The Supreme Court has adjourned till March 8, 2016 the suit filed by the 36 states of the Federation against the Federal Government over the dispute arising from the maintenance of the Excess Crude Account and the transfer of 1 billion dollars from the account to the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF).
The Supreme Court had earlier granted a request by the parties to settle the matter out of court and to explore an amicable resolution of the disagreement.
At the resumed hearing, the Federal Government through its counsel, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Austin Alegeh’s Chambers informed the court that a new Attorney General of the Federation had just resumed in office and would need time to study the case file for necessary actions.
While adjourning the suit, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mohammed Mahmud, who presided over the matter, urged the parties to try as much as possible to resolve the dispute before the next adjourned date or the court would go into full trial.
The CJN noted that the matter had lingered for long since 2008 and that such a matter was better resolved outside the court.
The 36 state governors are seeking an order declaring the proposed creation of the Sovereign Wealth Fund illegal and unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives Committee on Finance is to begin a public hearing to dissect the response of the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to its 50 questions.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala had sent a reply to 50 questions posed to her in an earlier meeting with the committee, but the House members did not seem satisfied with her answers.
To this end, the Clerk of the Committee on Finance, Farouk Mustapha, said that the members are in receipt of the 102-page response, but a public hearing would commence where all concerned Nigerians would get information on the NNPC missing funds and other lapses found in the economy.
The Minister had been scheduled to meet with the committee in December 2013, but the proposed meeting degenerated into a disagreement between her and the Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, Abdul-Mumini Jibrin.
The Chairman had ruled that the Minister, who had said that she was feeling a bit sick, would be excused and should return at another date to meet with the committee.
The confrontation, however, ensued when the Minister insisted that she was ready to speak to the committee and the committee insisted that they stand by their ruling that the Minister should return on another date, presenting her with the said document containing the 50 questions.
The newly announced public hearing is expected to bring out the needed information to finally clear the air on the state of the nation’s economy.
A war of words broke out on Thursday evening between the Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance, Abdul-Mumini Jibrin, during a meeting scheduled to discuss the state of the economy from January to date.
The chairman of the committee had ruled that the minister, who had said she was feeling a little sick, would be excused and should return at another date to meet with the committee.
The confrontation, however, ensued when the minister insisted that she was ready to speak to the committee and the committee insisted that they stand by their ruling that the minister should return on another date.
The Chairman of the Committee, Abdul-Mumini Jibrin, had earlier said that the purpose of the invitation was to “critically look at issues pertaining the economy.”
According to him, with lots of issues, allegations and counter-allegations, going on, “we want to open up all issues. We have sent her a letter that the committee doesn’t want any vague presentation”.
He stressed that: “I am actually interested in engaging with the minister who in private accepts something but shies away in public”.
“We will also engage the minister of finance on the allegations made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor on ‘missing’ crude oil revenue, ‘missing’ Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), external borrowings, ‘missing’ SURE-P funds and others,” Jibrin intimated.
Exchange Of Words
Exchange of words began when the committee insisted that it would give the Minister a list of questions it intended asking and asked her to give her response to the questions and return it to the committee on the day of the rescheduled briefing.
“We will give you time to give us a written explanation and answers to those questions and also arrange for you to appear before this committee when you are strong and energetic,” the committee chairman said.
The minister expressed her readiness to answer the questions but Jibrin refused to let her speak.
“Listen, you can decide what will happen only in the Ministry of Finance but not in the Committee of Finance. You will go, give us a written explanation after two weeks. We will take your written explanation and study it then we will invite you for a proper engagement. That is the ruling of the committee. Thank you for coming,” he said, hitting the gavel.
After the lawmaker’s ruling, the minister said the committee handled her in a rough manner without respect.
“When you invite ministers, you have to treat them with respect. We have human rights. We cannot come here to this house and be abused,” Okonjo-Iweala said, showing her disapproval of the committee chairman’s action.
The Ministry of Finance has announced that investments under the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) will commence in March 2013.
The Ministry in a statement on Thursday maintained that the fund is making progress towards becoming fully operational as the strategy document which will guide its operations is ready.
This is coming two months after the inauguration of the fund by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The statement adds that the strategy document was ratified by the board of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) led by Mr. Mahey Rasheed to ensure that the blue print is ready and on time.
It added that efforts to hire key personnel and acquire a functional office has reached an advanced stage.
The Coordinating Minister for the economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, noted that “The country is poised to benefit significantly if the current momentum on the fund is maintained.”
The Managing Director of NSIA, Mr Uche Orji, also explained that in seeking the best investments for Nigeria, the NSIA will not limit itself but will search for the best deals wherever they can be found in the world.
“There are no geographical restrictions or product restrictions for the Future Generation and Fiscal Stabilization Fund, and we expect to invest across the full spectrum of products (equities, fixed income, alternative assets, etc.), in accordance with our five year rolling plan, that will provide a superior risk adjusted returns for the future generations of Nigerians.”