Amid flagrant disregard for accountability and transparency, President Muhammadu Buhari has spent, at least, N10trillion in his unsuccessful campaign against Boko Haram insurgency and banditry, says BudgIT.
Similarly, despite the administration’s unrestrained spending spree, federal agencies have also been accused of using “security votes” to siphon public treasury.
The governance body, therefore, called for a probe of Buhari’s unaudited humongous military spending since he assumed office in 2015.
Touted as ‘Mr Integrity,’ Buhari’s regime is characterised by nepotism, corruption, and ineptitude.
In a presentation at a virtual webinar to mark the 2021 World Press Freedom Day organised by the US Mission in Nigeria, last Monday, BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organisation, said its analysis exposed “over 316 capital projects worth N39.5billion, among other loopholes for corruption.”
It disclosed that N1.9trillion was allocated for the security sector in the 2021 budget, a 14 per cent increase from N1.78trillion allocated in 2020.
Despite the increase in the funds allocated and Buhari’s promises to crush insurgents, the country continues to experience wanton killings and kidnapping at the hands of Boko Haram, bandits, and killer herdsmen.
BudgIT revealed that other non-security related agencies now receive allocations for “security votes”, describing the spending as “an opaque feature of the Nigerian security ecosystem devoid of accountability.”
In the 2021 budget, a total of 117 federal agencies received allocations for “security votes” worth N24.3billion, despite many of the agencies already having allocations for “security charges” to cover each agency’s security needs.
BudgIT indicated that there had been thefts in the allocations provided to other sectors.
“Our investigations into the 2021 budget revealed, at least, 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5billion, with 115 of those duplicate projects occurring in the Ministry of Health,” the civic organisation pointed out.
It described the loopholes as disturbing “considering the health infrastructure deficit and the raging Covid-19 pandemic affecting Nigeria.”
Citing the National Agriculture Seed Council as an instance, BudgIT indicated that there had been allocations for projects left unexecuted.
“Even worse, agencies now receive allocations for capital projects they cannot execute. For example, the National Agriculture Seed Council has an allocation for N400million to construct solar street lights across all six geopolitical zones,” BudgIT explained.
It added, “The Federal College of Forestry in Ibadan in Oyo State got N50million for the construction of street lights in Edo State. These are aberrations that need to be corrected.”
Explaining that “Nigeria is already haunted by a staggering N3.31tillion debt servicing burden, which will wipe out nearly 41.63 per cent of the projected N7.99trillion 2021 revenue,” BudgIT advised the Federal Government to maximise the funds left by blocking the leakages.
It, however, pointed out that the government could not fulfil its promise of curbing corruption and grand theft with the budget riddled with loopholes.
“Virement provided in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, or the Opportunity for Corrigenda recently provided in Section 16 of the 2021 Appropriation Act Implementation Guidelines published by the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and Planning in March, 2021, are handy starting tools the government can immediately use in plugging loopholes,” BudgIT added.
Commenting on the report, Chief Executive Officer, BudgIT, Gabriel Okeowo, enjoined the Federal Government to urgently block all loopholes in the budget creation and implementation process, some of which are highlighted in the recently released publication.
“Nigeria is already haunted by a staggering N3.31trillion debt servicing burden which will wipe out nearly 41.63% of the projected N7.99trillion 2021 revenue. The Federal Government can maximise the little public funds left by blocking the leakages BudgIT has identified”, Okeowo added.
CAS Lauds Troops For Exceptional Performance In South-East Operation
Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshal Hassan Abubakar, has lauded Nigerian Air Force (NAF) troops for exceptional performance in ongoing Joint Task Force in the South-East code-named “Operation Udo Ka II”.
Abubakar said this yesterday in Enugu during his maiden visit and tour of operational and training assets and facilities within NAF Ground Training Command (GTC), Enugu.
He noted that NAF troops had done exceptionally well and recorded series of success in the joint operation meant to keep the South-East safe and secured for all.
The CAS noted that the GTC Command was highly important to NAF as it housed the ground component (non technical component) as well as a unit of air component necessary to ensure the attainment of the mandate of NAF.
He said: “Today, we are in Enugu, which is the host of the GTC Command in our maiden visit and we are here to interact with the NAF personnel, see the facilities and infrastructure on ground.
“We are also here to encourage the personnel to continue to do the good job they had been doing before now.
“The GTC Command and the Air Training Command are key to all of our activities in NAF and the two commands ensure we have the adequate and skilled manpower for all our activities and operations.
“I am also here to strengthen our activities within Operation Udo Ka II, which Enugu is the headquarters, and see how we can achieve greater successes more than what we are having now and ensure that South-East is totally secured.”
He disclosed that 750 personnel were currently undergoing training and would be graduating between December 2023 and January, 2024.
“These training are important to us in terms of our operation; and the current number is very significant amount of manpower to be injected into our operations and other activities in the country,” he said.
On the inspection in the new GTC Command Headquarters, new 553 Base Services Group (BSG) Headquarters and BSG Annex; Abubakar said that he was quite satisfied and impressed with the pace, level and quality of work done already.
