Senate Suspends Consideration of Motion Declaring ECA Illegal


Laments non-completion of National Library 11 years after award

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The Senate on Tuesday suspended consideration of a motion seeking to declare the Excess Crude Account (ECA) illegal on grounds that it has no legal backing and is operated without checks and balances.
The consideration was suspended at the request of the lead sponsor, Senator Rose Oko (Cross River PDP) who asked for time to “make further consultations” on the motion.

The motion listed on the order paper, has 42 other senators as sponsors.
The ECA, with accruals from amounts above the benchmark of crude oil sales, was established in 2004 to provide savings for the country and stabilisation for the economy during periods of shortfalls in oil revenue.
“It argued that the ECA is not in tandem with sections 80 (1-4) and 162 (1-3) of the 1999 Constitution, which prescribes revenue receipts and expenditure;”

“It noted that these breaches of the Constitution in setting up and operating the ECA have created room for a pool of funds from revenue accruing to the Federation being operated without legal backing and without any checks and balances, thereby providing loopholes for imprudence and financial recklessness;”
“The Senate is alarmed that a report by the National Resource Governance Institute rates Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account as one of the most poorly managed around the world, where its operation is discretionary and at the whims of the Executive,” it read.

The motion noted that the ECA increased from $5.16 billion in 2005 to over $20billion in 2008, and decreased to less than $4billion by 2010 with no known tracking of its operations.
“It further noted that at various times and from several quarters in 2013, it was purported that $5billion was missing from the ECA, and that $2billion was withdrawn without authorisation;,” it added.
The motion said the federal government in May 2017 resumed payments into the ECA with a payment of $87 million, since May 2015.

“It also observed that however, between May, 2015 and August, 2017, about US $122.2million had accrued and ought to have been paid to the ECA;”
“Deeply saddened by the continued impunity of the ECA and its discretionary operation in contravention of the 1999 Constitution, creating room for imprudence, recklessness and arbitrariness; noting that this is one veritable source of huge revenue leakage in the country,” it read.
In another development, the Senate lamented the non completion of the National Library, 11 years after the contract was awarded in 2006 by the Olusegun Obasanjo government.

Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos APC) who sponsored a motion on the issue recalled that the project was awarded to Reynolds Construction Company for N8.6 billion.
“ That after a series of false starts leading to the initial suspension of work on the Project, sometime in 2009, the project scope was reduced from the initial 8 floor plan to 5 floors and the contract sum of the reduced scope was reviewed upward to N17 billion from the original sum of N8.590 billion,” Ashafa said.

It has however been reviewed for the third time to N48 billion as at Febuary 2013, Ashafa added citing media reports.
He gave a breakdown of the total releases of budgeted funds to the project as a little above N7 billion as at 2015.
“Worried that the continuous failure to properly fund the project within the specified period, would cause the government losses modestly estimated to be in the range of 40 to 50 billion Naira, and that if this failure to fund the project expeditiously continues, it might cost the government even more in the long run,” Ashafa said.

Adopting the prayers of the motion, the Senate urged the government to prioritise the funding and completion of the permanent site of the project to mitigate losses accruable to it.
It also mandated its Senate Committee on Education to meet with the Ministers of Education and the Federal Capital Territory to adopt an appropriation strategy to ensure the completion of the project.