In a compelling statement, Peter Obi, the 2023 presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), has raised pertinent questions regarding the reported allocation of N15 billion for the construction of a new Abuja residence for Nigeria’s Vice President, Kashim Shettima. Obi’s critique, outlined in a statement published on his X account on Monday, December 4th, 2023, underscores concerns about the rationale behind such a significant financial commitment, especially in the face of pressing economic challenges.
Confirming the allocated budget, Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike, informed a House of Representatives Committee during the defense of the FCT N61.5 billion 2023 Supplementary Budget. The construction project, initially approved in 2010 at a cost of N7 billion, was revived by the current administration, with the revised cost reaching N15 billion.
Wike explained, “The construction of a new residence for the vice president was approved in 2010 by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) at the cost of N7 billion, but the project was abandoned. The current administration has opted to initiate the project’s construction, and the contractor has revised the cost to N15 billion.”
Reacting to this development, Peter Obi expressed his dismay, questioning the appropriateness of such an expenditure.
“I ask this question because it is hard for me to understand some of the recent happenings in our nation, in these critical times. The recent news about a budget provision of N15 billion for the construction of a new residence for the Vice President is both shocking and disheartening, considering the many important challenges facing our nation,” Obi stated in his written statement.
The former Anambra State Governor pointed out the incongruity between the allocated budget for the Vice President’s residence and the current economic realities, highlighting the existing residence and the significant budgetary gap for student loans.
“Again, during the budget presentation, I heard the sum of N3 billion was allocated for the renovation of the Vice President’s residence in Lagos. If we total all these sums, we would have budgeted the sum of N20.5 billion for the housing of the Vice President at this critical time when we are not just the world’s poverty capital,” Obi added.
Drawing attention to the financial disparity, Obi emphasized that the proposed budget for the Vice President’s residence is equivalent to the annual salary of approximately 3000 professors, funds that could be redirected for human capital development.
“The budget for the housing of the Vice President is about the annual salary of about 3000 professors. This is the finance needed to develop the much-needed human capital,” he highlighted.
In his call for a change in leadership approach, Obi referenced historical instances of sacrificial leadership, citing General Murtala Mohammed’s refusal of a presidential mansion in favor of flats for civil servants.
“Most Nigerians may not know that the popular 1004 flats in Lagos were a land allocated for the building of a Presidential Mansion for the then Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed. He sternly turned down the offer and instructed that the land should be used to build blocks of flats for civil servants. That is the kind of sacrificial leadership worth emulating,” Obi stated.