3 December 2013

Nigeria: SWF - Govs Vow to Expose FG Over Excess Crude Funds' Depletion

Abuja — Governors of the 36 states of the federation, yesterday, vowed to expose how the Federal Government had continued to deplete funds accruing from the proceeds of crude oil sales, petroleum profit tax and oil royalties, otherwise classified as excess crude proceeds.

This was even as a seven-man panel of the Supreme Court, yesterday, fixed March 24 to commence hearing on a suit seeking to stop the Federal Government from transferring $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account, to a new account to be known as "Sovereign Wealth Fund," SWF.

The apex court panel, which was led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, ordered the governors and the Federal Government to ensure that they filed and exchanged their legal arguments before the adjourned date.

It will be recalled that the Federal Government had previously begged the Supreme Court to suspend hearing on the matter and allow it to explore the possibilities of reaching a compromise with the governors who, it said, had always benefited from the excess crude proceeds.

The Federal Government had, through its lead counsel, Mr. Austin Alegeh, SAN, accused the governors of mischief, insisting that they equally took part in the deliberation of the National Economic Council where the decision to transfer the $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to the SWF was taken.

It stressed that the states had been receiving their shares from the money, saying their decision to frustrate the planned creation of the SWF was borne out of insincerity.

While asking the apex court to refuse the application by the governors to stop it from transferring $1 billion from the SWF, the government said it would run into problem should the application be granted as prayed by the governors.

Besides, the Federal Government contended that the day-to-day running of the nation's economy would be put in danger if the application was acceded to.

The governors, had in a suit filed before the apex court since October 23, 2011, sought an order declaring the planned creation of the "Sovereign Wealth Fund" as illegal and unconstitutional.

They are praying the court to issue an order to the effect that all sums standing to the credit of the said "Excess Crude Account" (or any account replacing same by any name howsoever) be paid into court or otherwise secured as the court might deem fit, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.

The governors maintained that unless the order of injunction was granted, the Federal Government would continue to disregard, disrespect and ignore the pending suits before the Supreme Court.

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