In 2019, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) released a report on how federal lawmakers, in connivance with executing agencies, have perfected fraudulent means of pocketing billions of naira under the guise of constituency projects.
The report fingered Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), two agencies described as “conduits for embezzling funds” by federal lawmakers because of the size, type and number of projects domiciled under them.
Independent checks by PREMIUM TIMES, in the penultimate year, affirmed this: over 391 projects were smuggled by federal lawmakers into the budgets of the two agencies. This year too, over 300 projects found their way into the two agency’s budgets — this time around with a baggage of overpriced projects.
Further checks by this newspaper into the 2020 budget signed last month by the president have now shown that not less than 20 more agencies have their budget lines stuffed with projects which were ‘sneaked’ in by the legislators.
These projects account for the vast cut of the ₦264 billion for which the signed budget differs from the proposed figures.
A large chunk of these projects are capacity building and empowerment programmes. But the said ICPC report has categorised projects of these nature as “free money without accountability, aside from being difficult to track.”
The report recommended that such projects should be suspended from the nation’s budget cycle. Yet, this year’s budget is dotted with a slew of them.
SMEDAN and BCDA aside, the agencies that house these controversial projects include: National Centre for Agricultural Mechanization (NCAM); National Directorate of Employment (NDE); Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI); Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, Ibadan (FRIN); Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI).
Others are: Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN); Project Development Institute, Enugu; Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President–MDGS (OSSAP-MDGS); Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Lagos; Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR); Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA).
Universal Basic Education (UBE) Commission; Federal Cooperative College, Oji River; Lower Benue RBDA; Anambra/Imo RBDA; Ogun/ Osun RBDA; Sokoto Rima RBDA; Upper Niger RBDA complete the list of 20 identified by this newspaper.
Apart from empowerment and capacity building projects, analysis by this newspaper showed the the projects, domiciled under these agencies, range from misplaced mandate (such as an agric agency building schools) to false location (agencies planning to execute projects where they have no branch), overpriced, to vague projects.
Below are the 20 agencies with their questionable projects:
- Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA)
The capital expenditure for the FCTA is ₦62.4 billion. More than half of this (₦37 billion), instead of addressing Abuja’s deplorable infrastructure, will go to fixing only the National Assembly Complex.
By comparison, while National Assembly votes that much for its own building, all that is earmarked by the government for capital projects by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) — the agency saddled with repairing broken federal roads across Nigeria — is ₦36.6 billion.
The money for the renovation of the parliament building is not part of ₦128 billion voted for the National Assembly this year. Some lawmakers have berated this.
- Universal Basic Education (UBE) Commission
PREMIUM TIMES’ analysis showed how the over ₦21.6 billion increment apportioned to UBEC would cater for a flurry of vague projects such as “supply of instructional materials to various schools in the North-east,” priced at ₦500 million, the same price for the “supply of laptops and writing materials to schools in Borno State.” Allocation to UBEC falls under the category of statutory transfers.
- Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President–MDGS (OSSAP-MDGS)
This office advises the president on how to eradicate poverty. It had an initial proposal of ₦34 million. However, in the new budget, the office has ₦5.1 billion.
The increment is for the “supply of fertilisers, rice, maize and beans to Rano/Bunkuye Kibiya Federal Constituency, Kano State” with ₦250 million; “supply of goods, fertilisers rice, maize and beans in Katsina” and “supply of tricycles, motorcycles, sewing machines,” each for ₦500 million; and “supply of new Toyota Hiace buses, utility vehicles SDG intervention,” which would gulp ₦1.9 billion.
- Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA)
Lawmakers raised BCDA’s budget from the ₦3.7 billion proposed by President Buhari to ₦5.5 billion. In its formative years, the agency was founded to provide basic amenities to border communities in the country.
In BCDA’s appropriation for this year though, ₦100 million is budgeted for “youth empowerment in Yobe East Senatorial District” and “supply of tricycles and sewing machines in Yobe East Senatorial District” would gulp ₦50 million.
- Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN)
SMEDAN was established in 2003 to create an enabling environment for Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMSE) to thrive.
However, PREMIUM TIMES found that its mandate has shifted because lawmakers made room for projects such as the “rehabilitation, surface dressing and construction of drainages of rural roads in selected locations in Isuiwato/Umunneochi federal constituency” for ₦500 million and “supply of mobile kiosks, mobile kitchen and modern SME tools entrepreneurial training for prospective entrepreneurs in Nigeria” for ₦730 million. About 200 more projects of this nature exist in the agency’s budget.
- Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN)
ECN formulates and coordinates national policies for the government on energy supply.
But it appears it would doing more of implementation this year, based on the projects it has under its purview. It would go into construction of mini grid solar system for “small businesses” and “educational institutions” in selected LGAs, each for ₦1 billion.
This same agency, with ₦500 million, would provide street lights to the College of Education, Waka — the same item it would erect in Katsina South Senatorial District ₦200 million.
Again, at ₦200 million each, it plans to construct solar boreholes in Lagos West, Niger East, Oyo North and Central Senatorial Districts
- Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research
This Institute, established in November, 1975, by the Research Institutes’ Establishment Order 1975, has a mandate of conducting research on Nigeria’s territorial waters.
However, some of the projects it would oversee this year have nothing to do with research or understudying water bodies.
It would grade inner road in Alimosho for ₦300 million; supply chairs to schools in Oshodi, Isolo, Mushin, Ajeromi and Ojo LGAs of Lagos for ₦100 million; erect solar street lights in some Lagos communities for ₦200 million; construct town halls in six communities in Aniocha North, Aniocha South, Oshimili South, Oshimili North Federal Constituency, Delta State (hometown of Hon. Ndudi Elumelu) for ₦285 million.
Likewise, aside its plan to erect “solar street light in some Lagos communities” for ₦200 million, it would also supply 200 units of Bajaj tricycles in Ikeja federal constituency for ₦200 million (₦1 million each). A new Bajaj tricycle costs between ₦600,000 to ₦850,000.
Of the 45 projects domiciled under the institute, 31 are either empowerment or capacity building projects.
- National Directorate of Employment (NDE)
NDE’s budget was upped from ₦1.02 billion to approximately ₦14 billion. While its vision is to create “job for all,” the increment in its budget are for a flurry of empowerment projects which are hard to track.
It would spend ₦550 million on “rural to urban mass transit empowerment programme in selected local government areas.” It would also distribute “empowerment items to aspiring artisans and entrepreneurs” in all the six geopolitical zones of the country, each for ₦1 billion.
- Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI)
Established April 1, 1978, NBRRI has a core mandate to conduct research on the building and construction sector of the economy.
But based on its projects for this year, it would deviate from this mandate.
The budget passed and signed by the president has entrusted the institute with the responsibility to construct 20km road across all six geopolitical zones for ₦1.27 billion.
Also, with ₦1 billion, it would construct Hauwadai Township road. This is notwithstanding its plan to construct classrooms in 11 locations in Plateau State with ₦80 million.
- Project Development Institute, Enugu (PRODA)
PRODA would also purchase tricycles in Anambra State for ₦350 million. It would do the same in Anambra North Senatorial District for ₦300 million.
About 70 per cent of its proposed projects are empowerment based.
- Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin
NSPRI, an agency headquartered in Ilorin whose job is to mitigate post harvest loss of crops in Nigeria, plans to construct “ICT centres” and provide “equipment in selected secondary schools in Lagos.”
It would repeat this same project three times this year, all at the total cost of ₦768 billion — first for ₦255 million, then ₦256 million and ₦257 million.
It also has projects slated for Enugu, Niger, Delta and Rivers States. Whereas, save for the latter two, it does not have outstations in any of the other states. The outstations of the agency are located in Ibadan, Kano, Lagos, Maiduguri, Port-Harcourt, and Sapele.
Again, 80 per cent of NSPRI’s projects (55 of 68) projects), are capacity building and empowerment projects which ICPC advised should be suspended.
