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How Nigerian lawmakers padded 2024 budget with over N53 billion vague projects

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Stop picking on us, we deserve luxury vehicles, Senate blasts Nigerians

The claim by a senator, Abdul Ningi, that over N53 billion worth of projects in the 2024 Appropriations Act are without a specific location, is true, according to PREMIUM TIMES.

The suspended lawmaker, who represents Bauchi Central Senatorial District, recently accused the leadership of the Senate of fraudulently smuggling projects into the 2024 budget.

The lawmaker, who was suspended by the Senate on Tuesday over the claim, had disclosed that he got experts to review the budget and discovered some projects that do not have locations.

A review of the document obtained by this newspaper as well as a review of the proposed 2024 budget and the one eventually passed by the lawmakers, indicate that there is substantial merit in Mr Ningi’s claim.

According to Mr Ningi’s document, the consultants traced 36 projects that are worth N53 billion though the projects have no specific locations they are to be sited.

The 2024 Budget
On 29 November 2023, President Bola Tinubu presented the N27.5 trillion budget to the joint session of the National Assembly.

The budget has a recurrent expenditure profile of N9.92 trillion, a capital expenditure component of N8.7 trillion while N8.25 trillion was set aside for debt servicing.

Within 30 days, the lawmakers passed the budget, increasing it by N1.2 trillion and bringing the total figure to N28.7 trillion

Many observers believe that the lawmakers sacrificed diligence on the altar of speed.

It was not only the lawmakers who were in a hurry, President Tinubu also signed the bill into law within 48 hours after it was transmitted to him.

However, barely 60 days into the implementation of the budget, controversy arose.

PREMIUM TIMES reported the meeting between Mr Ningi, the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and some principal officers of the Senate.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio
During the meeting, Mr Ningi, who at the time was the leader of the Northern Senators’ Forum, alleged that about N3.7 trillion worth of projects were smuggled into the budget.

Mr Ningi also had an interview with BBC Hausa, during which he was quoted as saying, “Apparently, we discovered N3 trillion was inserted into the budgets for projects without locations. This is the highest budget padding that happened in Nigerian history under Senator Akpabio’s watch.”

The lawmaker later claimed that he was misquoted in the interview, insisting that he never mentioned “budget padding” or Mr Akpabio.

He, however, refused to be pressured to recant his claims by his colleagues during Tuesday’s plenary session. He was subsequently suspended.

In the course of the saga, two main issues have occupied centre stage – budget padding and constituency projects.

Tracking the 36 projects without location
In the document Mr Ningi has, for instance, N500 million was allocated for “Energy Poverty Intervention in Selected Rural Cooperators Settlements.” The project is under the Federal College of Land Resources Owerri, Imo State.

This line item has a very vague description with an equally vague location. “Selected rural cooperators settlement” was the only description for the location of the project.

Further checks revealed that this project was not in the budget proposal submitted by President Tinubu.

Aside from this project flagged by Mr Ningi, this paper also flagged several other projects placed under the same college in Imo.

For instance, N500 million was allocated for the “construction of solar street lights in selected cooperators settlement”. Like other projects, it has no specific location and it was not contained in the proposed budget submitted by the president.

In total, 14 projects worth N2.4 billion were injected into the institution’s budget. These 14 projects were not in the proposed budget by the president.

A similar vague project was domiciled in the budget of the Agricultural Council of Nigeria. The N40 million project is tagged, “supply of farm inputs and farm implements in selected communities.” No specific location was put in place for the project.

When President Tinubu presented the budget, the agency had a N2.7 billion budgetary allocation. After the lawmakers’ controversial insertions, the agency’s budget was increased to N22.9 billion.

Many of the projects are to be executed in different senatorial districts. However, some have very vague descriptions.

For instance, N297.6 million (N297,555,911) was repeated four times in the agency’s budget for projects without specific locations.

There is “Solar street light installations in selected federal constituencies in the six geopolitical zones”, and there is another: “entrepreneurship/empowerment of SMEs in some six geopolitical zones in the country.”

