By Modupe Gbadeyanka
Bailout funds to state governments by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration have been described as illegal by two time Chairman of Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC), Mr Hamman Tukur.
In an interview with Economic Confidential in his office in Kaduna, Mr Tukur queried the rationale for such disbursement, saying “Buhari gave out a lot of money to states recently in the name of bail-out. Who gave him that money? How did he get access to the Federation Account, or the authority to release that money? Did he go through appropriation for approval? If he released the money before it was approved, then it is illegal.”
He said further that, “In any case, who told the states to be broke? Who stole their money? He (Buhari) should have asked the state governors where their money was. Some people argue that the money used for the bail-out was from the Nigeria LNG dividend. But, the Constitution is very clear: all revenues of government must go into the Federation Account first before anything.”
“The only exception that is made is written in the Constitution itself, and that is Armed Forces, including the military, Police and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
“Anybody or agency paying tax to government for whatever description it should be channelled to the Federation Account,” he added.
Mr Tukur also recalled that RMAFC also rejected such move during the Obasanjo administration.
“Yes I think it was only when Obasanjo asked for $5.3 billion to finance NIPP (National Integrated Power Project) that the Commission said he cannot take it from the Federation Account without recourse to the other tiers of government.
“We told him that if he wanted any money, he should take it from the Federal Government’s share of the money, and then go to the National Assembly for approval.
“You are aware of the recent bail-out by the Federal Government to states. The president should tread softly. We have to caution President Buhari the same way we did to Obasanjo when he wanted $5.3 billion.
“When the Commission said he cannot take the money, one day he had to send the then Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Alhaji Yayale Ahmed to come and tell the Commission that he wanted that money. I said no, the money does not belong to me, but the Federation Account.
“What that means is that all the three tiers of government that own the Account must be aware and agree that the money be withdrawn for the purpose.
“Then the formula for sharing between the federal, states and local governments would apply. There should be no question of states staying somewhere to allocate what the local governments want. This is wrong. The money in the Federation Account belongs to the federal, states and the local governments. This is democracy.
“That is what applies to the National Population Commission. If the Commission says one village is 200,000 people, before anyone can undo it and change that decision, it would pass through a lot of processes.
“That is why one of the key responsibilities of the Commission is to mobilize government revenue to the Federation Account before allocating. It is total. Exceptions are clear, so that no one can pretend.
“What that means is that wherever any revenue has not been remitted to the Federation Account by any agency, the Commission must ask questions. If any money must be released, the National Assembly must be approached for supplementary appropriation,” he said.
Read the full Interview at Economic Confidential
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