Stakeholders have raised alarm over the disbursement of N116.97 million into an unmanned and non-existing Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEAP) to President Muhammadu Buhari from the government coffers in the last five years.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) Barr. Eze Onyekpere who was reacting to a report by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) on how the non-existing office of Buhari’s Chief Economic Adviser continues to get budgetary releases after five years, raised the alarm during a radio program, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG.
Onyekpere knocked the National Assembly over the report, saying that it is unfortunate that the legislators who were supposed to scrutinize the budget and play oversight function approved budgetary allocation for the controversial office of the Chief Economic Adviser to President Buhari.
“The budget itself when it is prepared as a proposal, it goes through the Budget Office of the Federation, there are budget defense sessions, it goes up to the Federal Executive Council before it is now approved and sent to the National Assembly.
“So how come, the EFCC, the ICPC, the Nigerian Police and Auditor General and none of them have caught this mischief in the actual practice of budgeting in Nigeria,” Onyekpere queried.
He asked that the petition should immediately be sent out to the National Assembly, and possibly take steps of making sure that whoever is culpable refunds all the monies spent on the office over the years through the judicial process.
“I think that there should be a next step to make sure that those behind this stealing are punished and the money is returned to the treasury.”
Onyekpere also called for credible Nigerians to be appointed to lead anti-graft agencies in Nigeria, stressing that corruption and impunity have now become part of the everyday experience in the country. He added that every Nigerian should be worried over such a report because the nation is borrowing heavily to finance the 2021 budget amid other economic challenges.
“What is the bottom line of our lives that we are paying more for fuel, we are paying more for electricity and at the end of the day, we have inflation rate at about 16.4 to 16.5; the naira is getting more useless in terms of value, the salaries and earning power of livelihoods in Nigeria is not increasing.
“We are also one of the capitals of the world in terms of maternal and child death, and they say we have the highest number of poor people in the world. So, we should be bothered because this would not have been so if we have been utilizing our money through a value for money approach,” Onyekpere lamented.
On his part, Investigative Reporter with The ICIR, Olugbenga Adanikin, revealed that the corruption report cast a shadow of doubt on President Buhari’s promise to fight corruption when he emerged in 2015.
“President Buhari should act more because we want to see people go to jail. We want to see people who have been indicted, accused and the court has established that these people have been found guilty to go to jail,” Adanikin advised.
It will be recalled that the National Assembly approved N46.86 million in the 2021 budget despite concerns of no known personnel or government official to give accounts of the monies disbursed to OCEAP since 2016.
Between 2016 and 2020 the office of the Chief Economic Adviser has been funded regularly even with no one appointed to that office.
Dr. Adeyemi Dipeolu, the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters, Office of the Vice President denied that he is the one spending the money.
But officials tried to pin him to the office of the Chief Economic Adviser, in a bid to cover up.