Another agency that Mr Ningi flagged is the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research. He highlighted N1.5 billion worth of projects that could not be tied to any specific location. A simple search revealed that Mr Ningi only scratched the surface. Over N54.2 billion worth of projects were dumped by the lawmakers in this agency. Many of them are vague.

In the budget of the National Centre for Agriculture Mechanisation, over N36 billion was inserted in the budget of the agency by the lawmakers. When President Tinubu presented the budget in November 2023, the agency had about N1.8 billion as total estimated expenditure. However, by the time the lawmakers dumped their projects in there, the allocation increased to N38.6 billion.

Duplicating same untraceable projects in two agencies.

Mr Ningi’s claim that projects worth about N2 billion in the budget of the National Horticulture Research Institute, Ibadan, cannot be traced to any specific location is also true.

Four line items at the rate of N500 million each are in the budget without any specific location.

However, the problem is not just the lack of specific locations of the projects, there appears to be an intent to commit fraud. These same projects in the National Horticulture Research Institute, Ibadan were also dumped in the budget of the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research. It has the same amounts and the same project titles.

These projects were not in the original budget submitted by the president. They were included by the lawmakers.

Most of the projects flagged by Mr Ningi checked out following an investigation by PREMIUM TIMES. However, the lawmaker only scratched the surface, as a deeper search showed that many more projects were dumped by the lawmakers.

Budget Padding vs Constituency Projects
The emergence of the phrase “budget padding” into Nigeria’s political lexicon could be traced to 2016, when Abdulmummin Jibrin, the then chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, accused the then Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, and some principal officers of the House of padding the budget of the House with projects.

Amid that scandal, Mr Jibrin was suspended by the House.

However, controversies over the insertion of projects into the budget could be traced to the beginning of this Fourth Republic.

Lawmakers have always maintained that they reserve the power to insert projects into the proposed budgets.

As a minority leader in the House in 2013, Femi Gbajabiamila argued in favour of the lawmakers having the constitutional power to do so.

“Surely a legislator represents his people in the centre and part of his responsibility is to attract federal presence to his community. How else can he do this? The annual budget provides him with the opportunity to attract the much-needed federal presence in his constituency and justify his raison detre,” Mr Gbajabiamila stated in an opinion piece published by PREMIUM TIMES in 2013.

However, the argument on the other side has been compelling. Shehu Sani, a member of the 8th Senate, had called for the scrapping of the constituency projects, describing it as a “distraction”.

Over the years, the phrase “budget padding” has been used to connote the “smuggling of projects” into the budget by lawmakers.

Ordinarily, Nigerian lawmakers are entitled to a statutory fund called the Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP), also called constituency projects. The ZIP is a N100 billion fund allocated annually under which lawmakers can allocate funds to nominate projects in their constituency.

Under the scheme, the N100 billion is shared between the Senate and the House of Representatives at a ratio of 40 per cent to 60 per cent respectively. The fund is shared equally across geopolitical zones. For instance, senators in the South-east may get more than senators in the North-west because the latter has more senators than the former.

In the case of the House, lawmakers from Bayelsa State may get more ZIP funds allocated to their constituencies than lawmakers from Lagos because while Bayelsa State has five lawmakers, Lagos State has 24.

However, 10 per cent of the funds of the respective chambers are set aside for the principal officers of both chambers. The sharing formula shows that the principal officers of the Senate and the House get N4 billion and N6 billion respectively.

In the case of the House, the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Majority Leader, Deputy Majority Leader, Whip, Deputy Whip, Minority Leader, Deputy Minority Leader, Minority Whip and the Deputy Minority Whip are to share N6 billion, hence, they get more as ZIPs.

Ordinarily, ZIPs are supposed to be nominated by lawmakers, while MDAs are charged with the responsibility of implementing them.

However, the process of implementation of ZIPs has been riddled with corruption. Oftentimes, lawmakers, MDAs and contractors collude to siphon the funds. In some instances, lawmakers use personal companies to execute ZIPs.

