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Govs go to S'Court over excess crude account

By The Citizen
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Determined to definitely resolve its dispute with the Federal Government over the Excess Crude Account (ECA), the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) is, again, set to go to the Supreme Court.

In September last year, the governors went to the court to challenge what they termed 'illegal deductions' by the Federal Government.

The Supreme Court had earlier advised the warring parties to settle out-of-court, and on account of this, a committee was set up.

But the governors, apparently dissatisfied with the continued deduction of their allocation by the Federal Government to fund the oil subsidy, have decided to return to court.

The Supreme Court gave the two parties up to September 22, 2012 to reach an out-of-court settlement over the issue or it would continue with it. The adjournments provoked the current resolve by the governors to go back to court.

Amaechi who read the statement of the forum after its meeting in the early hours of yesterday criticised the attitude of the Federal Government on all issues relating to the ECA. He said that it was this attitude of the government that informed its decision not to take any more adjournment and to head to the Supreme Court for a better interpretation of the issue.

And ostensibly in response to the recent criticisms that have trailed the forum and its leadership, the members in their first meeting of the year yesterday 'declared their confidence in their chairman and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and endorsed his leadership as head of the forum.'

In December last year, the 36 state governors had requested $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to 'fund ongoing projects' and 'help state governments meet up with their financial responsibilities as the year is coming to an end.' The Sokoto State Deputy Governor, Muktar Shagari, who presented the request on behalf of the governors, stated this position.

Reading from the five-point statement, Amaechi said: 'Forum decries the present attitude of the Federal Government on the Excess Crude Account. Forum resolved to take no further adjournment in the subsisting case in court, but to seek a final resolution of the matter from the Supreme Court.'

The governors also resolved that the security threat in the country had reached a point that a lasting solution must be sought to curtail it. In this regard, Amaechi said that theĀ  'Forum agreed to hold a two-day retreat to deliberate on the current state of security in the country.'

Sources said that the governors extensively discussed the proposed constitutional amendment, reviewed their proposals and the agitations that trail their suggestions to the amendment.

The forum also took some far-reaching decisions on the 'rising incidence of polio in the country' with a unanimous decision to eradicate polio by starting a monthly campaign to be headed by the governors in all the 36 states of the federation, promote routine immunisation as well as environmental habits.

'Governors from non-polio states would support their counterparts from affected states by joining them in the states during the up-coming national polio campaign, to meet with the presidential task force on polio eradication in order to identify current funding gaps and challenges against polio eradication in Nigeria,' the forum said.

The governors also stated that they remained resolute in the development of the different states of the federation for the benefit of the nation and the citizens.

Yesterday's meeting of the NEC was the first in the year and it was presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo.

Ngama, who had earlier briefed the council on the state of the ECA, said it had a total balance of $9.242 billion, after $1billion was spent on subsidy payments.

In the same vein, the Council has prevailed on states to support the activities of the National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP).

Orji, who gave details of deliberations, told reporters that the Council considered a report presented by Usman on the activities of NAPTIP.

'The recommendations include the development and effective implementation of State level Trafficking in Persons Plans of Action, the development and strengthening of the States Social Welfare Systems for Child Protection and the provision of basic needs, including medical care, educational vocational and recreational facilities for victims of trafficking.

'Others are the mobilising and providing support for civil society organisations working on combat-trafficking and related issues, assisting and empowering identified victims of trafficking by providing educational grants, scholarships and other incentives and enabling and fully implementing the Child's Rights Law in each state,' he said.

Orji said the Council adopted the recommendations. It also noted that Abia, Kogi and Ogun states should be treated as pilot cases in the bid to combat the societal scourge.

The Council got a briefing from the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) led by its President, Chief Kola Jamodu, on multiple taxation across the country at various levels and its effects on the manufacturing sector's productivity.

Jamodu told reporters in his presentation that MAN had many prayers, including reduction in stamp duty, VAT, exemption on some raw materials, harmonisation of taxes and levies within the three tiers of government, outlawing of unorthodox means of collecting taxes as well as full automation of the entire tax administration system.

After an extensive discussion of the issues raised by MAN, the Council set up a committee to look further into them and report back to it by March.

The committee is chaired by the Gombe State Governor Ibrahim Dankwabo. Other members are Governors Abdulkadir Yari of Zamfara; Idris Ichalla Wada of Kogi; Orji of Abia; Amaechi of Rivers; Rochas Okorocha of Imo; Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Raji Fashola of Lagos.

Others are Ministers of National Planning, Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Economic Adviser to the Vice President, Secretary to the National Planning Commission and MAN President. (Guardian)