Anticipatory approval and constitutional breaches

When the federal government flew the kite about taking $1bn from the Excess Crude Account last year for some undisclosed security-related purchases, many Nigerians thought it was a crude joke, excuse the pun.
The Excess Crude Account is owned by the federal, state and local governments and the latter two arms had NOT been consulted when this kite was flown.
Some state governors denied any knowledge of the plan.
Some weeks ago, news media were awash with stories that President Buhari, at a meeting with service chiefs, had “approved” $1bn for the purchase of arms.
When the country roared in shock at the impunity inherent in such a unilateral move, the Presidency said that what the president gave was an Executive Approval and that the request for appropriation would still go to the National Assembly.
And then weeks ago, stories emerged that the federal government had spent $462m to purchase military helicopters from US.
At that time, the source of the money was a mystery.
And then just on Monday, news came that request had indeed gone to the National Assembly but $462m had already been spent! In other words, the President Muhammadu Buhari government had already started spending the money and only reverted to the National Assembly as an after-thought for an anticipatory approval.
Financial dealings that do not follow laid-down procedure and due process are fraudulent for that very reason.
Recall two cases – a former Governor of Adamawa state, Bala Ngilari, was convicted for corruption not because he stole any money per se but because he did not follow procurement laws in the purchase of certain vehicles for his government.
In the same vein, a former Senate President, Dr.
Chuba Okadigbo, was impeached for spending monies in anticipation of appropriation where those monies had not yet been formally approved.
These two cases are instructive precedents.
To say this illegal dealing by a government that prides itself on transparency and accountability is condemnable is putting it mildly, especially in light of the bitter criticism that followed the Jonathan administration for doing EXACTLY the same with the very same Excess Crude Account which it claimed was used to pay fuel subsidies.
The Senate must exercise the full extent of their constitutional powers to investigate that helicopter deal and design measures to tighten access to funds by the federal government.
The Nigerian voter by now has seen clearly that ALL evils and sicknesses associated with the previous Jonathan government are fully resident in the Buhari administration.
There’s not a single complaint against the Jonathan administration that has not manifested itself more arrogantly and more glaringly under Buhari.
The only way to find out if actual theft occurred in this $1bn heist (beyond the already established cases in this administration) is to vote another government by 2019.
The electorate must protect their country’s finances from locusts and predators and do the needful at the next elections.
On another level, the shame of this gross impunity is that the whole of the $1bn is apparently meant for military expenditure alone, in a country where the security challenges are largely domestic and the police are criminally underfunded.
Again, coming on the heels of the ‘celebrated’ Dasukigate where huge sums meant for purchase of military equipment were allegedly diverted to fund elections and with the 2019 elections at hand, Nigerians are wondering if history will repeat itself.
Ikechukwu Obi Durumba, Esq Abuja

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