Despite the ZIP provision, the lawmakers still smuggle projects worth hundreds of billions into the budget. Budget padding has become an annual ritual in the National Assembly during the passage of the document.

In the 8th Assembly, the then leadership of the National Assembly and former President Muhammadu Buhari had a strained relationship over the power of the lawmakers to include projects in the budget.

In 2018, the then-president accused the lawmakers of inserting non-essential projects into the budget while cutting the essential ones. The accusation by the president led to back-and-forth arguments between the lawmakers and the executive.

The relationship between Mr Buhari and the 9th Assembly was a bit cordial and gave the lawmakers more leeway to add projects to the budget. However, despite the friendly relationship, on several occasions, Mr Buhari raised alarm over the smuggling of projects into budgets by the lawmakers. He said he reluctantly signed the 2022 budget into law because of the insertions by lawmakers.

Extra N100 million for lawmakers
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that each member of the 9th House got an additional N100 million aside from the so-called constituency projects allocated to them.

Speaker Abbas Tajudeen confirmed this during the campaign for the speakership. While trying to convince his colleagues to support him, he said members of the 9th Assembly got an additional N100 million worth of projects in the budget for their constituencies.

“Let us take the 9th Assembly, which was the first time when the thinking of the members coincided with the thinking of the government. What happened? We saw a tremendous shift in the body language of the government. We saw a tremendous shift in the cooperation between the executive and the legislature. N100 million was handed to say thank you to each member. An unprecedented move,” Mr Tajudeen said during a meeting with lawmakers at the Transcorp Hotel in Abuja.

“It never happened in the history of the parliament. A N100 million capital project was given to each member. Choose whatever you want for your constituency, N100 is there for you.”

He added: “Also, our traditional ZIP was funded right from 2019 till date.”

Tinubu’s disposition
President Tinubu appears not to be against lawmakers inserting projects into the budget. During the budget presentation, Mr Tinubu urged the lawmakers to include only projects that are of “equitable spread” into the 2024 budget.

He, however, warned that projects should be within sectorial mandates.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
“We must ensure that only projects and programmes that would be of equitable benefits to all Nigerians are allowed into the budget, additionally, only projects and programmes which are in line with the sectorial mandates of MDAs and which are capable of realising the vision of our government should be included in the budget. As a government, we are committed to improving the lots of our people,” he said.

While signing the passed budget, Mr Tinubu did not object to any inclusion, including the increase of the budget of the National Assembly from N197 billion to N344 billion.

The current federal government is run by former legislators. Mr Tinubu and his vice, Kashim Shettima, are former senators. In the short-lived Third Republic, Mr Tinubu served as the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

Also, the man in charge of the budget, Atiku Bagudu, who is the minister of budget and national planning, is also a former senator while Mr Tinubu’s Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila spent 20 years in the House.

Perhaps, this accounts for the reason the executive seems unperturbed by the allegation of budget padding. It, in fact, scolded Mr Ningi for alleging that the government is running two different budgets. Mr Ningi has since recanted the comment.

 

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 Chinese supermarket where Nigerians are not allowed to shop sealed

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The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission has sealed the Abuja-based Chinese supermarket located within the China General

On Monday, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) sealed a Chinese supermarket located within the China General Chamber of Commerce in Abuja, following allegations of discriminatory practices against Nigerians.

The FCCPC officials interrogated Nigerian workers at the supermarket before sealing up the premises.

According to facilities workers at the store, the owner of the supermarket, Cindy Liu Bei, fled the premises with her family on Monday at 8:26 am, as captured on Closed-Circuit Television camera footage.

The workers, who are mostly Nigerians, disclosed this information to the FCCPC officials when they stormed the supermarket. As a result, the commission shut down the supermarket in question.

According to The PUNCH, the supermarket had implemented a controversial policy restricting entry solely to Chinese nationals, excluding Nigerians from patronising the establishment.

This policy sparked widespread condemnation across various social media platforms, as Nigerians voiced their concerns over the discriminatory treatment.

