SENATE DEMANDS IDENTITY OF MYSTERIOUS LAWYER PAID 4MIL DOLLARS CONSULTANCY FEE FROM ECA ACCOUNT

The Senate Committee on Finance has demanded the identity of lawyer paid $4 million from the Excess Crude Account as a consultancy fee.

The fee was reportedly paid by the managers of the ECA.

The Chairman of the committee, Adeola Olamilekan, made the demand on Tuesday at a session with the Accountant-General of the Federation, Idris Ahmed, on the dwindling status of the Excess Crude Account.

As of February, data provided by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation showed that the ECA balance was $71.81 million, compared to the $324.968 million balance as of January 16, 2020.

The ECA was created by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2004 for saving revenue realised from crude oil sales above the budget’s benchmark price.

Past administrations have used funds from the ECA for fuel subsidy payments and distributed among the three tiers of government to augment revenue shortfalls.

A report released by the International Monetary Fund in April 2019 ranked Nigeria the second-worst in the world in the management of sovereign wealth funds.

Mr Ahmed had enumerated to the Senate panel how the $325 million in the excess crude account was depleted to $71.8 million.

The last expenditure from the account was $250m investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, he said.

The AGF explained that the expenditure was with the backing of the National Economic Council chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

He also said that another payment of $496 million was made from the ECA for the purchase of Super Tucano aircraft in 2018.

Other expenditure was the payment of $4 million this year as professional fees to a lawyer that worked on the Paris Club funds.

The AGF also said that another $1.9 billion was taken from the ECA as Paris Club refund to some states.

He said while the balance in the excess crude Account as at January 2020 was $325 million, the National Economic Council (NEC) agreed to invest $250 million into Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and $4 million was paid as a professional fee to an unnamed lawyer.

“The inflows into the Excess Crude Account have been fluctuating due to the positive variance in the price of crude. The transfer into the account has witnessed downward trend in view of the low prices, particularly from year 2015 to date.

“The highest excess inflow of the sum of $17.344 billion was recorded in 2008 while the lowest excess inflow of the sum of $0.276 million was recorded in 2015.

‘”The weighted average price in 2008 and 2015 was $103.67 and $39.04 respectively. The balance in the ECA as at 2nd March, 2020 is $71.8 million.”

Mr Ahmed also told the lawmakers that even though the federal government has begun implementation of the recurrent component of the 2020 budget, it was yet to release any amount out of the N340 billion it planned for the first quarter of the year.

For real capital projects, he said no amount has been released.

In the 2020 budget, N2.465 trillion was allocated for capital expenditure.

The account chief, however, said that N493 billion has been released for personnel cost, while N59.77 billion was released for consolidated pension and N46.6 billion for overhead cost while only N20.76 billion for capital supplementation.

Personnel Cost was N493 billion (16.5 per cent), Consolidated Pension – N59.77b, overheads – N46.65 (9.5 per cent), Capital Supplementation – N20.76billion, he explained.

But, when the committee probed further, he said N340 billion would be released in the first quarter, which will be the first tranche for the capital budget. The Senate panel, thereafter, asked the accountant-general to furnish it with details of all the expenses, particularly the identity of the lawyer who received $4million.

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