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REPORT: After receiving N34m, Buhari’s economic adviser fails to provide research study

THE Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President (OCEAP), headed by Adeyemi Dipeolu, received a sum of N34 million in 2017 to fund research studies on the economy but fails to make this research available, The ICIR has learnt.

In 2016, the office requested for a capital allocation of N78 million, out of which N47.8 million was budgeted for research and allocation. In 2018, the office’s capital allocation is N60 million, from which N19.9 million is budgeted for research while the rest goes to the purchase of vehicles, computers, office furniture and so on.

Conversely, in the 2017 budget, the total capital cost for the office was N60 million, with every penny going into research and development. The budget went on to specifically state the project title as: “Provision of evidence-based research studies on all aspects of the Nigerian economy that will help Mr. President in formulating sound strategies and policies.”

According to a document obtained from the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation stating cash releases to all government bodies, out of the entire sum, N35 million was given to OCEAP as part of the first batch of releases.

Out of this sum, N33.7 million was utilised at the end of the fiscal year, leaving a balance of N1.29 million.

OCEAP requests for N60 million to conduct “evidence-based research studies”

The studies are, however, nowhere to be found — over four months since the 2017 budget implementation period ended and over a year since money was released for the research project.

The website of the State House under which the economic adviser’s office is subsumed has no traces of any documentary uploads, let alone one from the economic adviser’s office.

What happened to OCEAP’s website?

The Office of the Chief Economic Adviser has been existing since the return to democratic rule in 1999 when former president Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Philip Asiodu in this capacity. Since then, eight other Nigerians have served in the same capacity.

The office, at the moment, does not make use of any official website to upload its reports and through which its activities can be monitored. But this has not always been the case.

In 2011, under the leadership of Nwanze Okidegbe, a website was created for the office with the address: www.oceap.gov.ng. The platform, however, became unavailable soon after Dipeolu succeeded Okidegbe as the economic adviser.

Snapshots from Wayback Machine, a digital archive of contents on the internet, reveal that the website was still accessible on October 3, 2016. Also, in the past, it contained various reports, policy briefs and downloads related to the nation’s economy.

October 3, 2016: Snapshot of old OCEAP website

Uploaded documents included: Transforming Nigeria: The Reforms and Results of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (2010 – 2013) produced by the Office of the Secretary to the Government; the Transformation Agenda (2011 – 2015): Summary of Federal Government’s Key Priority Policies, Programmes and Projects; and a Midterm Report of the Transformation Agenda: Taking Stock and Moving Forward.

The third report was written by a committee, which included the Chief Economic Adviser to the President.

‘Not under my office’ — Dipeolu denies responsibility

Dipeolu has told The ICIR the research project named in the budget is not related to his functions, suggesting he is not in charge of the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser.

In reaction to a Freedom of Information request for the research studies, he wrote in a letter dated October 9: “This is … to inform that the Budget Item ‘OCEAP85893258’ is not under the Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice President. Thank you.”

Dipeolu denies responsibility for budget item

But who is the Chief Economic Adviser?

On August 10, 2016, NTA, a Nigerian government-owned TV station, reported that President Buhari appointed Dr. Adeyemi Dipelou as Economic Adviser.

But the letter from the State House implied that Dr. Dipeolu is not the nation’s Chief Economic Adviser, and a recent disclosure by former Minister of Aviation,Osita Chidoka noted that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has in fact not appointed anyone as the economic adviser.

The former minister made this allegation on Wednesday during an interview session on Channels TV.

“We have a situation in the economy where the government has no economic adviser,” he said. “We do not know what the philosophy of the economy that this government has.”

To support his claim, Chidoka later tweeted that the federal government has only appointed a “Special Adviser to the President on Economic Matters in the Office of the Vice-President”. But is there a substantial difference between the two offices?

Before Buhari’s ascent to the presidency, it was customary for presidents to appoint a Chief Economic Adviser. But under the present administration, the closest appointment to this is that of Dipeolu as “Special Adviser to the President (Economic Matters), Office of the Vice President” — as written on the official release. He was appointed to this role on November 9, 2015, and was officially sworn in in August 2016.

The administration also appointed 11 Special Assistants and Senior Special Assistants (note: not advisers) on various economically related issues such as on Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).

However, of all appointees, only Dipeolu has been noted as a member of the Economic Management Team alongside Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Minister of Budget and Planning, Minister of Finance, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria among others.

This was a role previously played by the “Chief Economic Adviser”.

Also noteworthy is the fact that money has always been budgeted for the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser to the President (OCEAP) since the Buhari took office in 2015. Not only that, some of these budgeted amounts have been cash-backed and withdrawn from the national treasury.

Presidential spokesperson confirms Dipeolu as CEA

Laolu Akande, the spokesperson to the Vice President, was not available when he was contacted for clarification. Texts sent to him at 02:57 and 02:59 pm on Wednesday have also not been replied.

Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, has however confirmed to The ICIR that indeed Adeyemi Dipeolu is serving as the nation’s Chief Economic Adviser.

“…We would like to confirm the person presently acting in the capacity as Chief Economic Adviser,” The ICIR asked Mr. Shehu in a text message.

“Dr Adeyemi Dipeolu,” he responded.

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