But visiting the premises on Monday, the commission officials led by the Director for Surveillance and Investigation, Boladale Adeyinka, said the mission of the commission is in response to the viral video when Nigerians were allegedly being discriminated against and denied access to a supermarket located in Abuja.

Speaking at the end of the enforcement exercise, Adeyinka affirmed that the owner of the supermarket, Cindy Liu Bei, fled on Monday at 8:26 am with her family as confirmed on the Closed-Circuit Television camera.

She said, “The essence of the surveillance and investigation that we conducted today is to verify the allegations and the content of that viral video.

“On arrival, we noticed that the supermarket which is right behind me, was sealed and padlocked externally. Inquiries have shown that yes, as this morning this supermarket was open and people were here.

“CCTV footage also shows that in the morning, two vehicles departed from these very premises allegedly containing the owner of the supermarket, whom we have been able to identify by name and we have her contact details.”

She further directed that the owner appear before the commission tribunal or the compound will remain sealed.

“Now the summons of course since she’s not around and the place is locked, is to serve notice on her to appear before the federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission by Wednesday

“There are other regulatory tools to be deployed, if she fails to attend to this summon. The summons means that on entering into these premises they must see the summon because that is how they gain access to it”, she said.

She added that if the Chinese owner fails to attend to the summon which is a lawful inquiry, the mandate of the commission under its powers will seal the premises until she comes to the commission, meaning that the place will remain locked until she appears before the commission.

The FCCPC officials subsequently sealed the supermarket.

 

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‘We have found him’- Kenyan police arrest Binance executive who escaped from Nigeria

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The Kenya Police Service has arrested fleeing Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, as the International Criminal Police Organisation moves

The Kenya Police Service has arrested fleeing Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, as the International Criminal Police Organisation moves to extradite him to Nigeria within the week.

Government sources familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on the matter confirmed the development to our correspondent on Sunday night.

One of the sources said, “Binance executive, Nadeem Anjarwalla, has been arrested by the Kenya Police Service, and he would be extradited to Nigeria this week by INTERPOL.”

Another source noted, “As we had said before that Anjarwalla would be extradited, he has been arrested in Kenya, and he’ll be extradited to Nigeria this week.”

The PUNCH had exclusively reported that the Federal Government had traced Anjarwalla to Kenya, following his escape from lawful custody in Nigeria.

Following the development, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the International Criminal Police, the Nigeria Police Force, and the Kenyan Police Service have deepened talks to quicken Anjarwalla’s extradition.

In the earlier report, Saturday PUNCH reported that Anjarwalla, whose cover has now been blown, went into hiding immediately after he landed in Kenya.

“We have found him. We know where he is; he is in Kenya, and we’re working with the authorities to bring him back to Nigeria.

“All hands are on the deck, the government and all the security agencies are working hard in conjunction with the Kenyan authorities and INTERPOL, to ensure his return to Nigeria to face the charges brought against him,” the report had quoted a source as saying.

Meanwhile, the EFCC Chairman, Ola Olukoyede, had in the March edition of its bulletin titled, “EFCC Alert,” onfirmed that the commission was working in conjunction with the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, the governments of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Kenya to extradite Anjarwalla.

Olukoyed said, “The takeover of the prosecution of Binance chiefs by the commission is no less a strong message in the direction of EFCC’s resolve to hedge in distortions and disruptions in the country’s forex market.

“Tax evasion, currency speculation, and money laundering to the tune of $35,400,000 and are at the foundation of the Commission’s five counts against Binance Holdings Limited, Tigran Gambaryan and Nadeem Anjarwalla, the company’s chief executives.

“While Gambaryan is currently in the Commission’s net, the process of extraditing the fleeing Anjarwalla is revving in full swing. Involved in partnership with the EFCC to nick Anjarwalla in flight are the International Criminal Police Organisation, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, the governments of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, and Kenya as the clock winds down to his arraignment in absentia alongside the company and Gambaryan.”

