The House of Representatives Tuesday moved to legalize the Excess Crude Account in a bid to restructure the distributable revenue to the three arms of government.
A bill for an Act to amend the Allocation of revenue ( Federation Account etc) Act Cap, A15 Laws of the federation of Nigeria, 2004 to establish the Excess Revenue Fund Account, and for other related Matters,” passed through second reading Tuesday on the floor.
It was referred to the joint committees of Finance and Justice after the Speaker, Hon. Yakubu Dogara called for a vote and it passed.
However, the Chairperson of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon Nnena Elendu-Ukeje disagreed with the lawmakers’ efforts saying the Excess Crude Account can only be legalized through a constitution amendment process.
Lovette Idisi (PDP-Delta) sponsor of the bill in his argument said; “the allocation of revenue Act was established in 1982 to prescribe the basis for distribution of revenue accruing to the Federation Account between the Federal and State Governments and Local Government Councils in the States; the formula for distribution amongst the States; the proportion of the total revenue of each state to be contributed to the State joint Local Government Account.”
According to him, the amendment seeks to insert new sections to section 5 of the Principal Act:
“There is hereby established for the Federation an excess revenue fund account which shall consist of all revenues or other moneys raised or received by the Federation above the revenue targets set out for the purpose of funding the budget in a fiscal year (not being revenues or other moneys payable under the Constitution or any Act of National Assembly into any other public fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose.
“Section 5(2) provides that: ‘No money shall be withdrawn from the Excess Revenue of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the funds, money as authorised and/or prescribed by the National Assembly pursuant of Section 81 of the Constitution.
“Section 5(3) further provides that: “Subject to subsection an expenditure from the Excess Crude Revenue Fund Account shall be Ain accordance with section 2 and 3 of the Principal Act; provided that the Federation Allocation Account Committee shall prescribe the manner of distributing such money to the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the purpose of this bill and the Sovereign Wealth Fund,” the lawmaker said.
The Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila, while quoting section 80 said the National Assembly has the power to legislate on any account for specific purpose,.according to him, he had queried the legality of the ECA several times in the past and that the only way out is to legalize it he account.
But Chairperson House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hon.,Nenna Elendu- Ukeje , disagreed with the Bill to give legality to the Excess Crude Account saying only a constitution amendment should have sufficed
She said: “Well, I think that today’s bill put paid to the to the question that we’re troubling our minds on the last motion in the House regarding the $1 billion deductions from the Excess Crude Account for the counter- terrorism war.
“On that day, Mr. Speaker had said on the floor that as well as the Leader of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila -at the time, we had said that it was an illegal account – Of course they differed on that day that it was an illegal account. In fact to quote Hon. Gbajabiamila, he said and I recall: that that $1 billion was part of the contribution of states.
“But in this debate Tuesday he said that it was an account that was shrouded in so much mystery where nobody knew what was accruable to the states and what was accruable to the federal government.
“So, as far as I am concerned,, if we’re seeking to give it legal backing, what it means is that everything the account has up to date, it has operated illegally. As a matter of fact, in Hon. Femi’s debate, he said that somebody should change the word” establishment” because the Excess Crude Account has not been established. That the National Assembly was the only body that has the power to come up with an establishment bill. Which means that we have been operating an illegal account. Therefore, my concern is the constitutionality of it all.
“The constitution states very clearly that all monies accruing to the federal government shall be paid into the consolidated Revenue Account and disbursed in a manner as prescribed by the National Assembly. So that means that if we want to change it, can we actually change it by way of a stand-alone bill? Or is it a constitutional amendment matter? Because of course, we all know that as the grand norm, any law in conflict with the constitution, to that end, that law is null and void.
“So, for me, I’m a little worried about what’s the legality of the account and I’m very glad it has been put to rest because the Speaker and the leader of the House have finally agreed with what we said that it was an illegal account. But I’m very concerned with the mode of giving legality to this illegal account.
Two weeks ago lawmakers from the South-South geopolitical zone had demanded for the allocation of the percentage of the $1 billion which was meant to fight terrorism and removed from the Excess Crude Account.
The agitation on the legality of the proposed withdrawal of $1 billion from Excess Crude Account (ECA), for the procurement of arms to fight Boko Haram caused the House to refer the motion to the committee of Finance for further investigation on the exact amount in the ECA and advice.