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Furore as SERAP, other Nigerians raise eyebrows over N21B VP Shettima’s new official residence

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Furore as SERAP, other Nigerians raise eyebrows over N21B VP Shettima’s new official residence

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, declare project ‘wasteful, misplaced priority’

Samuel Adesola, Abuja

Due to the biting economic hardship in the country, a civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project and some Nigerian citizens have kicked against expending the princely sum of N21billion on erecting a new official residence for Vice President Kashim Shettima.

On Friday, the palatial structure, which is located adjacent to the office of the Secretary to Government of the Federation, was inaugurated. The facilities in the state-of-the-art building include an office for the wife of the Vice President, a mosque, a chapel as well as recreational facilities, among others.

Expressing its dissatisfaction with the development, SERAP in a statement said, “The reported expenditure of 21 billion Naira on the residence of the Vice President, Mr. Kashim Shettima, is wasteful and a clear instance of misplaced priorities by the Tinubu Administration.”

Speaking in the same vein, some other Nigerians in their reaction to the development, expressed regrets that government should have channeled the huge resources expended on the project towards assisting millions of hapless citizens across the country striving to feed themselves and their family members.

During the inauguration of the building last Friday, Federal Capital Territory Minister, Nyesom Wike, said that the contract for the VP’s new residence was first awarded at the cost of N7 billion about 14 years ago.

Wike stated that the contract was abandoned in 2015, adding that the current FCT administration, in its determination to complete the edifice, secured approval in January 2024,
for a review of the contract to the sum of N21 billion, a move which saw to its completion 14 years after the project originally commenced.

But SERAP, in its reaction through a statement by its Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawale Oluwadare, noted, “In the face of growing poverty, surging national debt and inability to pay a working minimum wage, the wasteful spending is a violation of the constitutional oath of office, the Code of conduct for public officers and international treaties and conventions to which Nigeria is a state party, particularly, the UN Convention against Corruption; and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” The spending is a grave violation of public trust aimed to simply satisfy the personal lifestyles of high-ranking public officials at the expense of more than 130 million poor Nigerians.

“The money spent on the VP’s residence funds could be better spent on providing the much-needed infrastructure to stimulate economic growth, addressing the challenges of over 20 million out-of-school children and the menace of insecurity in nearly all parts of the country”.

Other Nigerians, who expressed their dissatisfaction with the amount spent on the project, described it as “wasteful”.

Also, many Nigerians while commenting on the video of the event posted on Friday by the NTA Network on its official Facebook page, decried the decision of the government to expend such a huge sum on the project at a time the average Nigerian cannot even afford to earn a decent living.

They condemned the government, saying such expenditure was “extravagant spending” for an administration that had been appealing to Nigerians to continue to endure the current economic and social hardship.

So many others also expressed surprise that a government that had rejected pleas to pay above N60, 000 as minimum wage to workers will expend such a huge amount on a structure to house the vice-president and his family members alone.

One of them, Osita Nicholas Osita wrote, “Every four years construction of VP residence. wasting billions on a house one office holder will live for just 4 yrs. But your citizens are living in squabble, face me I face you slums, no running water, no access roads. What a country”.

Also commenting on the post, Umar A DG wrote: “Yet there is no money to make life better for the poor”.

Similarly, Lawal Shehu Kaura said the project was a ‘misplaced priority’.

In December 2023, SERAP had appealed to Senate President Godswill Akpabio to reject the proposition by the FCT minister to spend almost N15 billion for the completion of the project.

SERAP had said in a letter signed by its deputy director that the plan to spend N21billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president was a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations.

“The Senate has a duty to ensure that Wike’s proposed spending is entirely consistent and compatible with the constitutional provisions, including his oath of office. All public officials remain subject to the rule of law”, SERAP had said in the letter.

Reports however said that at the end of Friday’s inauguration of the VP’s new official residence, journalists were barred from touring the facility along with invited guests and senior officials of government present on the occasion.

Moderator of the inauguration ceremony, Eugenia Abu, was said to have reeled out the list of selected guests permitted to undertake a tour of the facility, excluding the media.

Abu reportedly announced, “The people that will be following the president into the residence for a guided tour. We are going to have all serving national assembly members, all members of the federal executive council, and of course, from the top-ranking position of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President, the Deputy Chief of Staff will also be in attendance, and also the Julius Berger Team,” she announced.

“These are the persons that are going to be accompanying Mr. President into this residence. There will be no press; there will be no coverage. This is the official residence of His Excellency, the Vice President; it is a private space.

“Those who are going to be given the privilege to come along with him are those who have been so carefully chosen. I’d like to advise that we have no press, no coverage, no media.”

However, none of the officials of the FCT Ministry could be reached for comments on SERAP and other Nigerians’ reaction to the N21 billion project as well as the barring of the media from the facility tour of the building.

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