Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
By Chuks Okocha
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) Wednesday held a meeting to take a final decision on the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Excess Crude Proceeds, security challenges and the implementation of the Minimum Wage Act in the country.
As at press time, the meeting which was still going on was expected to take a final decision on the controversial SWF and weigh the option of seeking redress at the Supreme Court to determine its constitutionality.
But perhaps to dissuade the governors from the legal option or opposition to the fund, Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, arrived the Asokoro district venue of the meeting last night, and eventually addressed the governors on the SWF issue as well as the proceeds from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).
Although it was not clear how the governors reacted to her address, THISDAY checks revealed that they had invited her to educate them on the controversial SWF which is meant to encourage saving of a certain percentage of oil revenue in case of future shocks.
Already, the governors have assembled a team of lawyers led by former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, and Ricky Tafa, both Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to challenge SWF in court.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal, had on Tuesday called on the governors that are against the operations of the SWF to approach the court for redress.
Tambuwal had said: “The Sovereign Wealth Fund is a law of the federation passed by an Act of the National Assembly duly assented into law by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Therefore anyone that has any grouse against the operations of this Act should seek redress from the court and in this case, the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi also said Tuesday that the problem of SWF was about trust, as the governors were afraid of misappropriation of the fund.
Governor, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State had at the meeting of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE) last week, queried the rationale behind the SWF, asking why the governors should not be allowed to save their money.
Also, part of the agenda at the meeting is the Minimum Wage Act. The Deputy Chairman of the NGF, Obi, had queried the rationale behind using over 75 per cent of the state resources to pay the salaries of less than 50,000 workers, despite other demanding challenges facing the state.
Also on the agenda is the worrisome issue of insecurity in the country.
Almost all the governors were in attendance. It is believed that the outcome of the meeting will form the agenda of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting initially scheduled for today at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
However, the NEC meeting may have been shifted till next week on account of the 51st anniversary celebrations.