The Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors Forum, NGF, Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State and Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Governors Forum, Ayodele Fayose, yesterday disagreed over the recent approval of $1 billion by the National Economic Council, NEC, for the fight against insurgency.
While Yari said 32 of 36 governors were in attendance when the decision was taken, Fayose said he was not part of the decision and that his state had gone to court to challenge the decision.
The two governors spoke separately to State House correspondents after an emergency meeting between the NGF and Speakers of State Houses of Assembly at the Old Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja. Meanwhile there was indication that as the $1 billion approval from the Excess Crude Account continues to generate controversy, the governors have involved speakers of State Assemblies to give legislative backing to the approval. Fielding questions from journalists on the objection of Fayose to the approval, Governor Yari said: “Gentlemen, this is democracy and each and every person has his own way of looking at things and you cannot stop him from agitating.
“One, Nigeria Governors Forum discussed this issue at our November meeting and we agreed across party lines that this thing has been done in 2014 where $2 billion was taken in agreement with the governors at that meeting. “Governor Akpabio was the one that moved the motion.
This time we realize that there was 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 $1 billion, our share of Excess Crude Account 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 $2 billion. “We all agreed at that time collectively in the same chamber to withdraw $2 billion 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. “Second, there was this decision also under Yar’Adua’s (Umaru Musa Yar’Adua) time when they were sourcing funds for Niger Delta Power Holdings. They also took over N5 billion for power generation.
We followed the same process to withdraw the money from the same account and our respective houses of assembly confirmed the resolution. “The $2 billion taken under Jonathan’s time was not backed up by any resolution from the state assemblies. Gentlemen, we shouldn’t play politics with the issue of national security.
“By the way, at the Governors Forum, 12 members form 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 not even a minority opinion at that meeting. We look at the country, Nigeria, first before any other issue, it is only when you have the country that you can have politics.”
On why governors should give out $1 billion, despite not paying salaries, he said: “You see, if you are not an economist, you may not understand what you are talking about. This monies are kept there for the rainy day. And how much are those monies, it is $2 billion. Except in 2015 when we came begging, now we are asking for what is our own. “The Federal Government was deducting the money illegally in those days; we were asking the Federal Government to give us what was our own.
Then we were appealing, they were not listening, thank God today we have a listening government that makes attempt to pay 50 per cent and now we are looking forward to the last balance of 50 per cent. “Graciously, understanding the economies of the states, the Federal Government has agreed to pay so that the state governments can pay salaries and meet their obligations to their citizens.”
But Governor Fayose insisted that neither him nor his state gave approval for the money. He said: “I’m not in support of $1 billion and 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.”
When asked what was the consensus at the emergency meeting, he said: “The issue was not discussed at all. But for me I have taken appropriate steps because the money belongs to Ekiti people; not for any other use.” Also asked whether he was alone in this fight or the entire PDP states are with hm, Fayose said, “Excuse me; 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. Ekiti State has Hunger Pangs where hunger is catching people everywhere. 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.”
On whether the emergency meeting would have been a good platform to raise the issue, he replied, “May I say this to you, I filed a case in court as early as 12 noon 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.”
On rumours that there was disagreement over the issue at this meeting he said: “No, no, no. If it was one of the issues discussed I would have said so. I am not a pretender I won’t suffer in silence.” However a statement read after the meeting explained that the two arms met to resolve some issues concerning the ongoing constitutional amendment.