Buhari explains reason for withdrawal of $462m to purchase aircraft ahead of NASS approval

Buhari explains reason for withdrawal of $462m to purchase aircraft ahead of NASS approval

- President Muhammadu Buhari has explained that he ordered the withdrawal of $462 million from the Excess Crude Account ahead of NASS approval because the contract had a deadline

- Lawmakers had summoned the minister of finance, the CBN governor, and the accountant general of the federation, over the disbursement of the funds without their approval

- Buhari explained that he granted ‘anticipatory approval’ for the release of the funds, and then requested that the amount be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill

President Muhammadu Buhari has written a letter to the National Assembly, explaining why he approved the withdrawal of $462 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States government without getting approval from NASS.

However, the letter also exposed false claims by a presidential aide who said Buhari had not ordered the withdrawal of $1 billion from the ECA to procure arms to tackle Boko Haram insurgents in the northeast and that until he got approval from NASS, he would not take such action. The aide made the claim on April 9.

NAIJ.com gathers that Buhari’s letter was only written on April 13, and received in the Office of the speaker of the House on April 17; and showed that the president had already given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of the sum of $496,374,470 (N151,394,421,355) from the ECA for the purchase of 12 Tucano aircraft from the U.S.

He is also requesting that the amount be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill currently being finalized by NASS.

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The president explained that a deadline had already been set by the US government for the purchase of the items.

Lawmakers had summoned the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele, and the accountant general of the federation, Ahmed Idris over the disbursement of the funds for the procurement of the aircraft from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) without appropriation by the legislature; and this development could further worsen the discord between the executive and legislative arms of government.

The president had been given the green light to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA to fight the insurgency by state governors, last December.

However, since the funds in the ECA belong to the three tiers of government, the withdrawal would have requires approval from NASS.

On January 25, the minister of defense, Mansur Dan-ali had revealed that the payment deadline for the purchase of the aircraft was in February.

A few days later on February 5, he said the federal government had paid $496 million to the U.S. government for the Tucano aircraft but did not disclose that the funds had already been withdrawn from the ECA.

It was not until April 4, after a meeting of the Security Council at the State House, Abuja, that the minister finally revealed that Buhari had given approval for the withdrawal of the funds from the ECA.

After public outcry on the issue, the senior special assistant to the president on National Assembly matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang on April 9, stated that Buhari had not yet given approval for the withdrawal of the $1 billion from ECA.

Enang had said: “That the said sum has not and cannot be approved for spending by Mr President. That in accordance with best practices, Mr President, having received approval of the sum from National Economic Council made up of all the governors, now had a meeting with the minister of defence, service chiefs and the inspector-general of police, among others, to collate the needs of each of the services and the money available for appropriation.

“Mr President and the meeting having collated the need of each service and the amount involved may now present same to the Federal Executive Council for detailed consideration, or in the exercise of presidential powers may communicate same to the National Assembly for appropriation.

“This may be done as usual upon Mr President consulting prior with the leadership of the National Assembly through the whole body of principal officers or the presiding officers of each chamber only, before originating the communication to the National Assembly.

“As of now, the process of approving the money for use is inchoate and still undergoing executive standard operating procedure before laying same before the National Assembly for appropriation.

“The processes now being worked on is to fast-track these procedures so that it may be forwarded to the National Assembly while it is still considering the 2018 Appropriation Bill (budget) for incorporation as Mr President’s supplementary request under the 2018 budget, or if completed after the 2018 budget, it may be forwarded as a Supplementary Appropriation Bill.

“Succinctly stated, Mr President has not approved the sum for any release of this procurement or application howsoever, the executive is conscious of the provisions of Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution which states:

“No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation unless the issue of those moneys has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.

“No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.

“We are also conscious of the provision of Sections 4 and 5 of the 2017 Appropriation Act (relating to Excess Crude Account) and would not take any action in breach thereof.

“Just as the legislature in processing legislation starts with conceptualising, drafting, scrutiny of the draft, gazetting, first reading, second reading, committal to the appropriate committee, public hearing, consideration of the report by committee of the whole or supply, passage and third reading in plenary, so also does the executive have and maintain standard operating procedures, or due process or due diligence in all actions and at this stage, the matter is undergoing these processes for laying before the National Assembly for appropriation.

“Therefore, the matter of the security fund is still undergoing standard processes, the said sum can only be spent, and in the manner, as shall be approved by the National Assembly, and assented to in the Appropriation Act or Supplementary Appropriation Act.”

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But Buhari in his letter to the speaker, dated April 13, stated: “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the country.

“These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently, at the meeting of the National Economic Council on 14th December, 2017, where a resolution was passed, with the Council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation.

“Subsequent upon this approval, we are preparing a comprehensive schedule of all the requirements for each of the security services for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.

“It would be recalled that, for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct government-to-government arrangement.

“Recently, approval was finally granted by the United States Government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise, the contract would lapse.

“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00. This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government.

“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising.

“The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, in due course.

“The honourable minister of defence and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details, as may be required.

“While thanking the honourable members for the usual cooperation, please be assured Mr Speaker, the assurance of my highest regards.”

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Recall that NAIJ.com previously reported that Senate President Bukola Saraki said some senators were not happy that President Muhammadu Buhari did not consult with the leadership of the National Assembly before approving the release of $1 billion for the purchase of arms to fight insecurity in the country.

Speaking in Jos, Plateau state, during the Senate Press Corps Retreat on Saturday, April 7, Saraki said it was wrong for the executive to take the step without broaching the matter with the National Assembly.

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Source: Naija.ng

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