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Illegal withdrawal: Okonjo-Iweala has a case to answer – Senate

Posted by By ISMAIL OMIPIDAN, Abuja on 2006/08/23 | Views: 550 |

Illegal withdrawal: Okonjo-Iweala has a case to answer – Senate


The Senate Joint Committees on Finance, Appropriation and National Planning probing the alleged illegal withdrawals from the Federation Account by President Olusegun Obasanjo have said that former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has a case to answer.

The Senate Joint Committees on Finance, Appropriation and National Planning probing the alleged illegal withdrawals from the Federation Account by President Olusegun Obasanjo have said that former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has a case to answer.

Incidentally, the resolve to summon the former minister who resigned from the government barely a month ago is coming on the heels of a letter from President Obasanjo to the Senate, seeking to legalise the alleged illegal withdrawals.

The Senate before its adjournment on July 21, 2006, instituted a probe into the alleged illegal withdrawals from the federation account to finance the exit from the Paris club, the power sector development projects and other activities contrary to the constitution of Nigeria and in defiance to the resolution of the Senate, which had mandated the President to forward to it a supplementary budget proposal for the purpose of financing the aforementioned projects.

First to appear before the Senate on Tuesday was incumbent Finance Minister, Mrs Nenadi Usman, who revealed to the Senate how the alleged illegal withdrawals from the excess crude account were carried out after “due consultations” with the State governors.

Admitting that withdrawals were indeed made to finance the power sector projects and the exit from the Paris Club, the Minister told a stunned Senate that the withdrawals were not made from the federation account but from the excess crude account, and as such there was no need to seek the approval of the National Assembly before dipping hands into it, since the stakeholders (three tiers of government) were duly carried along. Besides, she added, there was no where in the constitution where it was stated that a body would have to sit to appropriate funds for the three tiers of government from the excess crude account.

Although she struggled to defend the alleged irregularities, Senator Badamasi Maccido, a member of the committee probing the allegations, who like his fellow colleagues appeared unimpressed by the Minister’s defense, submitted that since there was a revenue formula in place, the Minister should just be humble enough to admit that they erred as far as the alleged illegal withdrawals were concerned.

Also testifying, the deputy governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in charge of operations, Shamsudeen Usman, who stood in for the governor, Professor Charles Soludo, told the committee that the bank got the mandate to release the alleged illegal withdrawals from the office of the Accountant –General of the Federation, who in turn disclosed that the mandate was conveyed through a communiqué.

Earlier, Usman equally admitted the 1 percent charge on the transaction of the exit from the Paris Club was a standard banking charge, even as he debunked the claim by Senator Farouk Bello, mover of the motion that gave rise to the probe, that the external reserve was in the region of about US$9 billion. Rather, he(Usman) claimed that as at May 31, 2006, the external reserve stood at US$34.09 billion.

But in a swift reaction to the AGF’s claim, Chairman of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, Alhaji Mamman Tukur, told the Senate that the said communiqué was not a legal instrument used in the disbursement of funds by the CBN, and such could not be admissible as being legally binding, adding that it was only meant for public consumption.

In President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to the Senate, dated August 16, 2006, but which was read on the floor of the Senate yesterday, he said “ following my letters of September 9, 2006, and June 12, 2006 on Power Sector Development and 2006 National Population Census respectively, I hereby present for formal consideration and passage into law by the Senate the attached bill for an Act to provide for the issue out of the consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation an additional total sum of US$ 1, 062, 591, O71.85 for the funding of the Power Sector Projects in Nigeria and additional two days of the National Population Census 2006. I hope the bill will receive prompt attention of distinguished members of the Senate.”

Meanwhile, the Joint Senate Committees probing the allegations have adjourned further hearing till 2.p.m of Tuesday, September 5, 2006, with a vow from the chairman of the Joint Committees, Senator Effiong Bob to ensure that Iweala comes from wherever she may be to state whatever she knew about the alleged illegal withdrawals.

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.