By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to investigate Mnistries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, and members of the National Assembly suspected to be responsible for inserting alleged N39.5 billion for apparently 316 duplicated and mysterious projects in the 2021 budget.
In the letter dated May 8, 2021, by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, stated: “Any such investigation should establish whether public funds have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen in the guise of implementing the duplicated and mysterious projects and anyone suspected to be responsible should be prosecuted appropriately, “if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any stolen public funds should be fully recovered.”.
The organisation said: “The misallocation of public funds for duplicated and mysterious projects has seriously undermined the ability of the indicted MDAs, and the government to ensure respect for Nigerians’ human rights through developing and implementing well-thought-out policies, plans, and budgets.
“We are concerned that the N39.5bn duplicated and mysterious projects may have been used as a ploy to divert and steal vital resources from MDAs. Budget allocations and expenditure ought to be well-suited to ensure access of Nigerians to basic public services, and responsive to the people’s needs in order to prevent corruption or unnecessary or wasteful spending.”
The letter, read in part: “BudgIT had in a report last week stated that there are 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5 billion in the 2021 budget. The duplicated and mysterious projects are contained in the 2021 appropriation bill of N13.588 trillion signed into law in December 2020.
“These damning revelations suggest a grave violation of the public trust, and Nigerians’ rights to education, health, water, sanitation, and clean and satisfactory environment because the indicted MDAs have misallocated public funds at the expense of the people’s access to basic public services, and enjoyment of rights.
“Investigating and prosecuting any allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds budgeted for the 316 duplicated and mysterious projects would allow your government to use the budget to effectively promote Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services.
“It would also enable your government to meet Nigeria’s human rights obligations in the way the MDAs under your leadership and supervision allocate, spend and audit the budget.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
SERAP, also urged Buhari to direct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance Budget and National Planning to publish full details of current ‘implementation status’ of the duplicated and mysterious projects, and any spending on the projects to dated, including the 115 projects inserted in the budget of the Ministry of Health; the 23 projects inserted in the budget of the Ministry of Education, and 10 projects inserted in the budget of the Ministry of Water Resources.
“The following ministries are reportedly involved in the duplicated and mysterious projects: Ministry of Health with 115 projects; Ministry of Information and Culture with 40 projects; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development with 25 projects; Ministry of Education with 23 projects; Ministry of Transportation with 17 projects; and Ministry of Science and Technology with 17 projects.
“Others are the Ministry of Environment with 13 projects; Ministry of Power with 11 projects; Ministry of Labour and Employment with 11 projects, and Ministry of Water Resources with 10 projects,” SERAP stated.