26 December 2013

Nigeria: Authority Stealing - Jonathan Budgets Millions for Non-Existing Aircraft, Boats in Foreign Embassies

The 2014 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Goodluck Jonathan last week contains fraudulent request for funds.

In what clearly appears a ploy by officials to brazenly steal public funds, the Federal Government is asking the National Assembly to approve about N30million which it purportedly plans to spend on fueling aircraft and boats owned by Nigerian embassies abroad.

The fraudulent request is coming when government officials know that none of Nigeria's foreign mission owns a plane or boat.

Details of the 2014 Federal Budget presented last week by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to the National Assembly on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan, revealed that the foreign affairs ministry is asking for about N30million to cater for these phantom expenditures.

Officials claim Nigeria's foreign missions in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Ethiopia, Algeria, and Mali would need an average of N1.785million each to fuel aircraft, and another N2.381million each to fuel boats during the year.

Similar provisions, concealed under the general fuel and lubricants subheads, were made for the embassies in Turkey, Lebanon, and United Arab Emirate, UAE.

The budget for the mission in Mali also has ludicrous demands for aircraft maintenance cost (N638,365); boat maintenance cost (N635,435), and railway equipment maintenance cost (N999,8240).

When released, these funds will simply go into the pockets of corrupt officials since the embassy does not own aircraft or boat and has no railway line to maintain.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ogbole Odeh, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview in Abuja on Tuesday that the provision for aircraft fuel cost in the budget for the foreign missions was strange, as the federal government does not maintain aircraft in any of its embassies abroad.

"Aircraft fuelling cost? This sounds strange to me. I have never heard of such," Mr. Odeh said, in response to an enquiry by PREMIUM TIMES . "What is normal is motor vehicle or generator fuelling costs. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Nigerian Missions abroad maintains an aircraft. Or what purpose is the railway equipment maintenance supposed to serve? I don't know. It sounds ridiculous."

This is not the first time PREMIUM TIMES has uncovered fraudulent fund requests smuggled into budgets by corrupt officials.

Earlier this year, this newspaper revealed how the Federal Government made provisions for about a quarter of a billion Naira in the 2013 budget for fuelling and maintaining electricity generators in Nigerian embassies abroad where, indeed, they had no such need.

Although some embassy officials denied being aware of such provisions in their budgets, indications are that the federal government would still purportedly spend about N872.46million on generator fuel costs in its foreign missions across the world this year.

For instance, the government has budgeted about N5.815million to be spent by Nigeria's Mission in New York on plant/generator fuel cost, in addition to about N3.813million set aside for electricity charges.

In Washington DC, about N199,674 would be spent on plant/generator fuel cost during the year, while another N3.124million would be spent on electricity charges in a country widely known to have stability in electricity supply as the least of its worries.

Similarly, in London, a provision has been made in the budget for about N1.641million to be spent on plants/generator fuel cost, apart from about N20.441million set aside for electricity charges.

The Nigerian mission in South Africa hopes to spend about N5.921million on electricity charges, in addition to about N1.445million on plant/generator fuel cost during the year.

Unlike Nigeria, most of these countries have steady electricity supplies and it is not known why officials continue to demand millions to fuel generators.

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