■ THE non-existing Office of the Chief Economic Adviser (OCEAP) to President Muhammadu Buhari got N46.86 million in the 2021 budget approved by the National Assembly. This is the sixth time the non-existing office is getting a budget approval from both chambers of the National Assembly.
The office, which clearly has no presidential appointee and personnel to account for monetary approvals allocated to it, has been receiving funds from the government coffers for six years.
The ICIR had reported in 2020 how the OCEAP got N496.8 million in five years without an appointee to answer for the monetary disbursements.
As of July 2020, data from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) revealed that N116.97 million had been released to the OCEAP out of the N496.8 million cumulative budget.
In 2016, the office got N78.17 million as its capital budget from a total budget of N142.21 million. The following year, it received N60 million from N106.86 total approved budget.
Another N60 million was approved for the same OCEAP in 2018 from N106.86 total approved budget. By 2019, capital budget to the office dropped to N42.23 million from N89.08 million approved budget.
In 2020, reviewed capital allocation to the OCEAP further dropped to N19.71 million, from total approved budget of N51.77 million for the office.
But the 2021 approved budget shows that N46.86 million was approved for the controversial office which has no appointee.
The official website of the OCEAP – ‘www.oceap.gov.ng’, which was supposed to help Nigerians understand economic policies of the president, is currently inactive.
“Database connection error (1): The MySQL adapter ‘mysql’ is not available,” it read when The ICIR visited. This was exactly the message seen by this reporter while verifying the portal in August 2020.
OCEAP allocation tagged as overhead, office missing in State House website
Though there was no provision for personnel cost and capital allocations in the OCEAP budget, the N46.86 million sum was pegged as overhead.
Moreover, the OCEAP is excluded from list of offices under the presidency in the State House website.
Current offices contained in the websites include Office of the President, Office of the Vice President, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Office of the National Security Adviser and the State House Administration.
It is worthy of note that previous administrations from Olusegun Obasanjo had appointed chief economic advisers to provide sound advice on economic matters. The same appointment was made by former President Goodluck Jonathan whose chief economic adviser was Nwanze Okidegbe.
But Buhari is yet to have an appointee to occupy the office.
Adeyemi Dipeolu was only appointed as the special adviser to the president on economic matters in the Office of the Vice President.
Both Dipeolu and Laolu Akande, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s media aide, had exonerated the former from being the occupier of the OCEAP.
A responded Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Office also affirmed the president was yet to appoint anyone to manage the office.
“Please be informed that a Chief Economic Adviser to the President is yet to be appointed and therefore, this office is presently constrained in facilitating your request in respect to the above subject matter,” one Yusuf Ahmad Babatunde had responded in place of the yet-to-be-appointed chief economic adviser to the president.
Yusuf Ahmad Babatunde signed FOI response on behalf of yet to be appointed Chief Economic Adviser to the President.
Buhari’s stance on corruption
Buhari rode to power in 2015 on the political bandwagon of fight against corruption in Nigeria. He particularly vowed to fight against corruption and insecurity. These he restated during his inauguration into office after the election.
In 2018, he reaffirmed this commitment while receiving Thabo Mbeki, former South African President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
“We must fight corruption frontally, because it’s one of the reasons we got elected,” he told Mbeki. “We campaigned on three fundamental issues: security, reviving the economy, and fight against corruption. It’s the reason we got elected, and we can’t afford to let our people down.”
However, public perception shows the president is either partial with the anti-corruption fight or is not doing enough. Some have even described his scorecard on corruption as ‘failure.’
The 2019 Corruption Performance Index (CPI), released by Transparency International, which ranks nations based on the level of corruption perpetrated by its public sector, placed Nigeria at 146 out of 198 countries, scoring 26 of 100.●
Author: Olugbenga ADANIKIN
[Courtesy: International Centre for Investigative Reporting]