The National Assembly is facing a crisis, as some legislators are furious that the principal officers, such as Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, are allegedly siphoning the N500 billion palliative funds meant to ease the suffering of poor Nigerians following the removal of fuel subsidy, sources familiar with the matter told Peoples Gazette.
A breakdown of the N500 billion subsidy palliative spending obtained by The Gazette over the weekend showed that Mr Akpabio ordered four Lexus L600 VIP 2023 models worth N1 billion to upgrade his personal fleet, while Mr Abbas earmarked N9.5 billion for renovating the Zazzau guest house and other villages in Kaduna.
Mr Abbas allocated a staggering N500 million for the “construction of block of three classrooms with furniture and toilets” in 12 wards and N200 million for the “reconstruction and refurbishment of Zazzau Emirate guesthouse” in Kaduna.
Sahara Reporters published its version of the controversial expenditure on Sunday, but The Gazette was also working on the story since last week after aggrieved lawmakers contacted us with documents and details about how the fraud was being perpetrated.
The lawmakers spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being sanctioned by the leadership.
Deputy Senate President Barau Jibrin, emboldened by Mr Akpabio’s purchase of the latest Lexus vehicles, appropriated nearly N4 billion for the installation of solar streetlights in certain local governments in Kano, a project considered irrelevant for a state known as Nigeria’s poverty capital because it has over 10 million poor people.
How the streetlights and guesthouse renovation will improve the living standards of the millions of disadvantaged Nigerians in those states remains unclear, especially because President Bola Tinubu said the N500 billion taken from the supplementary budget was for the purpose of alleviating the economic hardship caused by the subsidy removal.
But the key lawmakers, sworn in only two months ago, have begun diverting billions of naira through frivolous projects that may undermine Mr Tinubu’s efforts to better the lives of poor masses and make them resent his administration.
Lesser-ranking legislators, enraged by the palliative budget, have questioned the rationale of allocating such enormous sums on non-priority expenses and expressed fears that the N500 billion palliative might not serve the intended purpose if it was already getting looted from the top.
Lawmakers are known to award such contracts to firms they can manipulate, and an individual lawmaker could pocket as much as 70 per cent of the total amount of a single pet project, insiders said.
Lawmakers said if the national parliament succeeds in stealing the palliative without the public feeling its impact, the angry and impoverished masses may vent their frustration on Mr Tinubu’s government.
Messrs Akpabio, Abbas, and Jibrin did not respond to inquiries seeking comments on the matter.