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The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) has said it does not determine the amount allocated for projects in its budget. The office said this in response to a PREMIUM TIMES report on how some controversial projects were inserted into the budgets of some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

PREMIUM TIMES had exclusively reported how a large chunk of the ₦264 billion inserted into the new budget by lawmakers is for vague, overpriced projects.

The report fingered the OSSAP-MDGs as one of the havens for such projects.

“The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs (OSSAP–MDGs), an office under the presidency, had an initial proposal of ₦34,006,614. However, in the new budget, the office has ₦5.106 billion. That’s a difference of ₦5.072 billion. The office will now execute a lot of frivolous projects in which lawmakers will nominate contractors, take kickbacks or pocket project funds without execution,” read the report.

The president’s office faulted this line. It said in a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday that the initial budget document sent to the legislature by the president “is much more than the ₦34,006,614 reported by” this newspaper.

“The Office also wish to state that aside the opportunity to defend its budget proposal before the relevant committees at the National Assembly, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs has no power whatsoever over allocation to it in the annual budget.

“As such, the responsibility of ‎the Office over the years has been limited to implementing the budget as duly signed by the President, subject to release of funds appropriated for the different sub-heads‎.

“We therefore view the story and the insinuations therein as attempts to drag the Office into unnecessary controversies and would like to advise that you endeavour to cross check the facts with the Budget Office and National Assembly and make the necessary corrections.”

The crosscheck

Contrary to the office’s claim that it got more, another look into the initial budget proposal shows that its capital expenditure was ₦34,006,614.

Its recurrent expenditure, which couldn’t have referred to funds for executing infrastructural projects, was ₦111,703,951, taking it aggregate proposed spending to ₦145,710,565.

With a difference of ₦5.072 billion, the new budget has jerked up the Office’s capital projects to ₦5.106 billion.

The new projects are a series of capacity building and empowerment projects in the guise of constituency projects, a category of projects the ICPC has termed “conduit for embezzling funds.”

The projects lack specificity, proper description and exact intended location.

For instance, some of the Office’s projects are: “supply of goods, fertilizers rice, maize and beans in Katsina”; “supply of tricycles, motorcycles, sewing machines”, each of which will cost ₦500 million; and “supply of new Toyota Hiace buses, utility vehicles SDG intervention” which is to gulp ₦1.92 billion.

The same office intends to construct and furnish two blocks of classrooms in the Epe Federal Constituency of Lagos State for ₦100 million. It would also supply fertilizers, rice, maize and beans to Rano/Bunkuye Kibiya Federal Constituency, Kano State for ₦250 million.

The fraudulent projects

The presidency is not alone in this. Other agencies like the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) also had their budgets padded with controversial projects by lawmakers.

These two agencies are fertile ground for embezzling funds in the name of constituency projects, the ICPC report had noted.

The vague projects aside, despite the deplorable state of infrastructure in Abuja, renovation of the National Assembly building would chalk off more than half — ₦37 billion — from the Federal Capital Territory Authority’s ₦62.4 billion capital allocation. More than this, the repair of the 32,980km federal roads across the country would get less than that amount.

Yet, the aforesaid budget would be funded by a $30 billion foreign loan which would shoot up Nigeria’s debt toll to about $97 billion (the equivalent of ₦30 trillion or three times Nigeria’s budget size).

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