By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
The United States government will soon send over a fresh $308M looted from our treasury by late head of state and former boss of President Buhari, General Sani Abacha.The Attorney General of the Federation,Abubakar Malami in a statement published on the website of the American embassy,said the funds will be put into the 2nd Niger bridge,the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the ,Abuja-Kano expressway.Evenly spread across all 3, that would mean N37bn to each and a significant raise in levels of completion.
The Senate under Bukola Saraki if you remember withheld a $29.9 bn loan approval on the ground that there was nothing sent to it indicating what the money would be used for.Eventually Buhari got approval for a $6 bn loan and is now before this senate seeking its nod to go for about $22.6 bn which Saraki’s red chamber did not approve.Though many doubt it will happen,the senate claims to be considering a public hearing before it makes a decision.
Buhari has set forth as his reasons for seeking this fresh loan,the completion of ‘5 Legacy Projects’ which are the 2nd Niger bridge,the Lagos-Ibadan expressway,the Abuja-Kano expressway,the East-West road and the Mambilla power station.Also note that in 2018, Lai Mohammed specifically told nigerians that the Buhari administration had set aside $1.5bn for these same 5 projects.The monies that have been tied to these projects since their commencement are enough to build a world class city and it is time we wake up and start asking the right questions.
Former Minister of Works and Housing,Babatunde Fashola told nigerians in 2018 that the ‘main work’ for the 2nd Niger bridge would cost N210 bn.With the benefit of retrospection, ‘main work’ now very much appears government’s illusionary tactic to evade accountability.Just months later,the same government Fashola represented went ahead to award a N206 bn contract to Julius Berger Plc for its construction.To shock you,the contract was awarded after the spokespersons of both arms of the national assembly in a joint statement said unequivocally that there were allocations for the project in the 2016 and 2017 budgets that were NEVER UTILIZED; N12.5 bn in the 2016 budget and N7.5 bn in the 2017 budget.That means a total of N20 bn was supposed to go into the 2nd Niger bridge project but didn’t at a time a contract for its construction hadn’t even been awarded.
In December 2018, government released (not just approved), N33 bn for the construction of the bridge.Add that to the N20 bn the Senate said wasn’t used and that gives you N53 bn.If half of the Abacha loot ($160M) is sunk into Nigeria’s most expensive construction project, the Buhari administration would have paid for half of it already.The senate in justification of its slash in the funding of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway project to about N10bn in the 2017 budget accused the then Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola of lying to nigerians about the project and said only N26bn was released by Buhari out of the N40bn allocated to it.Give or take,government has so far spent much more than N40bn out of an estimated N168bn in the name of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.Especially if you consider also the $1.3bn Lai Mohammed mentioned.
Julius Berger like we all already know received an initial N50bn for the N155 bn Abuja-Kano expressway.Minus of course budgetary allocations and Lai’s $1.3bn largesse.The case of the East-West road project is a very curious one.It is estimated to cost N167bn and the Federal Government allocated N6.7bn to it in the 2017 budget and N20bn in that of 2018.In April 2019,the then Minister of Niger-Delta,Pastor Usani Uguru told the house of representatives that government had allocated it N24bn and just days later,he was telling the National Gas and Oil Host Producing Communities (HOSTCOM) that President Buhari had approved N100bn for its completion.
WHY IN THE WORLD DOES BUHARI NEED AS MUCH AS $22.6BN JUST TO COMPLETE THESE PROJECTS?.Just $2bn (N726bn) will start and finish the N220bn 2nd Niger bridge,the Lagos-Ibadan expressway estimated at N168bn,the N155bn Kano-Abuja expressway and the N167bn East-West road with N16bn to spare.Note that i said start and finish.These are all on-going projects where although the several dubious amounts of huge sums being tied to them may not be commensurate to what it is on ground,some work has been done.Why is Buhari trying to borrow money that will start and finish them about 20 times over?.
The man is mortgaging away the future of this country and is sure to feel much more relaxed now with a National Assembly leadership he helped put in place.If you didn’t back then,i’m sure now you are starting to understand why a sum as outrageous as N37bn would be allocated to the NASS for renovation.They need the money in place to be disbursed when issues like this come up.Fears of Buhari going for a 3rd term have abated after the man’s express denial of harbouring such intentions but the manner in which public wealth is being unaccounted for means Nigerians have to be wary of a last minute dollar rain for that purpose.
As things currently stand,experts have said we would at least spend the next 30 years servicing the debt Buhari has piled on us.Government itself estimated the Mambilla Power project to cost a total of $5.8bn.Even if we choose to over-look the many times government has told us it has set aside money for all of these projects and have not asked what the money ended up being used for, $7bn is more than enough for what he has listed as ‘legacy projects’ including Mambilla.Nigerians need to push for the senate to make its hearing public.Let Buhari or whoever is coming to represent him explain to the country why they need $22.6bn to ‘complete’ on-going projects when much less than half that sum would start and finish them.
El Rufai was saying weeks ago that the Federal Government had spent N1.5trn on the Power companies in 5 years.They know the companies will not raise their voices for fear of losing their licenses.I ask-what degree of imbecility does it require to keep pumping in as much as N1.5 trn without any tangible results?.Especially into companies the FG itself regulates.
They have spent N1.5 trn on power with supply now worse than it used to be and by the time Buhari leaves in 2023 (If he does),they may have surpassed Obasanjo’s N3 trn.Remember that he was asking to borrow $1bn for power from the World bank just last year.Ponder no more on why Buhari will never take Obasanjo’s power probe seriously.If he does, people will start asking about his own expenditure.
The entire Abacha loot will go into projects Buhari has been financing and wants to get a whole $22.6bn loan to complete.Even a blind man can see something is not right.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is based in Kano
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily