By Danladi Al-Hassan
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Presidency are trading words over what the party termed the shocking revelations by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Mongunu, on the whereabouts of $1 billion Excess Crude Account (ECA) Security Fund.
Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP’s Spokesperson, in a statement alleged that the NSA stated that “he was not aware of the whereabouts or disbursement of the money” just as Shehu Garba, Presidential Spokesperson reacted and dismissed the allegations, describing the PDP as being under a ‘socioemotional distress.’
Last year President Muhammadu Buhari approved the withdrawal $462 million from the ECA to the United States for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft, without a prior approval of the National Assembly.
In April 2018, a letter by President Buhari to the National Assembly, said the U.S. government had given a payment deadline for the aircraft purchase, hence, the need for the hasty approval and payment.
The letter showed that Buhari had already given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of $496.8 million (N151.4 billion) from the ECA for the purchase of the aircraft and was only seeking the inclusion of same in the 2018 Appropriation Bill that the National Assembly was finalising.
But the PDP in its statement said the ‘confession’ by the NSA, who coordinates the security architecture of the nation, directly places a huge burden on President Buhari.
It also lamented reported stealing and diversion of funds meant for security, while insurgency, banditry, killings and kidnappings fester in the land under his (Buhari) watch.
“The revelation by NSA further vindicates the PDP on our initial alarm that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration is overtly corrupt, deceptive and unreliable in the handling the affairs of our nation.
“It further validates the stance of the PDP that agents of the Buhari Presidency and the APC were hiding under the guise of security to siphon the $1 billion from the ECA.”
Ologbondiyan said this perhaps, “informed the desperation by the cabal to draw from the account without recourse to statutory due process of appropriation by the National Assembly.”
“From Gen Mongunu’s confession, Nigerians can further see why our nation is daily confronted with disturbing videos and reports of our fighting troops protesting their neglect and inadequate equipping, leading to their vulnerability in the fronts.
“Now that the National Security Adviser has declared that he is not aware of the whereabouts of funds, the burden, straightaway, lies squarely on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately address the nation on how the money was handled.”
The party said there were already allegations in the public space that certain funds meant for security were diverted for 2019 campaign activities of the APC “while our troops languished in the front.”
“Our party had always alerted Nigerians that the APC administration was insincere in the handling of the ECA fund leading to our demand in 2017 for the National Assembly to investigate the handling of the $1billion.”
PDP further demanded that President Buhari allows for a system-wide investigation into the whereabouts of the $1 billion, as well as the handling of other funds meant for security purposes under his watch.
“Furthermore, the PDP invites Nigerians to note that such diversion of funds under the Buhari administration led to the articulation of a blueprint by Atiku Abubakar for a transparent system that eliminates siphoning of funds, particularly in our critical sectors.”
However, in reaction, Shehu Garba, Presidential Spokesperson, Garba Shehu, on Sunday described the PDP as being under a ‘socioemotional distress.’
“They think that all governments in the world run on the basis of freewheeling looting as they did their own,” he said.
“It’s on record that the Buhari administration paid about USD 490 million for a dozen Super Tucano fighter aircraft in a direct, government-to-government (no Contractors or Commission Agents) transaction with government of the United State.
“Various other military procurements have been made. Balance of expenditure stands at about USD 880 million or so.
“Barring considerations of national security, the details of the stage of implementation, the procurements made and the suppliers will be obtained.”
He said full details of the procurement will be provided subsequently.
He accused the PDP of spending defence procurement funds on their “failed 2015 political campaigns” as proven in court.
“That is not to say every succeeding government, more so one led by a Buhari will do the same,” Shehu added.
In December 2016, the state governors at a meeting of the National Economic Council had given President Buhari the approval light to withdraw $1 billion from the ECA to fight the insurgency.
To make such a withdrawal, this would have required the approval of the National Assembly and the 36 State Houses of Assembly since the funds in the ECA belong to the three tiers of government.
Former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, shortly after announcement of the approval, described the gesture as a surreptitious move by the All Progressives Congress (APC) led Federal Government to fund President Buhari’s re-election in 2019.
He disassociated himself from the decision.
“For posterity sake, I wish to place it on record that I was not among the governors, who approved the withdrawal of almost half of our savings in the Excess Crude Account, which belongs to the three tiers of government to fight an already defeated insurgency,” Fayose, a prominent critic of the president, said then.
The then Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who announced the resolution, later said Fayose was absent from the meeting where the decision was taken.
He said it was an “unanimous decision by governors present across party lines”.