Madam Minister, Please Answer The Questions: A Response By The Rivers State Government

By Ibim Semenitari
Federal Coordinating Minster for the Economy & Honourable Minister of Finance
Federal Coordinating Minster for the Economy & Honourable Minister of Finance

For weeks, the Coordinating Minster for the Economy and Honourable Minister of Finance has continuously attacked the person and office of Rt Hon Chibuike Amaechi, Governor Rivers State and Chairman Nigeria Governor's Forum.

The Minister's statements have been in response to issues raised by Governor Amaechi about the governors' concern over the management of the Excess Crude Account during the 2nd retreat of the Nigeria Governor's forum in Sokoto.

The spat from the Minister's office since the governors' complaint has been suggestive of chasing a red herring. Instead of answering the questions raised by Governor Amaechi, and clarifying the issues, the Honourable Minister is simply muddying the waters.

For the records and for the avoidance of doubt, the Rivers State Government has not at any time contested that it has received funds from the federation account. In its response to the claim by the Honourable Minister that it received N56.2 from the Excess Crude Account, the Rivers State Government simply explained the well-known fact that the monies received were from the federation account and part of its statutory allocation.

All state governments receive their statutory allocation from the federation account and the Rivers State Government is no different. Part of our statement on the matter is repeated here for emphasis. “There is a position of the National Economic Council's (NEC) on the matter of the Excess Crude Account. This position is that the savings in the ECA belonging to all the states is not to be touched. Indeed this is in tandem with the position of the Honourable Minister that the ECA is savings for all to be set-aside for the rainy day and not to be “shared” in the manner she now seems to suggest.

The Rivers State Government finds it curious and very disturbing that our rainy day savings has been “shared” in complete breach of the known procedure for doing such and in what might be considered an under the table and clandestine manner.”

It is evident that funds from the Excess Crude Account are not one of the statutory sources of revenue for the federation account, as was also explicitly outlined in the response of the Rivers State Government. That account is not expected to be touched except when the appropriate processes have been followed as was explained in our previous statement.

It is therefore it is therefore misleading and a threat to our practice of fiscal federalism, for the Minister to suggest that the ECA is now one of the means through which the FAAC is funded and to expect the governors to know about this aberration when the Ministry of Finance hasn't made this information public.

The Rivers State Government as a policy publishes what it earns from all revenue sources and what it expends as well. Since we have nothing to hide, the Honourable Minister is welcome to re affirm these figures for the public as they are already in the public domain.

What is not in the public domain and what the Rivers State government has respectfully requested the Honourable Minister to publish are the following:

· How much oil does Nigeria produce?
· Where is the differential between the oil pump prices?

· What price is our oil being sold for?
· How much have we earned from our crude oil sales in the last year?

· What percentage of budget 2013 does our crude oil sales revenue fund?

· Can the Honourable Minister assist in shedding more light on the subsidy savings since the reduction in petroleum subsidy?

Certainly these figures must be as available to the Honourable Minister as are the figures of how much Rivers State has received which, by the way is not the bone of contention.

The Rivers State Government therefore most respectfully wishes to request Madam Minister to please answer the questions it has raised and clarify the issues for Rivers people. The red herring of how much Rivers state has received from the federation account can be the matter for another day as right now those figures are not in contest, and the spat against Governor Amaechi unnecessary.

Ibim Semenitari
Commissioner of Information and
Communications, Rivers State