From Fred Itua, Abuja
Senate has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to abolish the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
Senate called on government to abolish the ECA and act in conformity with sections 80 ( 1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, in its revenue receipt and expenditure.
The chamber also mandated the executive to pay any amount above the oil benchmark into the Federation Account, in compliance with the Constitution, while also appropriating some parts of the amount into the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
Oko said in her motion: “ECA is not in tandem with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribes revenue receipts and expenditure.These breaches of the constitution, in setting up and operating the ECA, have created room for a pool of funds from revenue accruing to the federation being operated without legal backing and without any checks and balances, thereby providing loopholes for imprudence and financial recklessness.
“A report by the National Resource Governance Institute rates Nigeria’s ECA as one of the most poorly managed around the world, where its operation is discretionary and at the whims of the Executive.
“For instance, it was reported that the ECA increased from $5.16 billion in 2005 to over $20 billion in 2008 and decreased to less than $4billion by 2010, with no known tracking of its operations.
“At various times and from several quarters in 2013, it was purported that $5 billion was missing from the ECA, and that $2 billion was withdrawn without authorisation. These accusations between tiers of government portrays a financial system that is flawed and without probity.
“By May 2017, government announced a resumption of payment into the ECA of $87 million, ostensibly since May, 2015 arbitrarily.
“However, between May, 2015 and August, 2017 about $122.2 million had accrued and ought to have been paid to the ECA. The on-going amendment of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is expected to cure the problem of savings for the nation that is rooted in the Constitution.
“Before that is done, the nation cannot continue to operate an appreciable quantum of revenue arbitrarily, outside the law with no checks and balances.”
It was also a day senators frustrated plans by the upper legislative chamber to investigate the administrations of Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan Jonathan and Buhari, over alleged misappropriation of ECA funds.
In a motion sponsored by Senator Rose Oko and 42 others, the chamber wanted an adhoc committee set up to investigate revenues which accrued to the ECA, above the oil benchmark from 2004 to date.
Senate also sought to know how the revenues were utilised. The proposed panel was to report back within two months.
Ironically, senators who sponsored the bill voted against the proposal when Senate President, Bukola Saraki put it to voice vote.
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, in his earlier intervention, also described ECA as unconstitutional.
“There is need to save for the rainy day, but, it has to be done in line with the provisions of the constitution. The excess crude account is unconstitutional. We do not even know how much is being paid into this account.
The executive and officials of NNPC just sit down and pay whatever they like into this account. We need to investigate and determine how these funds had been spent.” We need to stop this immediately.”
Suleiman Hukunyi on his part, said: “Excess crude account might have been a child of circumstances. There appears to be some form of secrecy and lack of transparency in the operation of the excess crude account. Going forward, whatever they collect should go into the Federation Account.”