BEVERLY HILLS, April 24, (THEWILL) – President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the withdrawal $462 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to the United States for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft, without a prior approval of the National Assembly.
According to ThisDay newspaper, a letter by the president to the National Assembly, stated the U.S. government had given a payment deadline for the aircraft purchase, hence, the need for the hasty approval and payment.
Buhari transmitted the letter to the National Assembly leadership on April 13 and it was received in the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives on April 17.
The letter shows that the President had already given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of $496,374,470 (N151 394, 421, 355) from the ECA for the purchase of the aircraft and was only seeking the inclusion of same in the 2018 Appropriation Bill that the National Assembly is currently finalising.
The date on the letter indicated that the President had given approval for the withdrawal of the cash and paid before a public announcement of the approval.
Buhari’s letter reads, “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the country.
“These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently, at the meeting of the National Economic Council on 14th December, 2017, where a resolution was passed, with the Council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation.
“Subsequent upon this approval, we are preparing a comprehensive schedule of all the requirements for each of the security services for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.
“It would be recalled that, for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct Government-to-Government arrangement.
“Recently, approval was finally granted by the United States Government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise, the contract would lapse.
“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00.
“This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising.
“The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, in due course.
“The Honourable Minister of Defence and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details, as may be required.
“While thanking the Honourable Members for the usual cooperation, please be assured Mr. Speaker, the assurance of my highest regards.”
However, the withdrawal is a breach on the Sections 80 (3) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution which states that:
“(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 moneys has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly.
“(4) No moneys 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.”
Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has flayed the president for the anticipatory approval and expenditure of the $496 million.
The party through its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan in a statement said the lack of legislative approval rendered the spending of the money illegal and unconstitutional.
“We charge the National Assembly to investigate the whereabouts of the balance from the $1bn ECA fund and the purposes for which it has been taken, as well as save our democracy and constitutional order by invoking appropriate legislative processes against President Buhari for this violation before it becomes too late.
“President Buhari is aware that his unilateral spending of $496 million (N151.374 billion) from the ECA, without recourse to the legislative approval of the National Assembly, is a gross violation of the laws and constitution of Nigeria and a direct affront to our statutory order as a democratic state.
“By this action, President Buhari has technically suspended the 1999 Constitution (as amended), plundered the inherent powers of the National Assembly as the principal institution of democratic rule, while re-enacting a sole administratorship in governance as if our nation is operating a military regime.
“More disturbing is the revelation that President Buhari paid $496 million for the purchase of military aircraft from the United States; ignoring allegations of overprice and issues concerning due process, just to achieve a political expediency of currying President Donald Trump’s support for his 2019 re-election bid.
“President Buhari’s action amounts to a gross misconduct and betrayal of public trust because, in the bid to push a personal agenda, he deliberately side-stepped statutory legislative scrutiny and acted in clear breach of section 80 (3) (4) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“While section 80 (3) states that ‘no moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the federation unless the issues of those moneys has (sic) been authorized by an act of the National Assembly’, section 80 (4) provides that ‘no moneys 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.
“It is shocking that President Buhari, whose administration prides on claims of transparency and zero tolerance for corruption, elected on a platform that lay claims to the height of progressivism (sic), who boasts of the highest standards of integrity, can mundanely resort to a violent abuse of our constitution just to suit a desperate passion of seeking re-election,” the statement noted.