No $30bn is missing, FG tells Oshiomhole, says allegation is ‘shocking’

By The Citizen

The Federal Government has debunked the allegation made by the Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, that the sum of $30bn (N5.04trn) was missing from the Excess Crude Account.

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said in a statement issued on Saturday by her Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, describing the allegation as 'shocking.'

Okonjo-Iweala described the allegation as 'totally untrue.' saying, 'the comments reflect once again, the unfortunate tendency of some political players to politicise the management of the economy on the basis of half-truths and sundry distortions.'

'The widely published comment by Governor Adams Oshiomhole alleging that $30bn is missing from the Excess Crude Account is shocking and totally untrue.

'This is not good for the country. There should be a limit to negative politics, even during an election season such as this.

'Governor Oshiomhole's sweeping comments give the impression that the Federal Government sits alone in secret and doles out whatever it wishes to the states from the Federation Account.

'But anyone who is familiar with the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee process knows that this is simply not true. The meetings are held every month and commissioners of finance and other officials represent their states and agreements are reached on issues, including the sharing of proceeds from the Account,' the statement said.

The minister wondered why the government of Edo State did not table the allegation before the FAAC committee for investigation before 'going public with a sweeping, political allegation based on casual, back of the envelop calculations.'

Okonjo-Iweala stated that the Governor of River State, Rotimi Amaechi, made a similar allegation in November 2013 when he raised the alarm that $5bn was missing from the same account.

The statement added that the ministry subsequently showed, with facts, that not only was the money not missing, the Rivers State Government got N257.6bn from the account between January and October 2013.

Oshiomhole's allegation, Okonjo-Iweala added, 'seems to be cut from a similar political fabric.'

'Governor Oshiomhole correctly observed that the economy would be in better shape today if we had saved more for the rainy day. But he failed to recall that the Federal Government's strong advocacy for a low budget benchmark and greater savings in the ECA articulated by the Coordinating Minister was repulsed by some governors.

'There is no doubt that oil theft is a challenge but this too would have helped. We do not share Governor Oshiomhole's overly bleak view of the country's economic prospects,' the statement added.

The ministry added that while the challenges were great and could not be wished away, an international rating agency, Moody, and the International Monetary Fund had confirmed that the economy was resilient despite the oil price crash.

It could be recalled that Oshiomhole had on Thursday accused the Federal Government of failing to account for about $30bn that accrued to the ECA in the last three years.

The governor had said Nigeria's budgets for the past three years had been based on an oil benchmark of $77 and $79, while the average price of the country's crude had been $108 per barrel.

This, according to the governor, gives an average surplus of $30 per barrel.

'Ideally, we ought to be saving $36 per barrel on the 2.3 million barrel a day over the past three years and if you look at these numbers, you will find that what we have in our excess crude oil account should be over $30bn but as we speak, we have barely $3bn in our excess crude account.

'Over the past 18 months, we have not shared the excess crude account and yet the account is empty. Sometimes, we are told they have taken money from it to fund subsidies, including subsidy on kerosene,' he said.