 

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Six army killed in ambush by terrorists in Niger

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Six Nigerian Army personnel, including two officers and four soldiers, have lost their lives during an ambush by terrorists in Niger State.

Six Nigerian Army personnel, including two officers and four soldiers, have lost their lives during an ambush by terrorists in Niger State.

The incident occurred as troops from the 1 Division Nigerian Army engaged in a fighting patrol to Karaga Village in Shiroro Local Government Area.

According to a statement from the Nigerian Army Headquarters signed by Maj.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, Director of Army Public Relations, the troops fell into an ambush set by terrorists, leading to a fierce firefight.

Despite their bravery and efforts to fight back, six personnel were tragically killed in action.

Part of the statement read: , “Troops of 1 Division Nigerian Army deployed at Allawa and Erena, while on a fighting patrol to Karaga Village in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State had an encounter in an ambush staged by terrorists on 19 April 2024.

“Troops gallantly fought through the ambush and eliminated several of the terrorists as well as captured some of their equipment.

“Sadly, the troops suffered a temporary setback as six personnel comprising two officers and four soldiers paid the supreme price.

“We urge the general public, particularly the good people of Niger and contiguous states, to continue to avail the Nigerian Army and other security agencies with actionable and timely information to enhance the operations of the troops.”

The statement said the General Officer Commanding 1 Division and Commander, Operation Whirl Punch, Maj.-Gen. Landers Saraso, on behalf of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja sympathised with the families of the deceased personnel and promised them that the troops would avenge the unfortunate setback.

He said the troops were on the trail of some of the terrorists who survived and fled after the encounter.

The Nigerian Army headquarters further stated that in line with customs and traditions, the Nigerian Army had contacted the next of kin of the fallen heroes, while burial had been conducted for the deceased Muslim personnel with the consent and approval of their family members.

It said the Chief of Army Staff was represented at the burial, which took place at Minna Military Cantonment Cemetery, by Commander, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Maj.-Gen. Kelvin Aligbe.

 

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How to apply for N50,000 federal govt grants, loans for Nano business

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The Federal Government of Nigeria under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, is rolling out two

The Federal Government of Nigeria under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, is rolling out two initiatives – the Presidential Conditional Grant Programme & the Presidential Palliative Loan Programme.

The minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr Nkiruka Uzoka-Anite said the programmes aim to alleviate the effects of the fuel subsidy removal.

Nano businesses will receive N50,000 grant, while MSMEs and manufacturers will access loans up to N1 million and N1 billion respectively.

The target beneficiaries are 70% women and youth, 10% people with disabilities, and 5% senior citizens, while the remaining 15% is distributed to other demographics.

Who Can Apply?

Businesses that fall into the six categories below can apply.
1. Traders
2. Food services
3. ICT
4. Transportation
5. Creatives (makeup artists, fashion designers and dry cleaners.)
6. Artisans (vulcanizers, shoemakers, painters, repairers).

Grant Eligibility Criteria

1. Own a nano business.
2. Operate a business with progressive economic potential, and desire to grow the business.
3. Be willing to engage at least one additional staff member if turnover increases
4. Be willing to provide proof of residential/business address in the Local Government Area
Provide relevant personal and bank account information, including Bank Verification
(BVN) for verification of identity
5. Meet the application submission deadline.

Eligible applicants should visit the website fedgrantandloan.gov.ng and click ‘apply for grant.’

 

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EXCLUSIVE: Yahaya Bello steps on big toes in presidency – Source

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Investigation has revealed that embattled former Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello has stepped on big toes at the presidency and that is one

Investigation has revealed that embattled former Kogi state governor, Yahaya Bello has stepped on big toes at the presidency and that is one of the reasons why the anti-graft agency opened his crime file as a means to tackle the former governor.

Sources revealed that the former governor reached out to President Bola Tinubu for urgent intervention but all efforts proved abortive, as the president also interested in the case.

“Yahaya Bello has stepped on toes in the presidency, he’s plotting against the presidency. But I can reveal to you that President Tinubu is aware of everything, and Yahaya Bello must be try, no going back,” said the source.

