By Time Nigeria
The Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, the Governor of Zamfara State and the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, on Tuesday, publicly disagreed on the $1bn the governors recently asked the Federal Government to withdraw from the ECA to fight insurgency.
The Zamfara State Governor insisted that the resolution was reached at the forum’s meeting in November, Fayose declared that he was not part of such a decision.
The two governors took different positions while addressing State House correspondents at the end of an emergency meeting of the NGF held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Yari said the decision taken by the governors was not new, stressing that a similar decision to withdraw $2bn from the same account was taken during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said, “Nigeria Governors’ Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing had been done in 2014, where $2bn was withdrawn in agreement with the governors at that meeting. Governor (Godwill) Akpabio (then governor of Akwa Ibom State) was the one that moved the motion.
“This time, we realised that there was the need to purchase equipment for the military. So, we felt we should not compromise the issue of security for the entire country.
“We said as governors, we agreed to forfeit $1bn out of our own share of excess crude, which we are going to back up with state assembly resolution at a later time.
“This is not the first time a decision like this is being taken. It happened during Jonathan’s era when they took $2bn. We all agreed at that time, collectively, in the same chamber to withdraw $2bn to procure equipment for the military and also for logistics for the military because they were telling us whether it was true or false that our soldiers were being killed.
“Some came on the social media saying they were being killed like rats because they didn’t have the training and the equipment. That was what generated discussions at the same chamber and there was no controversy; there was no opposition to the decision at that time.”
He recalled that under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, over N5bn was withdrawn when funds were being sourced for the Niger Delta Power Holding Company, added that the same process was followed to withdraw the money from the same account while respective Houses of Assembly confirmed the resolution.
Yari urged all stakeholders to stop playing politics with national security.
“At the governors’ forum, 12 members form a quorum. At the time we took this decision, we had 32 members in attendance and there was no single opposition to the decision.
“If anybody has his own way, that he wants things to go, we had the majority and there was no (even) minority opinion at that meeting.
“We looked at the country first before any other issue. It is only when you have the country that you can have politics.”
Yari alleged that the Federal Government had, in the past, deducted money from the account illegally. Saying that those in charge, as of the time, failed to listen to the governors’ complaints, expressing delight that the present government listened.
On the contrary, Gov. Fayose claimed that he was not in support of the decision to withdraw the $1bn, adding that he had approached the court in order to get justice.
The Ekiti State governor stated, “I’m not in support of $1bn and I will never be in support.
“In my state, we have agreed to go to court to contest this. It is our legitimate right. All accruals to the federation must be shared by the three tiers of government and for me to get justice, I have to go to court.”
Fayose said although the issue was not discussed at the Tuesday meeting, he had taken the appropriate steps because the money belonged to the people of his state.
When he was asked if he was opposing the decision on behalf of the Peoples Democratic Party governors, Fayose said, “I am speaking for Ayo Fayose. With the PDP and the stakeholders, we have not met.
“I did not attend the meeting. Even if I was part of the meeting, I would have made it expressly clear but I will not support it.
“Every state has its own peculiarities in terms of security. In Ekiti State, people are hungry.
“A lot of people are being kidnapped daily. Whatever is in that money for me, we should share it. Let everybody go and solve his own problem. I have challenges and they should give me my money. It is Ekiti money.”
“I filed the case in court as early as 12noon today. If it was not listed as part of the meeting, how am I going to raise the issue? I have options and I have said it expressly: I have gone to court. He said.
“If it was one of the issues discussed, I would have said so. I am not a pretender, I won’t suffer in silence.”
In a related development, the Governor of Bayelsa State, Dr Seriake Dickson advised that the approval should not be politicised, the Governor said that the NGF’s decision to grant the Federal Government permission to utilise $1bn from the ECA for security was taken in good fate.
Dickson emphasised that the decision was not a political one but meant to strengthen the country’s security apparatus.
“It was a decision taken in good fate to support our security services; to strengthen our national security and enhance operations in the interest of everybody else.
“This is not a political issue and I thought that I should say that, but the details of what we would do and say and the clarifications will come at the end of the meeting of the governors,” he added.
Dickson said the governors would meet later in the day to fine tune how to move the matter further, noting that there was a lot of unnecessary controversy on the approval in the media.
He stated, “After the meeting this afternoon, our chairman and some of us may have to talk to the media, may have the need to interact with the President and the Vice-President on it.
“These are issues of national security and I think that we, as leaders, must be circumspect in terms of creating controversies on issues of national security.
“Our duty is to collaborate among ourselves, collaborate with the Federal Government on two critical issues of national security and issues of the economy, and that is what the NEC does.”