Senate President, Ahmed Lawan has been fingered for supervising and giving tacit approval for the insertion of a whopping N264 billion into the 2020 appropriation bill before President Mohammadu Buhari for his assent.
This revelation came to light by one of the aggrieved senators who said recent happenings in the Senate “bear” the hallmark of recklessness and “a desire to fleece the country for 2023 political ambition .”
This is coming on the heels of another unilateral approval by Lawan to enable President Buhari obtain future purse draining loan of $30 billion.
In return, Lawan has obtained N37 billion from the president for the renovation of a section of the National Assembly as a quid pro quo. That was equally tacitly approved by the executive.
Nigeria’s total external debt stands at $27.16 billion and domestic debt stands at $56.72 billion according to Debt Management Office.
National Bureau of Statistics has urged every time in its reports to curb excessive borrowing and taste for borrowing for consumption, pointing out that it is also responsible for poor showing infrastructural investment due to excessive servicing.
The International Monetary Fund, IMF, had few years ago denied Nigerian government loan for fear of it inability to properly service it due to slowing revenue.
If the Lawan-led National Assembly approved the loan request, the nation’s total debt stock would rise to about $97billion (about N30 trillion) thus serving as a cliffhanger for Nigeria’s economy.
In the main, details of the illegal insertions into 2020 budget showed that, “supply of goods to Katsina,” would cost N6 billion.
The goods described here are, fertilizers, N500 million, rice also allocated N500 million and “maize and beans in Katsina,” all got allocations of N500 million each.
Also, the lawmakers used general term in vague form as “supply of tricycles, motorcycles, sewing machines” with each to cost ₦500 million or “supply of new Toyota Hiace buses, utility vehicles SDG intervention” which is to gulp ₦1.92 billion.
This allocations were inserted into the budget of the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs (OSSAP–MDGs), an office under the presidency, which had an initial proposal of ₦34,006,614 as its budget.
In order to “take something home for themselves,” the lawmakers increased the budget vaguely from that ₦34,006,614 to
₦5.106 billion, showing a stupendous difference of ₦5.072 billion.
Also, the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), an agency under the Ministry of Trade and Investment, had its budget increased to ₦14.85 billion from ₦11.02 billion.
The increase was justified to be spent on similar vague projects such as “rehabilitation, surface dressing and construction of drainages of rural roads in selected locations in Isuiwato/Umunneochi federal constituency” for ₦500 million.
Also the lawmakers proposed the “supply of mobile kiosks, mobile kitchen and modern SME tools entrepreneurial training for prospective entrepreneurs in Nigeria” for ₦730 million.
Even the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), which is under the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation had its budget raised from the ₦3.73 billion to ₦5.46billion under similar vague and fake projects.
Similarly, another vague allocation was inserted into the BCDA appropriation. ₦100 million was inserted for “youth empowerment in Yobe East Senatorial District” while “supply of tricycles and sewing machines in Yobe East Senatorial District” would gulp ₦50 million.
Premium Times had reported, copiously quoting an ICPC report, titled Constituency Projects Tracking Group (CPTG), which tracked 424 projects from 2015–2018 zonal intervention projects between June and August, 2019, across 12 states and the FCT, describing the budgets of SMEDAN and BCDA — two agencies fingered for budget overwriting — as “conduits for embezzling funds.”
The lawmakers cleverly used such fictitious descriptions to denote the insertions and duplicated them across ministries and agencies too numerous to mention and track down.
Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation, Ibrahim Barau, notoriously known for his recklessness and ‘playing balls’ as a willing tool justified the budget increase during presentation before the lawmakers when he said the top-up would offset the infrastructural deficit in the country.
But it has long been proven by ICPC and other budget monitoring groups as well as aggrieved lawmakers that no such thing was intended when the president presented the budget before them.
Besides, the budget would be wholly financed from external borrowing and so the makers of the budget walked on tight rope to get a near finish appropriation document before the lawmakers.
The president’s initial proposal was ₦10.33 trillion. Not a few Nigerians raised eyebrows when the lawmakers passed the bill
after inserting “new projects” increasing it up to ₦10.594 trillion (₦10,594,362,364,830) with curious justifications.
An aggrieved lawmakers told Daily Mail Online upon enquiries that not everyone in the committee was carried along as Barau imposed himself because he was working under the orders of the Senate president.
In fact, the insertions were done in Barau’s house after collecting it from Lawan.
Daily Mail Online could not independently verify these claims but efforts to reach Barau proved unsuccessful as his phone rang out without response.
There was also no response from the office of the Senate president when enquiries were made through text messages as at the time of going to press.
Already the tacit approval of N37 billion for the renovation of the section of the National Assembly complex is causing ripples among the senators as they compete for projects in the name of their companies.