Mr. Bello Yahaya is alleged to have misappropriated over ₦85 billion naira and has been currently declared wanted by the EFCC after several attempts to have him arrested failed including the recent incidence in Abuja where the current Governor of the State and his loyalist was accused of breaching the security cordon to whisk the accused away.

Meanwhile, A coalition of Kogi Youths under the banner of Network of Professional Kogi State Youths has called on the former Governor of Kogi State Alhaji Yahaya Bello to immediately vacate the Kogi State Government House where he’s currently hiding from the clutches of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In a press release signed by Comrade Abdulquadri Shuaibu and distributed to journalists in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital on behalf of Network of Professional Kogi Youths over the weekend, the group frowned at the former Governor’s disregard for the rule of law including evasion of a lawful arrest, describing it as regrettable, disgraceful and embarrassing.

According to the release, “as a former Governor, we expected some degree of decorum and respect for the rule of law from him. The recent confrontation between the EFCC and Governor Yahaya Bello at his Abuja residence is a regrettable episode that is an embarrassment to Kogi people and Nigerians at large. We unequivocally condemn the former Governor’s conduct and insist that justice must take its course.

“As a united Coalition representing the citizens of Kogi State, we issue a 24-hour ultimatum to Governor Yahaya Bello to vacate the Government House and surrender to the EFCC or the nearest Police Station. Failure to comply, we will occupy the Government House in a mega protest to ensure Governor Bello’s accountability and safeguard the integrity of our judicial system.

On the role played by Alhaji Usman Adodo, the current Governor of the State who is also an associate of the former Governor in aiding his continuous evasion of arrest, the Coalition called on his immediate resignation, failure of which, the State House of Assembly will be compelled to commence impeachment proceedings against him.

“By choosing to shield an alleged criminal who squandered the commonwealth of Kogi people, Governor Usman Adodo’s immediate resignation is imperative. Failure to do so within 14-day period, we will compel the Speaker of the Kogi House of Assembly to initiate impeachment proceedings against him for obstructing law enforcement and undermining the administration of justice”, the statement added.

The youth group also hailed the efforts of individuals, law enforcement agencies and state institutions in ensuring that justice is done and the looted funds belonging to the good people of Kogi State are returned to facilitate the development of the state.

“We commend the EFCC for declaring Governor Yahaya Bello wanted and express solidarity with the Attorney General of the Federation’s unwavering commitment to combatting corruption. Indeed, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s steadfast dedication to this cause is commendable, and we implore him to persevere in his efforts.

“Furthermore, we applaud the Inspector General of Police (IGP) for withdrawing police protection from Governor Bello. While this is commendable, we urge the IGP to do everything within his powers to ensure that Yahaya Bello is arrested and handed over to the appropriate authorities for investigation and prosecution”, the statement concluded.

 

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Tinubu appoints SEC chairman, board members

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President Bola Tinubu has approved the appointment of seven persons to the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission. ⁣

President Bola Tinubu has approved the appointment of seven persons to the Board of the Securities and Exchange Commission. ⁣

The Presidency announced the appointment on Friday in a statement signed by Tinubu’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale, titled ‘President Tinubu appoints board of Securities and Exchange Commission.’ ⁣

They include Mr Mairiga Katuka (Chairman of the Board), Mr Emomotimi Agama as Director-General, Frana Chukwuogor as Executive Commissioner (Legal and Enforcement) and Mr Bola Ajomale as Executive Commissioner (Operations).⁣

Others are Mrs. Samiya Usman as Executive Commissioner (Corporate Services), Mr. Lekan Belo and Mr. Kasimu Kurfi as Non-Executive Commissioners. ⁣

Ngelale said the President anticipates that all members of the Board will “bring to bear their wealth of experience and competence in advancing the commission’s core mandate of developing and regulating a capital market that is dynamic, fair, transparent, and efficient, to bolster investor confidence and contribute immeasurably to the nation’s economic development.”

 

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