The Senate Tuesday resolved to ask President Muhammadu Buhari to abolish the operation of the controversial Excess Crude Account (ECA).
The upper chamber also urged President Buhari to direct relevant government agencies to pay the amount above the oil bench mark into the Federation Account and appropriate some of the fund to the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The prayer which sought to mandate an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the revenue that accrued from the amount above the oil benchmark from 2004 to date and it’s utilization, identifying any further infractions committed and report back within two months, was rejected by the lawmakers.
They requested the Executive to act in conformity with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, in its revenue receipt and expenditure by paying the amount above the oil benchmark into the Federation Account in compliance with the Constitution.
The resolution followed the adoption of a motion entitled “The Excess Crude Account: An Illegality and a drain pipe” sponsored by Senator Rose Oko (Cross River North) and 42 others.
Senator Adamu Aliero (Kebbi Central) who seconded the motion noted that if the ECA is stream lined, it would go a long way in improving transparency and accountability.
Senator Oko in her lead debate noted that the Excess Crude Account was set up in 2004, ostensibly to provide savings for the country and stabilization for the economy during periods of shortfalls in oil revenue;
She also noted that the accruals to the ECA was expected to be the amount above the benchmark of crude oil sales.
The lawmaker expressed concern that “the ECA is alien to the 1999 constitution as amended or any known law in the country.”
She also express worry that “the ECA is not in tandem with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribes revenue receipts and expenditure.”
Senator Oko said that she is “alarmed that these breaches of the Constitution in setting up and operating the ECA have created room for a pool of funds from revenue accruing to the Federation being operated without legal backing and without any checks and balances, thereby providing loopholes for imprudence and financial recklessness.”
She is further alarmed that a report by the National Resource Governance Institute rated Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account as one of the most poorly managed around the world, where its operation is discretionary and at the whims of the Executive;
The Cross River North lawmaker noted that “for instance, it was reported that the ECA increased from $5.16 billion in 2005 to over $20billion in 2008, and decreased to less than $4billion by 2010 with no known tracking of “its operations.”
She said that at various times and from several quarters in 2013, “it was purported that $5billion was missing from the ECA, and that $2billion was withdrawn without authorization.”
Oko said that she is concerned that “these accusations between tiers of government portrays a financial system that is flawed and without probity.”
She observed that by May 2017, Government announced a resumption of payment into the ECA of $87million ostensibly since May, 2015 arbitrarily;
She further observed that between May, 2015 and August, 2017 about US $122.2million had accrued and ought to have been paid to the ECA.
The lawmaker said that she is “deeply saddened by the continued impunity of the ECA and its discretionary operation in contravention of the 1999 Constitution, creating room for imprudence, recklessness and arbitrariness.”
The operation of the ECA, she said, is one veritable source of huge revenue leakage in the country.
She noted that the on-going amendment of section 162 of the 1999 Constitution as amended is expected to cure the problem of savings for the nation that is rooted in the Constitution;
She insisted that before the amendment of the relevant sections of the constitution is done, “the nation cannot continue to operate an appreciable quantum of revenue arbitrarily, outside the law with no checks and balances.”
Senator Mao Ohuabunwa (Abia North) who also supported the motion asked the Senate to take steps to stop the arbitrariness in the operation of the ECA.