses of our security architecture.”
He said the summit examined kidnapping, small arms trafficking, terrorist activities of Boko Haram in the Northeast, clashes between herdsmen and farmers and cattle rustling.
“It was on account of the security summit that the governors at the Governors’ Forum subsequently decided that they would vote a certain sum of money, which has become somewhat controversial, the $1billion, to assist the security architecture of the country,” Osinbajo said, adding:
“It was to assist all of the issues in the states, including policing in the states, community policing, all of the different security challenges that we have.
“It was after the security summit that the Governors’ Forum met across party lines. Again, I must add, in order to approve and to accept that this is what needed to be done to shore up our security architecture.”