BudgiT Uncovers Massive Fraud in Buhari’s 2021 Budget

By Akanimo Sampson

Public functionaries in Nigeria appear to be standing President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight on the head. The vice seems to be getting worse in the Buhari administration.

Those fueling the menace in the country are unrelenting in devising avenues to rip-off the country. Disturbingly, BudgIT, a civic-tech non-profit organisation in Nigeria has uncovered massive fraud in the 2021 budget of the Federal Government.

According to the group, the budget contains 316 duplicated projects valued at N39.5 billion.

BudgIT said its investigations further revealed that 115 of the duplicated projects were from the Federal Ministry of Health, describing the development as disturbing.

The Lagos-based firm disclosed this in a statement issued by its Communications Associate, Iyanu Fatoba, which was titled, “BudgIT highlights corruption loopholes in the budget process, calls for urgent budget reforms.”

The advocacy organisation said, “Our investigations into the 2021 budget revealed at least 316 duplicated capital projects worth N39.5bn, with 115 of those duplicate projects occurring in the Ministry of Health.

“This is very disturbing especially considering the health infrastructure deficit and the raging COVID-19 pandemic affecting Nigeria.”

It added, “Even worse, agencies now receive allocations for capital projects they cannot execute. For example, the National Agriculture Seed Council has an allocation for N400m to construct solar street lights across all six geopolitical zones.

“The Federal College of Forestry in Ibadan in Oyo State got N50m for the construction of street lights in Edo State. These are aberrations that need to be corrected.”

BudgIT also called on the government to audit security spending and close loopholes for corruption in the budget process.

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The Chief Executive Officer of the firm, Gabriel Okeowo, was quoted as saying, “2021 has been a horrifying year for Nigerians concerning security as the country combats mutating forms of crime and terror across all its 36 states.

“This is despite allocating over N10.02tn to security between 2015 and 2021. In the 2021 budget, the entire security sector’s allocation was N1.97tn, representing a 14 per cent increase from the N1.78tn allocated in 2020.”

The firm stated that increased resources allocated to the security sector meant that less money was available to develop other sectors.

It, therefore, noted that there was a need for more scrutiny of how these allocations were budgeted and spent.

BudgIT’s publication noted that various non-security-related government agencies now request and receive allocations for security votes, an opaque feature of the Nigerian security ecosystem devoid of accountability.

It stated that in the 2021 budget, a total of 117 federal agencies received allocations for security votes worth N24.3bn, despite many of these agencies already having allocations for security charges to cover each agency’s security needs.

Furthermore, BudgIT observed that the little budgetary allocation provided to other sectors were plagued with various loopholes for leakages and theft of public funds.

Okeowo enjoined the Federal Government to urgently block all loopholes in the budget creation and implementation process.