The Nigerian Senate President Godswill Akpabio has been urged not to approve an alleged plan by the FCT Minister, Nyesom Wike to build a ‘befitting residence’ for the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima.
The request was made by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) in the letter dated 2 December 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
SERAP urged him to “assert Senate’s authority and constitutional oversight roles to reject the N2.8 billion on publicity for the FCTA and other proposed wasteful and unnecessary spending that may be contained in the 2023 supplementary budget and the 2024 budget proposed by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
The organization added that; “The plan to spend N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president is a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international anticorruption and human rights obligations.”
SERAP said: “The Senate has the constitutional duties to ensure that Mr Wike’s proposed spending is entirely consistent and compatible with constitutional provisions including his oath of office. All public officials remain subject to the rule of law.
“The National Assembly including the Senate has a constitutional responsibility to address the country’s debt crisis, including by rejecting wasteful and unnecessary spending to satisfy the personal comfort and lifestyles of public officials.”
The letter, read in part: “The National Assembly cannot continue to fail to fulfil its oversight function. The Senate must assert and demonstrate its independence by checking and rejecting all wasteful and unnecessary spending by the executive.
“It would be a grave violation of the public trust and constitutional oath of office for the Senate to approve the plan to spend N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president at a time when the Federal Government is set to spend 30% (that is, N8.25 trillion) of the country’s 2024 budget of N27.5 trillion on debt service costs.
“The Federal Government also plans to borrow N7.8 trillion to fund the 2024 budget. Nigeria’s public debt stood at 87.4 trillion naira as of June with 38% owed to external creditors including multilateral and commercial lenders.
“Should the Senate and its leadership fail to stop wasteful and unnecessary spending and rein in government borrowing, SERAP would consider appropriate legal action to compel the National Assembly including the Senate to discharge its constitutional oversight roles in the public interest.
“SERAP urges you to refer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) the allegations of corruption in the spending of the previously approved N7 billion for the construction of a new residence for the vice president.
“The ‘construction’ was reportedly abandoned but the whereabouts of the N7 billion remain unknown.
“The Senate has the constitutional competence and legitimacy to compel compliance with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations.
“The Senate ought to assert its authority and vigorously exercise its constitutional oversight roles to check the apparently wasteful and unnecessary spending by Mr Wike especially given the growing debt crisis and the indiscriminate borrowing by the government.
“It is a travesty and a fundamental breach of the lawmakers’ fiduciary duties for the National Assembly to allow the executive to use national budget as a tool to satisfy the comfort and lifestyle of public officials.
“Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful performance by their public officials including lawmakers, as public officials owe a fiduciary duty to the general citizenry.
“Cutting the N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ from the FTCA budget would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution, as it would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money.
“According to our information, the Minister of the FCT, Nysom Wike and the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) plan to spend N15 billion for the construction of ‘a befitting residence’ for the Vice-President, Mr Kashim Shettima.
“The plan is contained in the N67 billion FCT supplementary budget which President Bola Tinubu had on Tuesday transmitted to the National Assembly for approval.
“SERAP notes that Mr Wike proposed plan to spend N15 billion on a new residence for the vice president despite the recent allocation of N2.5 billion for the renovation of the current residence of the VP in the federal government’s supplementary budget already passed by the National Assembly and signed by President Tinubu.
“The House of Representatives has reportedly approved the plan to spend N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president.
“The National Assembly has also approved another N3 billion for the renovation of the vice president’s residence in Lagos State. Mr Wike also plans to spend N2.8 billion on publicity for the FCTA.
“The proposed plan to spend 15 billion on ‘a ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president is different from the N100 billion for the FCT contained in the federal government supplementary budget.
“SERAP notes that the Federal Government has also budgeted N8 billion on the two official residences of President Tinubu in Abuja and Lagos.
“On top of the planned spending of N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president, billions of naira have been allocated for the purchase of cars for the Villa and the Office of the First Lady.”