• Says such high cost of governance can only happen in Nigeria

By Chinelo Obogo, Lagos

The candidate of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi, has blasted President Bola Tinubu for approving N3 billion to verify the national register of the poor.

This comes after one of the presidential aides, Bayo Onanuga confirmed that President Bola Tinubu, directed his Chief of Staff, Femi Gbajabiamila, to sign a memo authorising the suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Reduction, Betta Edu to spend from the COVID palliative fund.

A leaked memo seen by Daily Sun from the Chief of the Staff to the President, revealed that President Tinubu gave approval to Edu on September 14, 2023, for the release of N3 billion to verify the National Social Register, which was initially compiled under former President Muhammadu Buhari for cash transfers and other social investment programmes. Already, several firms have been awarded contracts from the N3 billion given out to the suspended minister but has now generated controversies and is a subject of probe.

Reacting to the development, Obi said in a series of posts on his X handle that he was not surprised as such spending has become a norm, describing the approval of the funds as a misplaced priority by the federal government when the country needed several reforms.

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“It is very surprising to hear that the sum of N3 billion was approved for verification of national register of the poor. This can only happen in Nigeria. I have maintained that we must decisively deal with the issue of cost of governance in Nigeria now as a matter of urgency. Sadly, this very huge amount approved just for verification of national register of the poor is more than three times the amount of N908, 699,435 which was budgeted for our National Library.

“This is happening at a time in our nation when we need all the manpower training to keep our work force productive. Our national library, a very critical infrastructure in our nation, seemingly abandoned, lacks books and educational materials. The same amount, would have made a significant impact, if prudently and transparently managed.

“More so, with more than half of our population battling with absolute and multi-dimensional poverty, one wonders why such a huge sum was approved for just verification of national register of the poor, when the same amount could have been directed towards actual poverty alleviation. This approval raises a fundamental question: how come the data for poverty alleviation has not been verified on a regular basis? The inability of we the leaders to prioritise our expenditure and focus on the critical areas of national development and national security, are the challenges weighing down on our nation today.

“Unless we begin to sacrifice our personal comfort for the good of society and begin to care more for the people, especially the less privileged ones, our nation will continue to grapple with all forms of societal ills caused by high level of poverty,” Obi said.