From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
Governor of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Abdul-Aziz Yari, has said the $1 billion approved to be taken out of the Excess Crude Account (ECA), to support the war against insurgency, is not the first in Nigerian history.
Yari said the NGF, during the chairmanship of Godswill Akpabio, of Akwa Ibom State, approved $2 billion for government, to procure equipment for the military and logistics, “especially when soldiers took to the social media, to cry out that they were being killed like rats.”
But, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, insisted he does not support the resolution.
The two governors took different positions when they addressed State House Correspondents at the end of an emergency meeting between the NGF and Speakers of Houses of Assembly, which held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Said Yari: “The Nigeria Governors’ Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed, across party lines, that this thing was done in 2014, where $2 billion was withdrawn, in agreement with the governors at that meeting. Governor Akpabio was the one who moved the motion. This time, we realised that there was the 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 agree to forfeit $1 billion out of our own share of excess crude proceeds, which we are going to back up with Houses of Assembly resolutions, at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken. It happened during (former President Goodluck) 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 told us, whether it was true or false, that our soldiers were being killed.
“Some came on the social media and said they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment. That was what generated discussions in the same chamber and there was no controversy, there was no opposition to the decision at that time.
“Secondly, there was this decision also, under Yar’Adua’s time, 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 urged all stakeholders to stop playing politics with national security.
“At the governors forum, 12 members form quorum. At the time we took this decision, we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision. If anybody has his own way that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there wasn’t any minority opinion at that meeting.
“We looked at the country first; before any other issue. It is only when you have the country that you can have politics,” the governor added.
He said those in charge at that time failed to listen to the governors’ complaints and expressed delight that the present government listens.
But, Fayose insisted he was not in support of the decision to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA.
“I’m not in support of $1 billion and I will never be in support. In my state, we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right, all accruals to the Federation Account must be shared by the three tiers of government and, for me to get justice, I have to go to court.”
Fayose said although the issue was not discussed at the Tuesday meeting, he had taken appropriate steps because the money belongs to the people of his state.
Asked if he opposed the decision on behalf of governors of the Peoples Democratic Party, he replied: “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 but I will not support it. Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. In Ekiti State, people are hungry, we are having ‘hunger haram.’
“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 money.
“I filed the case in court as early as 12 noon today (yesterday). If it was not listed as part of the meeting, how am I going to raise the issue? I have options and I have said it expressly, I have gone to court. If it was one of the issues discussed, I would have said so. I am not a pretender, I won’t suffer in silence.”
Meanwhile, the NGF and speakers of Houses of Assembly have agreed to hold public hearings on some amendments of the 1999 Constitution, by the National Assembly.
A statement to that effect was signed by Yari, on behalf of the NGF and Speaker of Sokoto State House of Assembly and Chairman, Conference of Speakers, Ismaila A. Kamba.
“We, all the governors of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, under the platform of the Nigeria Governors Forum and Speakers of the States Houses of Assembly, under the auspices of the Conference of Speakers, at the end of a consultative meeting regarding ongoing efforts to amend certain sections of the 1999 constitution resolved as follows: The meeting agreed to approach this amendment with maturity and the future of our democracy at the back of our minds.
“The meeting agreed that the Houses of Assembly should consult all stakeholders and hold public hearings on all the items transmitted to them by the National Assembly; in a bid to promote our democracy and strengthen its institutions.
“Finally, the meeting agreed to constitute a committee, to look at all the issues pertaining to the constitution amendment and revert to members within a reasonable time.”