The controversy surrounding 2016 budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari is to say the least alarming, disheartening and raised fundamental issues on transparency, patriotism and good governance.
A thorough look at the budget entitled “The Budget of Change” presented to the joint session of the National Assembly by President Buhari on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 clearly showed that corruption is still much very alive in the Nigeria’s public sector.
The country was taken aback when the Senate Leadership announced that the budget presented to the Legislative House by the President was missing, the Presidency later admitted that the document was withdrawn.
An in-depth study of the budget reveals it is a collection of fraudulent and frivolous allocations, many of which are clearly meant to support the opulent lifestyle of public officials. Many of the allocations were either repeated several times, over-priced or are obvious misplacement of priorities.
A particularly disturbing instance of misplaced priority is the allocation to books for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office. It is a paradox that office of the Vice-President has more money allocated to it for books than what each of the federal polytechnics in the country is getting for the same purpose.
While N4,906,822 was proposed to be spent on books by Osinbajo, the total allocation for books for 11 out of 22 federal polytechnics, which actually have book allocations, was a mere N3,832,038.
In fact, of all government-owned education institutions across all levels, only two got more allocations for books than what was proposed for the Vice President. The institutions are Federal University of Technology, Owerri, N6,886,157; and the National Open University of Nigeria, N6,466,895.
The need for this huge book allocation for the vice president’s office is even more baffling considering the fact that last year, N7,525,135 was also budgeted for the same purpose.
Another interesting allocation is that of the N3,890,629,221 the Presidency earmarked to spend on the State House Medical Centre, N308million will go for constructing a new VIP wing at the clinic and despite allocating N3.21 billion to health equipment and supplies for the State House Medical Centre, a separate line item under “State House HQTRS” lists a N203,273,602 budget for drugs and medical supplies and the vice president was also allotted an additional N7.54 million for medical expenses.
In comparison to the State House Medical Centre’s N3.8billion allocation, only N2,666,853,303 was proposed in the budget for the construction of hospitals nationwide.
Another clear case of fraudulent allocation is the proposed N322,421,971 which the Presidency allocated to link a cable to the drivers’ restroom at the presidential villa. Another N213,873,953 was proposed for linking of a cable from Guest House No 9 generator house to the gate.
The president allocated N618,604,265 for the installation of electrical lighting and fittings at the villa, which equate to spending N1.6 million daily installing lighting and fittings and another N371,733,964 for the installation of electrical distribution boards and other cables.
The most ludicrous part of the budget was the allocation of N22,321,880 budgeted for residential rent at the State House. Does that implies that Aso Rock is not wholly owned by the Federal Government?
While World Bank record indicates that more than 70 percent of Nigerians are living below poverty line, in the draft budget, a total of N436,054,626 was allocated to meals and refreshment, canteen/kitchen equipment, foodstuff and catering materials for the president and the vice president.
One other noticeable defect of the budget is the issue of the same item with different prices.For instance in the budget proposal presented by the President, several prices were quoted for the same product. For example, several prices were quoted for a unit of Toyota Hilux van.
The same model of van was valued at N1,264,941 by the Gashaka Gumti National Park; N5,700,000 by the Nigerian Natural Medicine Development Agency; N6,500,000 by Federal Government Girls’ College Owerri; N7,500,000 by the Ministry of Technology, Akure; N8,855,000 by the Federal Government Girls’ College, Gumi Tambuwal; and N9,178,142 by Federal Government Girls’ College Umuahia. The proposed cost of the same vehicle in the budget of the Federal Government College, Ezzamgbo, Abakaliki is N10,000,000. It was valued at N11,147,675 by the Federal Technical College Lassa; N12,888,016 by the Ministry of Health; N13,500,000 by the Federal Government College, Okigwe; N15,970,515 by the Foreign Service Academy; N26,600,000 by the Office of the National Security Adviser; N27,273,523 by the Federal Technical College, Ikare; and N27,660,000 by Federal Government Girls’ College, Kazaure.
The Buhari led administration should realize that this act has caused a lot of damage to the reputation of the government and questions the integrity of the presidency in its anti-corruption crusade.
Although, the Presidency has blamed senior civil servants which it described as “budget mafias” as the brain behind the budget fraud, it is also of note that most of the questionable allocations are those from the State House.
Although the Federal Government, through the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed insisted that the budget proposal was not padded because the total figure voted for all ministries had not exceeded N6.08tn, the government still needs to do more in-house cleansing with its key officials so that embarrassment caused by the last budget presentation may not repeat itself.
We support the sack of the Director-General (Budget), Mr. Yahaya Gusau and mass sackings in the Budget Office due to the embarrassing errors in the budget and the irregularities as action in good direction.
The Presidency must also set up a high power panel team comprising seasoned economists and experts in budget matters to as a matter of urgency unravel those behind the embarrassing budget, they should also recommend appropriate sanctions.
We believe that all those recommended for sanctions will be decisively dealt with by the Federal Government.
The President should also assemble a team of economic experts, financial experts and technocrats who will make sure this type of embarrassment does not befall the Presidency and Nigeria again.