SERAP Tells Senate Reject Proposed N15bn VP Residence
By Adedapo Adesanya
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Senate to reject the planned N15 billion for the construction of the vice president’s residence new building contained in the FCT 2023 supplementary budget.
The call was contained in a letter addressed to the Senate President, Mr Godswill Akpabio.
In the letter, dated December 2 and signed by SERAP’s deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation urged Mr Akpabio to use his leadership position “to promptly reject the plan by the Minister of the FCT, Mr Nyesom Wike to spend N15 billion for the construction of a befitting residence” for the vice president.
Mr Wike, while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on FCT, announced the plan to build a new house for the VP at the cost of N15 billion.
The 2023 supplementary budget contains N5 billion as the initial allocation to commence the project.
Aside from the VP’s house, Mr Wike also plans to spend N2.8 billion on media and publicity for the FCT.
The House already approved the budget as presented by the executive while the Senate is yet to concur.
SERAP condemned the “proposed wasteful and unnecessary spending that may be contained in the FCT 2023 supplementary budget,” noting that the country cannot afford wasteful spending at a time when it is facing a debt crisis.
“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,” SERAP stated.
The organisation asked the Senate to act in the best interest of Nigeria by removing the planned building of the new residence and the N2.8 billion publicity budget.
“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,” SERAP said.
SERAP described the planned spending as a “travesty,” adding that it is a fundamental breach of the lawmakers’ fiduciary duties.
“It is a travesty and a fundamental breach of the lawmakers’ fiduciary duties for the National Assembly to allow the executive to use the 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,” it stated.
SERAP also urged the senate president to ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to investigate the initial allocation for the project.