President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the withdrawal $462 million from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to the United States for the procurement of 12 Super Tucano aircraft, without a prior approval of the National Assembly, This Day newspaper has reported.
A new letter by the president to the National Assembly, says the U.S. government had given a payment deadline for the aircraft purchase, hence, the need for the hasty approval and payment.
Mr Buhari transmitted the letter to the National Assembly leadership on April 13 and it was received in the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives on April 17.
The letter shows that Mr Buhari had already given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of $496,374,470 (N151 394, 421, 355) from the ECA for the purchase of the aircraft and was only seeking the inclusion of same in the 2018 Appropriation Bill that the National Assembly is currently finalising.
The date on the letter indicated that the President had given approval for the withdrawal of the cash and paid before a public announcement of the approval, ThisDay reports.
The Offices of the senate president, Bukola Saraki, and the speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
According to ThisDay, Mr Buhari’s letter reads, “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.