“I have taken out time to inspect the projects and asked questions about the projects and I tell you that I am satisfied with what are on ground and all our assets and facilities are well maintained and protected,” he said.
The NAF boss commended NAF officers, airmen and airwomen in GTC Command for “doing a good job and keeping the flag flying high” as well as extolled their sacrifices and commitment to duties as well.
“I am very happy for their performance. We at the NAF headquarters, we are doing all we can to make sure they have all the necessary support and equipment as well as welfare and accommodation to carry out their jobs effectively,” he said.
He assured NAF personnel of doing more by providing all necessary infrastructures to ensure the maximum working of the GTC Command.
The CAS also inaugurated a renovated airmen’s club and new Mrs Rakiya Abubakar Children’s Park as well as inspected the water treatment and reticulation system and the hospital within NAF Base, Abakpa in Enugu.
UNIBADAN Lecturer Wins Best Thesis Dollar Prize
The Institute of African and Diaspora Studies (IADS), University of Lagos, has announced Dr Muhammad Ribadu as winner of this year’s Rahamon Bello Best Ph.D thesis in African Studies award.
The Director of the institute, Prof. Muyiwa Falaiye, made the announcement in a statement issued to newsmen yesterday in Lagos.
Ribadu, of the University of Ibadan, will be rewarded with a total of 1000 dollars, a plaque and a certificate.
Falaiye said a total of 18 entries for the 4th edition of competition were received from various universities in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa
He gave the title of the winning thesis as: The Social Context of Gentrification in Lagos State; Ph.D (Jan. 2023) Department of Sociology, University of Ibadan.
“The first runner up for this competition was Oluwaseyi Popogbe, currently a lecturer at the Department of Economics, Crawford University in Ogun.
“The title of his thesis is: Social Exclusion and Poverty in Selected Coastal Slum Areas in Lagos State; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) Department of Economics University of Lagos.
“The second runner up position went to Dr Charles Akwen, currently a lecturer at the Department of English, University of Lagos.
“Akwen’s thesis is titled: Notions of Identity in the Literary Creativity of Odia Ofeimun and Yang Mu; Ph.D (Dec. 2022) English Literature, University of Lagos,” the director stated.
He said that both the first and second runners up would be awarded plaques and certificates in recognition of their contributions and hard work.
Falaiye noted that the competition was in honour of Prof. Rahamon Bello, who was the 10th Vice Chancellor of the university, at the time the institute was inaugurated.
The prize money is usually donated every year for the award by friends of Prof. Bello.
Falaiye said that Dec, 6, had been fixed for the presentation of the awards.
The Tide source reports that the award was first presented in 2020.
States, LGs Lack Infrastructure To Manage Ecological Fund, Shun Queries – Perm Sec
The 36 states of the federation and the 774 local government councils have no structure in place to manage Ecological Fund.
The declaration was made in Abuja, yesterday, by the Permanent Secretary, Ecological Project Office, Malam Shehu Ibrahim.
Ibrahim made the declaration at an interactive session with the House Representatives Committee on Ecological Fund.
He said since states and local governments began to share the fund with the Federal Government they had not been able to put structures in place to manage their share.
The Ecological Fund is an intervention fund by the Federal Government to address the multifarious ecological challenges in various communities in the country.
Ibrahim told the house committee that the sharing of the fund among the three tiers of government followed a court decision.
He said governors and local council chairmen never welcomed queries about how they deployed the ecological funds.
“It is a `no-go’ area,’’ he quipped.
“They don’t want to see officials of the Ecological Project Office near them; so we cannot ask them how they spend the money,’’ he added.
Ibrahim said also that all motions by the National Assembly regarding intervention on ecological project matters had been treated.
“The Ecological Project Office acts expeditiously on documents sent to it to solve problems; it looks at some of the gaps within the motion and tries to fill the gaps, and we have had more than five of such motions.
“ The Ecological Project Office does not handle funds; it only appraises projects and makes recommendations to the president,’’ he said.
The permanent secretary explained that it is the Ministry of Finance that manages the fund and the projects.
He stressed that it was a misconception that the Ecological Project Office is in charge of funds and at liberty to decide on where projects would be sited with the money in its coffers.
He said whenever there were interventions; the Ecological Project Office informed affected communities and went with the contractor to hand over the projects to the community.
This is to enable the community to take ownership of the intervention and communicate their observations to the project office.
Responding, Rep. Sani Jaji (APC-Kaura Namoda/ Birnin Magaji), chairman of the committee, said there should always be stakeholders engagement before embarking on ecological fund intervention projects.
He noted that the projects were stakeholders’ projects and failure to include the stakeholders would always lead to security breach.
“So many things happened with UNICEF’s polio vaccine rejection; but when it included stakeholders, people began to accept the vaccine.
“It is critical to involve stakeholders and ensure equity. Security cannot be the reason why you won’t execute projects in certain parts of the country.
“The perception about your office is that there is money out there; so you need to change that perception and let people know that you have limitations about the execution of projects,’’ he said.
Jaji challenged the Ecological Fund Project Office to provide the needed advice to the president to enable him to take the correct steps.
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