It is an incontrovertible fact that over the years, the issue of sharing and disbursing excess revenue from the sale of crude oil to the various tiers of government has always been a subject of public discourse and sometimes over-heating the polity.
To the chagrin of many, the issue raised dust across the country during the Obasanjo-led administration. Indeed, at the time in question, the price of crude oil at the international market hit an upward trend. This was as a result of the instability in crude supply due largely to crises in the middle East, at the time. Expectedly, the Obasanjo-led government raked in hundreds of million of US dollars as excess revenue, accruable from the sale of crude oil.
But to the surprise of many Nigerians, while the various tiers of government were anxiously awaiting the release and subsequent sharing of the oil windfall the authorities suddenly slammed an embargo on the disbursement of the excess oil money without any explicable reasons to justify government action. Sadly, the matter, believed to be a touchy national issue, generated palpable bad-blood between the Federal Government, state governors as well as the local government councils across the country.
As it were, a truce over the non-release of the excess crude cash was later reached between former President Olusegun Obasanjo and the state governors, following the intervention of the national council of states which spelt out the sharing formula for the excess oil money.
Regrettably, the mind-boggling issue, reared its ugly heads again during the last lap of the Obasanjo administration, as the excess crude oil cash accruable from the high price of crude at the international market, was held in the nation’s foreign and domestic reserves by the past regime, in spite of the cries of the state governors and local government councils.
Explaining government’s position on the matter, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), at the time, said the over N1 trillion excess crude money was being saved in a base account for the states, and that the balance would be shared to the three tiers of governments after reconciling debts owed by some states and the federal authorities. However, part of the excess oil money was released, but the issue was not resolved.
One can recall vividly that in a bid to demonstrate their sadness over the issue, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, at a meeting with President Umaru Yar’Adua (of blessed memory), kicked against the stance of CBN that there would be a possible inflation in the country should the excess crude oil fund be released into circulation.
Happily, late President Yar’Adua, apparently moved by the cries of the state governors and local government councils, ordered the disbursement of the excess crude revenue (though in batches) from the sale of crude oil to the three tiers of government.
To this end, the CBN remitted $2 billion from the excess crude account into the various accounts of the three tiers.
This follows the recommendation of the National Economic Council (NEC) to share the $2 billion from the foreign Excess Crude Proceeds Account.
The Minsiter of State for Finance , Mr. Demi Babalola, at the time, explained that the federal government got the lion’s share of $841,911 million; the 36 states, $799,648 million, while the 774 local government councils received $358,440 million.
Certainly, with the sharing of the two billion US dollars by the three tiers of government, three was more cash pumped into the system to enhance spending and rejuvenate the nation’s economy. It also meant that funds were made available for on-going projects at the federal, state and local government levels.
Again, barely two months on assumption of duty as President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, ordered the release of two billion US dollars from the excess crude account. Indeed, the money was released and the three tiers of government shared the oil windfall accordingly.
However, reactions trailed the remittance of the excess crude cash into the accounts of the three tiers of government. While some Nigerians saw nothing wrong in the president’s action scores of others condemned it, insisting that it was rather too early for the president to have ordered the sharing of the oil money, barely two months on assumption of office. All that is now history.
Only recently, the Federal Government also ordered the sharing of $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account by the three tiers of government. Already, the excess oil money had been remitted into the accounts of the federal, state and local governments, according to the Minister of Finance, Olusegun Agagu. Obviously, with the recent release from the excess crude account, more money has again been pumped into the accounts of the three tiers of government.
It is imperative therefore, to ask the Federal Government to prevail on the various tiers of government to formulate programmes that would spur socio-economic development, and the excess oil money to specific projects.
Yes, that is the only sure way for the masses of this country to benefit from the frequent disbursement of the excess crude cash to the three tiers.
Afterall, a Large chunk of such funds earlier shared had always ended up in the private pockets of the privileged ones in government. Worst offenders are the local government chairmen.
It is common knowledge that scores of the nation’s political office holders have the penchant for looting excess crude cash and statutory allocations from the Federation Account, disbursed to the various tiers of government.
Yes, not too long ago, Senate President, David Mark, accused local government chairmen of going to hotels and share among themselves funds statutorily allocated to them from the Federal Account.
All said, it is absolutely necessary to the beneficiaries of the current excess crude cash at the various tiers, to spend judiciously, the long awaited excess oil money so that life would be made better for the citizenry.