Nigerian Govt.counters El-Rufai’s claim Jonathan spent N64bn on independence anniversaries

Contrary to recent claims by the Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, that former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration spent billions on Nigeria’s independence anniversary celebrations between 2011 and 2014, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation has confirmed that the governor lied.

Following the decision by President Muhummadu Buhari to approve only N70 million for the 55th Independence anniversary celebrations on October 1, 2015, Mr. El-Rufai had sparked a controversy with his claim that the immediate past administration wasted N64 billion on the same event in five years.

The governor had given a breakdown of the purported outrageous expenditures on his Facebook page as follows: N13 billion spent in 2011; N15 billion in 2012; N14 billion in 2013, and N22 billion in 2014.

Associates of the former president, including the immediate past Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman, had kicked at Mr. El-Rufai’s claims, dismissing them as “blatant tissues of lies” to discredit the administration.

Mr. Suleiman stated in a strongly worded rejoinder that the total expenditure by Mr. Jonathan on independence anniversary celebrations between 2012 and 2014 never exceeded N333 million.

“The Goodluck Jonathan administration only spent N332.6 million on three independence anniversaries (2012-2014) and not the billions of Naira alleged by the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai,” an ex-minister had declared.

“For the record, a breakdown of our spending for this event between 2012 and 2104 goes thus: 2012 (N107.6 million); 2013 (N45 million) and 2014 (N180 million),” he said.

The former minister did not however provide the figures for the 2010 and 2011 expenditures. He said the figures, whenever they were made available by government, would most likely fall within the bracket as others, except the 2010 anniversary, which was the golden celebrations marking the country’s 50 year of independence.

He however, defended the increment in the 2013 anniversary spending of N174.8 million, which he said also covered the budget for the National Honours Award Investiture incorporated into the year’s celebration.

Although the award investiture could not hold in 2013, Mr. Suleiman said the approved budget was rolled over and utilized to organise the event the following year.

No official confirmation validated or disputed the claims and counter-claims by Mr. El-Rufai and the Jonathan administration’s loyalists until now.

In response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by BudgIT Nigeria on the raging controversy, the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation confirmed that indeed the Kaduna State governor lied.

In a response to the October 2, 2015 request by the Lagos-based online accountability and public finance platform, the Office of the SGF said governments (past and present) spent a total of N2.24 billion on the Independence Day Celebration/Centenary Actual Expenditure from 2010-2015.

The director (Finance & Accounts) in the Permanent Secretary’s Office, Mohammed Garba, said N1.7 billion was spent on the country’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2010, while no money was released for the celebration in 2011.

Similarly, about N107.6 million was spent in 2012; N45 million for 2013 and N180 million for 2014.

The figure also included the N70 million spent by the Buhari administration for the celebration last October.

Mr. Garba, however, explained that although former President Jonathan had given approval for N223.8 million for the 2013 celebrations, only N45 million was actually released to the OSGF.

He said about N138.14 million was also released by government for the Centenary honours awards.

Mr. El-Rufai could not be immediately reached for comments for this story.

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