SPOKESPERSONS at the State House are in disagreement about who is president Buhari’s economic adviser.
This conflict emerged as a result of a report by The ICIR establishing that money has been allocated and released to the Office of the Chief Economic Assistant to the President (OCEAP) for research studies in 2017, and the studies remain unavailable in the public domain.
While Laolu Akande, senior special assistant to the vice president on media and publicity has maintained that the administration only appointed a special adviser on economic matters for the vice president, in the person of Adeyemi Dipeolu, Garba Shehu, senior special adviser to the president on media, instead has said Dipeolu is the president’s economic adviser.
Based on Shehu’s confirmation, The ICIR on Wednesday reported Dipeolu as the head of the OCEAP, which according to records, has been paid N33.7 million to conduct “evidence-based research studies on all aspects of the Nigerian economy that will help the President in formulating sound strategies and policies”.
Following a text sent to Shehu on Wednesday asking him to confirm “the person presently acting in the capacity as Chief Economic Adviser”, the senior spokesperson gave the answer as “Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu”.
On Thursday, when he was again called for clarification, he said the Chief Economic Adviser works in the office of the Vice President and directed the reporter to “talk to Laolu”.
Laolu Akande has however insisted that Dipeolu has only served as a ‘special adviser’ to the president on economic matters, an office domiciled in the office of the vice president.
“….You are saying because Mr Shehu told you that Dr Dipeolu is the ‘chief economic adviser’ when his title says he is a ‘special adviser’…,” he said. “So, if somebody told you too that I’m the minister for information, you’ll just believe it because he said it.”
He explained further: “The office of the ‘chief economic adviser’ is in the office of the president. It is different from the office of the ‘special adviser on economics’. It [OCEAP] is domiciled in the office of president, but because … the vice president is the head of the Economic Management Team and since he has been given the responsibility to handle the economy, the president now appointed a special adviser in the office. That is not to say he is the chief economic adviser to the president.”
The vice president’s spokesperson also said those who can provide information on how OCEAP receives budgetary allocation are directors and civil servants at the office of the president.
“The control of those resources, if there is anything coming in or going out, will have to be in the office of the president,” he explained.
“The man [Dipeolu] doesn’t know anything about the money. He doesn’t have control over the money. Since there is no chief economic adviser, the people that manage the resources of the office of the president are the ones that can tell you what happened to the funds.”
N326m budgeted, N86.2m released for capital projects: Who is in charge?
In spite of the explanation by the VP’s spokesperson, it remains unclear who has drafted and submitted budgets for the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser and authorised withdrawals from allocations released from the nation’s treasury.
Between 2015 and 2017, a total of N326 million has been budgeted for the office’s use — nearly half of this (N162.3 million) going into capital expenses.
In response to a text message requesting information about who is responsible for OCEAP’s budget and expenditure, Shehu directed The ICIR to the special adviser on economic matters whom again he identified as Dr Dipeolu.
“Dr Dipeolu, the Economic Adviser to the President should be able to answer your questions,” Sheu replied.
Note: In an earlier report by The ICIR, the meta description read: “Dipeolu received the sum of N34 million in 2017 to fund research studies on the economy but has failed to make it available for scrutiny.” It has however been corrected to appropriately read: “The office received the sum of N34 million in 2017 to fund research studies on the economy …”