If you are one of those who felt outraged at the N78million of public funds spent by ex-governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State on his personal website then this will definitely shock you. The National Orientation Agency (NOA) paid a whopping $617,000 (equivalent to N123,400.00 at an exchange rate of N200 to $1) for a website that existed for just barely five months.
The website www.nigerianext.com, was designed to publicize the transformation agenda of the Goodluck Jonathan administration and promote the candidacy of the ex-president for the presidential election existed between the months of January-May 2015.
Jonathan ran as incumbent president under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but lost to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 28 general elections.
Documents obtained exclusively by Orderpaper.ng from the United States Department of Justice showed that in January 2015, the NOA contracted a firm to undertake public relations, lobbying and image laundering on behalf of the Jonathan administration. The brief revolved around the creation and content development of the website (www.nigerianext.com) at the cost of $617,000.
As demanded by the US Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, the US firm was mandated to file details of the transaction with the Department of Justice which then makes a report for purposes of regulation and inquisition as may be required.
The NOA on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria originally hired a United Kingdom-based firm, CMGRP UK Limited d/b/a Weber Shandwick (WSUK) to undertake “public relations, strategic communications and lobbying in the United Kingdom, United States and/or Nigeria.”
To execute the business, WSUK then contracted the Washington DC Office of CMGRP “to create a website (www.nigerianext.com) to promote Nigeria’s Transformation Agenda.”
Further details of the job as provided in one of the documents filled at the US Department of Justice on January 16, 2015 stated as follows: “The registrant (firm) has created a website (www.nigerianext.com) for the Government of Nigeria to promote Nigeria’s Transformation Agenda, which is a comprehensive plan to modernize the economy and improve public services and governance. The website was launched on January 6, 2015. The registrant (firm) is responsible for designing and building the website, maintaining the website, developing content for the website and promoting the website.
“The promotion of the website is expected to include paid digital promotion. The total budget for the website is $617,000 which includes all fees and expenses, including the paid digital promotion. The website is intended to provide international business executives and media with a better understanding of Nigeria’s Transformation Agenda.”
Meanwhile, checks on the web reveal that the site no longer functions as a message “this domain has expired” constantly appears each time an attempt is made to browse the website.
Several attempts to reach officials of the NOA were unsuccessful.
However, the NOA Director General, Mr. Mike Omeri, is alleged to have been deeply involved in the Jonathan presidential campaign and sources say he was one of those entrusted with huge responsibilities for which he received several funding running into Millions.
Meanwhile, tongues are already wagging at the outrageous cost of N123.4m for a website; a figure which several IT experts who spoke to orderpaper.ng say is a monumental rip-off no matter the level of digital promotion that was given to the site while it operated. According to Mr. Dipo Peters, a veteran web solutions provider and managing director of Zero One Communications, the sum expended for the website and digital promotions is “way above acceptable pricing by any global standard. A sub-fraction of that amount would have sufficed.”
Some members of the national assembly who were contacted on the matter expressed shock at the development. A member of the House of Representatives who did not want his name in print for now, promised to raise the matter in parliament once he independently verifies the need for parliamentary inquest.