Zainab Ahmed
Zainab Ahmed

Unable to specifically account for the $1.6bn withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) within three weeks, Nigeria’s minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed has found a hiding place in security beef up, ahead of the upcoming general elections in February 2019.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Mahmoud Isa Dutse had announced at the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting held last Wednesday that the ECA had been depleted by over $1.6 billion dollars to settle some Paris Club refund to states.

Dutse said the $1.6 billion was withdrawn as “the final payment for Paris club refund to states was made and the figure was deducted and that’s what account for the difference,” saying the “Federal Executive Council, the president approved the money” after “a decision was taken to make this refund and part of that decision is that, the refund should be funded from the ECA.”

But his boss, Zainab Ahmed, the current minister of finance countered his claims barely 24 hours later, saying the money was withdrawn for “security purposes”, less than a year after NEC had authorized the use of $1 billion from the excess crude account to fight Boko Haram.

The finance minister has left several Nigerians puzzled as to what might have actually happened to the fund. If the $1.6 billion was in fact withdrawn to fight Boko Haram, why did the permanent secretary say the money was used to settle Paris Club debts and more important, why did not one member of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) know about this.

It will be recalled that Dr Dutse, the permanent secretary at the ministry of finance on Wednesday was pressed for information on the whereabouts of the fund before coming up with the Paris Club refund excuse.

It remains to be seen where the pendulum in this potential drama will swing.

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