Under previous administrations, a chief or politician who pays a visit to the Aso Rock Presidential Villa is handed $100,000 or $50,000 when leaving says Senator Babafemi Ojudu.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on political matters made the revelation in an interview with Leadership newspapers.
Senator Ojudu pointed out that his principal has put a stop to the practice as such cash gifts are now diverted into productive services and the provision of infrastructure.
In the words of Ojudu, “In the past, somebody would come to Aso Rock, a chief or a politician. And they package $100,000, $50,000 for him. The man gets back to his hotel room, dashes his driver $500, dashes his PA $1,000, his girl friend $200. This has stopped. Such money must go into productive services, medical services, infrastructure etc.
“Let’s do something that is enduring for our people. All these stop gap measures, going as subsidies, we’re going to stop them. Let’s make our refineries work. Don’t let us make millionaires of a few and poor people of millions.
“These are the kinds of problems we’re having now. In the process of change, all these things are bound to happen. This is one year, but again, this new government never envisaged things will be this difficult.
“When we were campaigning, oil was still $112 per barrel. Nobody could have thought it would just crash and become $33 per barrel. We’re now on $40 per barrel. Nobody envisaged that our foreign reserve could go as low as $28 billion. We were importing food. We were importing medication, we were paying school fees of millions of Nigerians abroad. What the government is doing now is: let’s take subsidy away from these individuals that are getting it. Let’s take money off bringing in food, let’s grow what we’re going to feed on. This is going to take some time; it’s not something that is going be done overnight. Nigerians will have to be patient. I can understand. People call me every day that, they can’t pay school fees, they can’t pay house rent. But again, if we want Nigeria to grow, if we want sustainable development, we cannot but breakaway from the past. It is this breaking away from the past, that is causing the pain we’re going through as a nation.
“What people are saying is just like saying ‘bring back corruption’. They don’t know what corruption has done to this country. You vote about a billion naira for a hospital, and N800 million is taken away by corruption, and you have only N200 million left. So, there won’t be medication, there won’t be ambulances etc you can imagine how many people die due to such act. They stash such money outside the country. They buy houses in America, buy private jets etc.
“Do you know the havoc that corruption has done to this country over the years? That is why we now have half-baked graduates. Do you know what corruption has done to our infrastructure over the years? Look at the Abuja-Lokoja Road. What you have now is not the original design. Look at how much has been voted for that road, and several other roads across the country. How long are we going to continue with that kind of situation? We have a president that is sympathetic, who is not going to build a new house, who is not going to buy a house in London, or Dubai; but who has dedicated his life towards solving our problems. The damage of so many years is not going to be corrected in just 10 or 11 months.
“We also have to understand that people who are victims of the fight against corruption are trying to fight back. The Escravos that supplies gas has been damaged. Pipelines are being burst all over the place. We need to continue to appeal to our people to realise that this damage you’re doing, you’re doing it not to Buhari, not to Osinbajo, you’re doing it to yourself.”
It would be recalled that recently, there has been a lot of controversies regarding the operations of the Aso Rock. There was a rift over the alleged rent paid in Aso Rock as presented in the 2016 Budget.
Former head of state, Ibrahim Babangida, lend his voice to the criticism currently accompanying the 2016 national budget that was presented to the National Assembly last year December by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The former president in his reaction to the ongoing criticism trailing the alleged payment of rent in the Aso Rock, requested to know who the landlord is.
He also advised the country’s politicians, saying: “I strongly believe our Politicians are well fed. The Aso Rock food budget should be reviewed. Aso Rock is not a place to feed Politicians.”
In the same vein, there are reports that security operatives attached to the presidential villa in Abuja are discontent and upset over their unpaid allowances.
The Punch reports that the situation may degenerate into a security breach, if it is not addressed quickly.
Speaking with The Punch on Wednesday, February 10, multiple sources who pleaded for anonymity noted that “loyalty of the security operatives had dropped drastically” over the non-payment of the allowance.
It was gathered that under former president Goodluck Jonatha all security agents attached to Aso Rock enjoyed what they called Risk Cautious Allowance (RCA).
The security officers include those of the Nigerian Army, Nigeria Police, Department of State Services, Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Federal Road Safety Commission and Fire service.