A letter from President Muhammadu Buhari to the leadership of the National Assembly has explained why the president gave approval for the withdrawal of $462 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft from the United States government without getting the approval of the National Assembly.
The president’s letter, however, has also exposed the lies of a presidential aide who on April 9 said that Buhari had not ordered the withdrawal of $1 billion from the ECA for the procurement of arms to fight the insurgency in the North-east and would not do so until he had obtained the approval of the National Assembly.
The president’s letter, which was obtained exclusively by THISDAY from sources in the House of Representatives, indicated that Buhari only wrote to the National Assembly leadership on April 13, 2018, and it was received in the Office of the Speaker of the House on April 17, 2018.
The letter showed clearly that Buhari had already given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of the sum of $496,374,470 (N151,394,421,355) from the ECA for the purchase of 12 Tucano aircraft from the U.S. and was seeking the inclusion of same in the 2018 Appropriation Bill that the National Assembly is currently finalising.
In the letter, Buhari explained that the U.S. government had given a payment deadline for the aircraft purchase, otherwise, the contract would lapse.
Buhari in his letter to the Speaker, dated April 13, stated: “I wish to draw the attention of the House of Representatives to the ongoing security emergencies in the country. These challenges were discussed with the state governors and subsequently, at the meeting of the National Economic Council on 14th December, 2017, where a resolution was passed, with the Council approving that up to US$1 billion may be released and utilised from the Excess Crude Account to address the situation.
“Subsequent upon this approval, we are preparing a comprehensive schedule of all the requirements for each of the security services for presentation to the National Assembly for consideration.
“It would be recalled that, for a number of years, Nigeria had been in discussions with the United States Government for the purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft under a direct Government-to-Government arrangement. Recently, approval was finally granted by the United States Government, but with a deadline within which part payment must be made otherwise, the contract would lapse.
“In the expectation that the National Assembly would have no objection to the purchase of this highly specialised aircraft, which is critical to national security, I granted anticipatory approval for the release of US$496,374,470.00. This was paid directly to the treasury of the United States Government.
“I am therefore writing, seeking approval of this House for the sum of US$496,374,470.00 (equivalent to N151,394,421,335.00) to be included in the 2018 Appropriation Bill, which the National Assembly is currently finalising. The balance of the requirements for critical operational equipment is still being collated from the different security services and will be presented in the form of a Supplementary Appropriation Bill, in due course.
“The Honourable Minister of Defence and other appropriate officers will be available to provide further details, as may be required.
“While thanking the Honourable Members for the usual cooperation, please be assured Mr. Speaker, the assurance of my highest regards.”
Speaking on the president’s letter, some lawmakers in the House confirmed yesterday that this was the reason Adeosun, Emefiele and Idris were summoned last week to appear before the Senate and House to explain the withdrawal of $496 million from the CRF without legislative approval.