In an apparent attempt to douse the furore accompanying the reported approval granted by President Muhammadu Buhari for the release of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to procure military equipment to combat insecurity in the country, the Presidency on Monday said the president had not authorized such release.
Giving clarifications on the matter, Senior Special Assistant to the president on National Assembly matters, Senator Ita Enang, said the president cannot approve the release without following laid down procedures.
Buhari had been given authorization by the National Economic Council (NEC) to withdraw the money from the ECA which belongs to all tiers of government.
Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, had subsequently told State House correspondents after last week’s meeting with security chiefs presided over by the president that he had approved its release, thereby attracting criticism, especially from the National Assembly.
But briefing State House correspondents on Monday, Enang maintained that the president did not approve the money for spending as it was undergoing standard executive procedures before being laid before the National Assembly.
He said the request by the president to the legislature may come as an addition to the 2018 budget if work on the bill had not been already been concluded or come as a supplementary budget where work had already been completed on the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
The presidential aide explained: “In response to several issues raised about Security Fund sourced for at source from Excess Crude Account to combat Security challenges in the country and the several misreadings attending same, may l state as follows:
“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 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 need of each of the Services and the money available for appropriation.
“That 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.
“That 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.
“That as at now, the process of approving the money for use is inchoate and still undergoing the Executive standard operating procedure before laying same before the National Assembly for appropriation.
“That the processes now being worked on is to fast-track this 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 supplementary Appropriation Bill.
“That succinctly stated, Mr President has not approved the sum for any release of this procurement or application howsoever.
“In any case, before any sum is released from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, there must be Appropriation Act, Vote of Charge and Warrant which is legally predicated on appropriation authorization Sub-head under the Act.”
He assured that the Executive was conscious of the provisions of the Section 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution which states: “(3) 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 monies has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly; no money 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.“
He said it was 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.
According to Enang, “just as the Legislature in processing legislation starts with conceptualizing, drafting, scrutiny of the draft, gazetting, First reading, 2nd reading, committal to appropriate committee, public hearing, consideration of the Report by Committee of the whole or supply, passage and 3rd reading in plenary, so also does the Executive have and maintain standard operating procedure, or due process or due diligence in all actions. And at this 11. stage, the matter is ongoing these processes.
“Therefore, the matter of the Security fund is still undergoing standard processes for laying before the National Assembly for appropriation.
“In summary, ladies and gentlemen, the said Sum can only be spent upon, and in the manner, as shall be approved by the National Assembly, and Assented to in Appropriation Act or supplementary Appropriation Act.”