- National Centre For Agricultural Mechanisation (NCAM)
With an eye on projects in the FCT, Kogi, and Oyo States — states that has no branch of its — the NCAM plans to renovate “primary schools in selected areas in Lagos” for ₦475 million; and rehabilitate “NTA Tejuosho–Railway Quarters Access Road” and also install “solar street lights in Surulere” with ₦150 million.
Surulere 2 is the constituency of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
Not only does the Centre not have a branch in Lagos, it was established to “reduce drudgery and improve the quality of agricultural production and ensure food security for the nation.”
NCAM’s projects (16 of 23) are also 70 per cent empowerment projects.
- Federal Cooperative College, Oji River
As for Federal Cooperative College, Oji River, rather than focusing on awarding Higher National Diploma (HND) in cooperative development courses, it would now procure tricycles and empower women cooperative society organisations in South-east Nigeria for ₦735 million.
Motorcycles would also be procured for “rural corporators” in Abia State with ₦800 million. In the same Abia State, the college plans to construct a 2km long road for ₦240 million, and another 3km long road for the same amount.
Although, it is a school in Abia State, it now has projects it plans to execute in Bauchi, Rivers, Anambra, Ebonyi and others.
- Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria (FRIN)
A striking feature in the budget lines of this research institute is what it captured simply as “empowerment,” costed at ₦50 million. No further details were provided.
Aside projects it would execute in each of Enugu Gombe, Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Kaduna, and Edo states, the Ibadan-based agency would provide “laptops for students in selected secondary schools in both Coker Aguda and Itire Ikate, Surulere, Lagos,” for ₦200 million.
Ordinarily, it should be focusing on forestry development and environmental protection.
- Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Lagos
This institution had ₦5.5 billion topped onto its initial budget. About ₦1 billion of this, would be used to organise “empowerment training in boat operations and fishing for rural fishermen in Lagos West Senatorial District.”
Ideally, it should be offering Ordinary and Higher Diplomas to students in courses under fishery technology.
16-20. River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA)
Instead of shouldering the responsibility of managing water resources for agriculture and other uses with its budgeted capital expenditure, the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA) across the country would, this year, plan to construct roads and boreholes. There are 11 of such agencies in the country.
The Lower Benue RBDA, for instance, apart from constructing roads “in selected locations in Wase, Plateau State,” for ₦190 million would again construct roads “in selected locations in Plateau State” for ₦317.5 million.
Upper Niger RBDA also plans to construct a civic centre and shops in Niger north senatorial district with ₦200 billion.
Likewise, Sokoto Rima RBDA would spend ₦575 million on three rural roads in Zamfara State.
Analysis of the budget of Anambra/Imo RBDA also showed that it would construct four solar powered boreholes in Gombe south senatorial district with ₦285 million.
Meanwhile, the Ogun/Osun RBDA has a similar plan to construct solar street lights across Igboeze South LGA, Enugu State, with ₦150 million.
The spokespersons of both chambers — Godiya Akwashiki and Benjamin Kalu — and the chairmen of the two houses’ committees on appropriation — Jibrin Barau and Muktar Aliyu did not respond to phone calls, text and Whatsapp messages requesting their comments on the report.
Also, calls to SMEDAN were not answered. Calls to the contact numbers on BCDA, NCAM, NDE, and NSPRI’s websites did not connect. A representative of the Energy Commission declined to comment on the matter. A spokesperson of the Institute of Oceanography, Mavis Jeba, said projects out of its mandate that are constituency projects are monitored by them.
“We send people out to monitor it. If it is constituency projects and they carry it through our office, definitely we have to monitor it,” Ms Jeba said over the phone.
Meanwhile, in response to an earlier story by this newspaper, the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Millennium Development Goals (OSSAP-MDGs) had explained that it does not determine the allocation to it in the budget. Rather, the president and the National Assembly do, it wrote in an email to PREMIUM TIMES.
“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,” the email read.
“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.”
Source: Premium Times