Reps demand evidence of $11b withdrawal from ECA

THE House of Representatives has requested documentary evidence of over $11 billion withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) between 2005 and 2007 during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee on Power Sector Reform and House Leader Alhassan Ado Doguwa issued the directive after a presentation before the committee by Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) Ahmed Idris.

Doguwa also queried the discrepancies in the amount withdrawn from the ECA; the N1.3 trillion announced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in its submission before the committee; the need for clarification on an additional $2.9 billion withdrawn from the ECA; another N600 billion assurance facility paid in 2019; and N701 billion loan given to the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trading (NBET) company between 2017 and 2018.

It was gathered that former President Obasanjo informed the National Assembly via a letter Ref. No: PRES/134 of September 9, 2005 that $2,859,390,31.61 was released from the Excess Crude Savings account for the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP) from 2005 to 2007.

Idris told the committee that $8.234 billion was expended between 2005 and 2007 from the ECA as approved by the National Economic Council (NEC).

The AGF document to the National Assembly said: “You may wish to note that mandates were issued to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for the total sum of $3,068,167,378.92. However, mandates for the sum of $364,513,747.31 were not applied by CBN and the total sum of $364,513,747.31 was reversed.

“Subsequently, approval was given to use part of the unapplied mandates for the payment of $155,736,700 to Kaztec Engineering Ltd, leaving a balance of $208,777,047.31 as analysed in the summary and Ledger.

“On 19th June, 2008, the National Economic Council approved the sum of $5.375 billion be sourced from Excess Crude Savings Account by Federal, States and Local Government Councils in the sum of $2,463,448,500, $1,948,244,000 and $963,307,500 respectively and to be utilized on the Emergency Power projects. The total amount withdrawn for the power project from ECA was $8,234,390,331.61”.

He added that a letter dated November 23, 2005, with Ref. No: PRES/87/111 signed by Taiwo Ojo who was Special Assistant to the President in reference to a letter with Ref. No: FMP&S/HM/ABJ/033 dated 22nd November, 2005, conveyed Mr. President’s approval of $2.5 billion (N309.7 billion) for the implementation of Niger Delta Integrated National Power Project.

The breakdown of the funding of the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) and National Integrated Power Projects contributed by the three tiers of government showed that the Federal Government contributed $3,773,952,839.22 (45.83%); States contributed $2,984,670,057.16 (36.25%) while Local Government Councils contributed $1,475,767,435.23 (17.92%).

The House Leader observed that the President’s letter (Ref. No: PRES/134 dated 9th September, 2005) sent to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, referred to by the AGF could be a mere notice for the record or normal record keeping, hence the need to produce the copies of approval for the $2.9 billion, being the clearing point for all financial transactions for the Federal Government.

Responding to questions on the refund of the $8,234,390,331.61 withdrawn from the Excess Crude Savings Account and the privatisation proceeds as encapsulated in the President’s letter, the Accountant General said “So far the treasury has not seen anything being paid back. Yet efforts are ongoing towards this direction”

On the release of N701 billion and another N600 billion to NBET, Idris denied knowledge of the funds, stressing that the “payment is outside the treasury. We are not aware of it.”

He however noted that funding arrangement to meet the power sector and other intervention programmes could be sourced from Development Partners or other sources, as applicable to the CBN intervention scheme for the Anchor Borrowers Scheme in the agricultural sector.

On his assessment of the power sector and whether the country got value for the investments so far made, he said: “I don’t know. My assessment is that we are still struggling to get right the infrastructure.”

The Director General of Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms. Patience Oniha, said $1 billion Eurobond commercial loan was sourced from investors at commercial rate as a result of the approvals of the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly for the power sector.

She said $500 million of the money was due for repayment in five years while additional $500 million to be repaid within 10 years was also sources.

She informed the lawmakers of the $150 million loan sourced by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) under the Nigerian Electrification Project, out of which $0.71 million (representing 1.47%) has so far been released to the agency by the Development Partner.

Doguwa expressed displeasure about the failure of CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele to honour three invitations sent to him by the ad-hoc committee and threatened that the House might compel his appearance should he fail to appear at the next hearing.

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