BUHARI ATTACKS NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ON FAILED PROJECTS

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President Muhammadu Buhari, at the National Summit on Diminishing Corruption in Public Sector on Tuesday, questions the One Trillion Naira budgeted for constituency projects of the National Assembly members in the last 10 years. The President said there is little to show forth of the money allocated to the National Assembly for constituency projects.

The event, organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, was in conjunction with the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation in Abuja. At the event, the ICPC Chairman, Prof Bolaji Owasanoye, presented the commission’s report on the first phase of constituency projects tracking initiative.

Buhari called on the National Assembly to hasten work on the Special Crimes Court Bill, saying Nigerians had been agitating for it to handle corruption cases. The President added that the ICPC report on constituency projects confirmed the fears that people at the grassroots had not benefited from the huge money that the National Assembly members had collected for the projects.

Buhari said that he was delighted that through the effort of the ICPC in the tracking of constituency projects, some contractors were returning to the site in order to complete abandoned projects. He promised his full support to the commission to deal with any public servant and legislator found guilty of diverting public fund meant for people’s welfare. He commended the ICPC for stopping the diversion of N9bn in personnel cost from 2019 budget.

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The President also revealed that due to the activities of anti-graft agencies like the ICPC, some public servants had been found out to possess properties that were beyond their earnings, saying that during investigation, they denied ownership of such properties.

Meanwhile, the ICPC chairman, Owasanoye, at the event told  Buhari that investigation revealed that federal universities and health institutions padded the personnel cost they presented to the Federal Government. He said that the management of the institutions would be invited for questioning.

The ICPC boss told Buhari that part of the discoveries made by the commission was that many of the government ministries, departments and agencies got themselves involved in contracts that had nothing to do with them, saying costs of most contracts were inflated and duplicated. The ICPC boss also said that 59 directors of the Ministry of Water Resources were being investigated over a claim that N3.3bn was paid out in about a month through their accounts.

At the event, Buhari presented awards to a cleaner at the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, Josephine Ugwu, for returning huge amount found while working. A customs officer, Bashir Abubakar, was also rewarded for rejecting $412,000 bribe from a tramador importer.

Presenting the two awardees, Owasanoye said Ugwu found and returned the sum of N10.2m, dollar equivalent of N8m, another dollar equivalent of N7m and $12,000 at various times. She was given a bungalow in Lagos bought by the ICPC and partners for her honesty.

Reacting to the President’s statement, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked Buhari to go beyond lamentation to ordering an investigation to fish out culpable lawmakers and ensuring that were punished.

Efforts at getting the reaction of the Senate to the statement failed on Tuesday as the Senate spokesperson, Godiya Akwashiki, did not answer repeated calls to his mobile phone as of the time of filing this report . He had also yet to reply a  text message sent to his mobile phone.

Also, the Leader of the Senate, Yahaya Abdullahi, did not respond to repeated calls put across to his mobile phone. He had yet to respond to a text message sent to him either. The Minority Leader of the Senate, Enyinnaya Abaribe, asked one of our correspondents to direct all enquiries to the Senate spokesperson, when contacted on the phone. Ndume explains poor project execution

However,  a former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, who sponsored a constituency project bill, which passed first reading last week, said the amount of money released by the executive arm of government was responsible for the poor execution of the projects.

But the majority and minority caucuses of the House of Representatives denied that up to N1tn had been spent on constituency projects in 10 years. The lawmakers argued that Nigeria’s annual budgets recorded low releases, which led to under performance of the budgets.

Responding, the Deputy Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Peter Akpatason, stated that the amount budgeted for constituency projects was not the same as the amount released for their execution.

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