Spending spree in Govt Houses as hunger ravages the land


..Billions allocated to feeding, trips


While common Nigerians are being encouraged to tighten their belts in consonance with the economic realities of the times, their leaders across most Government Houses and offices seem to be doing the opposite.

A recent survey undertaken by Sunday Times in line with funds appropriated at the various Government Houses show a sharp contrast as the governors and their aides are still having a huge chunk of the funds allocated to their activities, with very little in most of the cases being reserved for critical human development activities like health and education.

A careful analysis of the spending pattern of the various offices show a deep-rooted interest in the acquisition of choice automobiles at various levels from states to the federal, a situation that will put the economy back by hundreds of billions, more so as majority of the choice cars are going to be imported.

The budget performance reports across the states show some mindboggling accounts indeed.

In Zamfara State, Governor Dauda Lawal, has spent a total N150million comprising N80,578,860 on foodstuffs and catering materials as well as N72,690,000 on welfare in three months (July-September 2023) while over N400million was spent on local and foreign trips. The government also spent N67,100,000 on item classified as “traditional gifts” while donations gulped another N154,620,050. In all these, nothing was allocated to any of the general hospitals in the state.

In Lagos state, reports indicate that N10.4bn has been spent in 4 months for running the Governor’s Office with an additional N11bn spent on servicing of meetings. In Ekiti reports indicated that Governor Oyebanmi has spent N293m so far on meals and refreshments and over N280m on welfare package just as his Osun state counterpart, Governor Adeleke, has spent over N2bn on trips alone.

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In Imo and Abia, reports indicate that over N650m has been spent on stationaries wand gifts, while the Abia Government through the governor, Alex Otti has spent over N927m in three months on meals.

A similar trajectory is seen at the national level too. Before the budget was approved, and facing increasing criticism, lawmakers eliminated $6.1 million earlier budgeted for a “presidential yacht” and moved it to “student loans.”

A Nigerian presidential spokesman said President Bola Tinubu had not given approval for the yacht, whose allocation was provided under the Nigerian Navy’s budget.

The National Assembly recently confirmed that more than 460 federal lawmakers will each get SUVs — reportedly worth more than N160m each — which, they said, would enable them to do their work better. Local media reported that the lawmakers have started receiving the vehicles.

“All of this speaks to the gross insensitivity of the Nigerian political class and the growing level of impunity we have in the country,” said Oluseun Onigbinde, who founded Nigerian fiscal transparency group BudgIT.

The allocations reminded many Nigerians of the economic inequality in a country where politicians earn huge salaries while essential workers like doctors and academics often go on strike to protest meager wages.

Such steep expenditure on cars in a country where surging public debt is eating up much of the government’s dwindling revenues show its “lack of priorities” and raises questions about the lack of scrutiny in the government’s budget process and spending, said Kalu Aja, a Nigerian financial analyst.

Kingsley Ujam, a trader working at the popular Area 1 market iAbuja, said he struggles to feed his family and has lost hope in the government to provide for their needs.

“They (elected officials) are only there for their pockets,” said Ujam.

It is not the first time Nigerian officials are being accused of wasting public funds.

“That tradition must stop, beginning with the president “making sacrifices for the nation, especially as vulnerable people in the country are struggling to make ends meet,” said Hamzat Lawal, who leads the Connected Development group advocating for public accountability in Nigeria.

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