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SERAP, others flay VP’s N21bn home

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and some other Nigerians have expressed anger over the expenditure of N21 billion to build the official residence…

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and some other Nigerians have expressed anger over the expenditure of N21 billion to build the official residence for Vice-President Kashim Shettima, at a time of economic hardship in the country.

The new residence of the Vice President, located adjacent to the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation was commissioned on Friday. It has an office for the wife of the Vice President, a mosque, a chapel and recreational facilities, among others.

According to SERAP: “The reported expenditure of 21 billion Naira on the residence of the Vice President, Mr. Kashim Shettima, is wasteful and a clear instance of misplaced priorities by the Tinubu Administration”.

Other Nigerians who reacted to the development equally said the government should have channeled the resources spent on the project on rescuing millions of citizens from the prevailing difficulties they are facing struggling to sustain their livelihoods.

Some others were also worried that the media was denied access to the facility when dignitaries set out for its tour during the commissioning exercise on Friday in Abuja.

Speaking at the ceremony, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Minister, Nyesom Wike, disclosed that the contract for the vice president’s residence was first awarded in 2010, at the cost of N7 billion.

He added that the contract was abandoned in 2015, but that in its determination to complete the edifice, the current leadership of the FCT, in January this year, sought for and obtained approval for a review of the contract to the sum of N21 billion, leading to its completion 14 years after commencement of the project.

SERAP, in its reaction through a statement made available to Daily Trust on Sunday said: “In the face of growing poverty, surging national debt and inability to pay a working minimum wage, the wasteful spending is a violation of the constitutional oath of office, the Code of conduct for public officers and international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a state party, particularly, the UN Convention against Corruption; and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The spending is a grave violation of public trust aimed to simply satisfy the personal lifestyles of high-ranking public officials at the expense of more than 130 million poor Nigerians”, the civil society organisation in the statement issued by its Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawale Oluwadare”.

It said further that: “The money spent on the VP’s residence funds could be better spent on providing the much-needed infrastructure to stimulate economic growth, addressing the challenges of over 20 million out-of-school children and the menace of insecurity in nearly all parts of the country”.

Aside SERAP, some other citizens then described the planned expenditure as “wasteful”.

When the NTA Network News posted the video of the commissioning on its official Facebook page on Friday, many Nigerians condemned the government for they described as “extravagant spending” even as it urges citizens to endure the current economic and social hardship in the country.

Others wondered why a government that was reluctant to pay N100,000 as minimum wage for workers will spend up to N21 on a building for the vice-president alone.

Osita Nicholas Osita wrote: “Every four years construction of VP residence. wasting billions on a house one office holder will live for just 4 yrs. But your citizens are living in squabble, face me I face you slums, no running water, no access roads. Wish a country”.

Umar A DG who also commented on the post wrote: “Yet there is no money to make life better for the poor”.

Another commenter, Lawal Shehu Kaura described the project as ‘misplaced priorities’.

SERAP had in December last year appealed to the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio to reject the proposition by the FCT minister to spend almost N15 billion for the completion of the project.

In a letter signed by Mr. Oluwadare, it said the plan to spend that amount on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president was a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations.

“The Senate has a duty to ensure that Wike’s proposed spending is entirely consistent and compatible with the constitutional provisions, including his oath of office. All public officials remain subject to the rule of law”, the civil society organisation said in the letter.

Earlier on Friday, there were also reactions to reports that the media was barred from touring the facility alongside other personalities that graced the commissioning of the project.

According to media reports, the moderator of the commissioning ceremony, Eugenia Abu, named selected guests permitted to undertake a tour of the facility.

“The people that will be following the president into the residence for a guided tour. We are going to have all serving national assembly members, all members of the federal executive council, and of course, from the top-ranking position of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, the Deputy Chief of Staff will also be in attendance, and also the Julius Berger Team,” she announced.

“These are the persons that are going to be accompanying Mr. President into this residence. There will be no press; there will be no coverage. This is the official residence of His Excellency, the Vice President; it is a private space.

“Those who are going to be given the privilege to come along with him are those who have been so carefully chosen. I’d like to advise that we have no press, no coverage, no media”, she reportedly said.

No media aide of the FCT minister was available for comment on the reactions of SERAP and other Nigerians to the N21 billion project and the exclusion of the media to the facility tour up to press time yesterday.

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