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Tucano jets: AFRICMIL sues Nigerian govt over withdrawal of $462m from ECA without legislative approval

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FOLLOWING the withdrawal of the sum of $462 million from the country’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) by President Muhammadu Buhari without the approval of the National Assembly, the African Centre for Media and Information Literacy (AFRICMIL), a civil society organization, has filed a suit at the Federal High Court Abuja, challenging the legality of the act in view of the provisions of the 1999 constitution.

Recall that in April 2018, President Buhari had approved and taken the said amount from the nation’s coffers in order to purchase 12 Tucano jets from the United States (US) without appropriation by the National Assembly.

AFRICMIL, in light of subsections three and four of section 80 of the 1999 constitution, is challenging the authority of the President, as an individual, to withdraw money from public funds without approval by the National Assembly.

As provided in the constitution, “No money shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation, other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation, unless the issue of those monies has been authorized by the act of the National Assembly.

“No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or ANY OTHER PUBLIC FUND of the federation, except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.”

The suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1179/2018 filed by the organization, represented by its programme officer, Godwin Onyeacholem, has as defendants the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the House of Representatives, the Senate President, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Attorney General of the Federation.

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The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine:

“Whether the 5th defendant (which is the Nigerian President) has the power to or right to withdraw and spend the sum of $462,000,000.00 (Four hundred and sixty two million dollars only) or any other amount whatsoever from the public fund of the federation on the payment for or purchase of Super Tucano Aircraft or aircrafts by whatever name called without the prior approval of the withdrawal of the amount and its spending by the 2nd and 4th defendants (National Assembly) in the light of the provisions of section 81, 82 and 83 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

AFRICMIL also prayed the court to determine if the two presiding officers of the National Assembly, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate President have the right to ratify, approve and or include money already taken and spent in a new budget without provision for the act in the Nigerian constitution.

This is following the President’s letter to the National Assembly informing it of his actions while directing it to include the already withdrawn money in the 2018 budget.

The plaintiffs also want the court to issue a 30-day ultimatum directing President Buhari and the Attorney General of the Federation to return the money to the nation’s account in the absence of the provision of such acts in the 1999 constitution.

No date has been fixed for the hearing.

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