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Economic council meets, silent on missing fund

Vice-President Namadi Sambo

Six months after their last meeting, members of the National Economic Council, consisting of the 36 state governors and some ministers, held a meeting on Thursday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Curiously, however, the meeting, presided over by Vice President Namadi Sambo, was silent on the money due to the Federation Account, which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation allegedly failed to remit.

The missing fund had remained one of the reasons why the meeting, which ordinarily holds monthly, had not been convened for the past six months because of the report that members of the Governor Rotimi Amaechi-led faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum were planning to confront Sambo on the matter, among other economic issues.

A source at the meeting told our correspondent that the issue of the missing fund was not included on the meeting’s agenda.

“That item was not on the agenda and nobody raised the issue when the agenda was read for amendment in case members had additions to make. You also know that the acting CBN governor was not at the meeting because they were all appearing before the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria. Minister of Finance briefed the meeting but no mention was made of the missing fund “ the source said.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting, Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio quoted the National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), as saying that 17 states had  been identified as flashpoint of current clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Akpabio further quoted the NSA as saying that his office had been working round the clock to stem the tide of the violence.

He said, “Council also discussed the issues pertaining to the current conflicts between the farmers and the pastoralists across the entire country. We received presentations from the NSA on the incessant conflicts being experienced across Nigeria, especially the one of sacking so many villages by criminals in Benue State and other adjoining states in the North.

“According to the NSA presentation, 17 states have been identified as flash points. Of course such states include Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi, Niger, Nasarawa, Kwara, Kaduna and Oyo. We also reported issues bordering on the conflicts in southern parts of the country like Edo, Akwa Ibom, and Cross Rivers, particularly in the Ogoja area.

“The NSA reported to Council the efforts being made by his office to involve international agencies on the issues, one of which is that it will invite all stakeholders to an international conference to deliberate, adding that the agency based in Geneva, Switzerland, is working out the modalities to involve communities in the affected states to find means of settling the conflicts in Plateau and that will now be used as a pilot programme across the entire country.”

He said the council also resolved  that Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State should join Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State as co-chair of a committee on grazing reserves earlier set up.

The governor added that the council further resolved that a technical committee be set up to come up with recommendations that could resolve the  conflict between the farmers and the pastoralists.

The committee, he said, was directed to meet with all stakeholders within two weeks.

According to him, the committee, which has the Minister of Agriculture as its chairman also has the NSA; the Director-General of the National Orientation Agency; representatives of states and the Ministers of Environment, Science and Technology; Interior; Water Resources as well as National Planning, as members.

Akpabio also said the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, briefed the council on the progress being made as regards the Excess Crude Account, which he said the minister put the balance at $3.5bn after the payment for fuel subsidy and SURE-P.

“The Council deliberated on it and resolved that there was need for expeditious action to be taken to sort out all the legalities surrounding the issues of the ECA and particularly, the idea of expediting action on the issues pending in court.

“It was also further suggested that at least two separate accounts be maintained for excess crude and the other one for SURE-P,” the governor added.

On the herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, Suswam said the council also resolved that President Goodluck Jonathan should convene a Security Council meeting to include state governors with relevant heads of security agencies soon.

“That meeting, we expect to take place in the shortest possible time where several approaches will be taken and the strategy of how we can resolve it be suggested by individual governors in their various states,” he said.

Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State raised the alarm that if not checked, the current situation posed serious danger to food supply in the country.

“The displacements of farmers is a matter of great concern to both the federal and state governments and as a matter of fact council was quite worried about this and we feel if something is not done immediately, our farmers may not be able to work in their farms and that means shortage of food in the entire country,” he said.

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