Forget partisan politics, Nigeria’s 2024 budget is inflated, full of ambiguities

Besides partisanship and politics of regionalism, there is something fundamentally wrong with Nigeria’s 2024 budget: It is inflated and contains a number of items that should never be there.

Economy Post has copiously analysed the 2024 budget and flagged areas where there were possible inflations and items that were deemed superfluous.

The main issues with the budget range from duplication of items to ambiguities of line items and location of projects in suspect areas, among others.

Real story: Humanitarian ministry

Economy Post identified N369.99 million suspicious and ambiguous items in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation’s 2024 budget, formerly headed by the suspended Ms Betta Edu.

READ ALSO: Ten months after grabbing power, Tinubu wobbles on security, leaves economy in tatters

Several items are unclear and fail to meet basic principle of specificity.

One line item is tagged, “Assessment, Identification of gaps, informed decision-making, accountability, learning and alignment with strategic objectives ultimately leading to more effective and efficient sectoral development,” which is estimated to gulp N25.437 million. Budget analysts say this item has no accounting meaning as it is as ambiguous as it sounds.

Another line item is tagged, “Performance management and strategic planning,” which is set to cost N15.109 million. A budget analyst, Mr Simon Uguru, said this item was ambiguous and a mere play on words.

Ms Edu is still serving suspension for asking a civil servant to pay N585.190 million grant meant for vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom State into a private bank account of one Oniyelu Bridget Mojisola, who she described as “the project accountant.”

Ministry of youths ‘dubious budget’

The Federal Ministry of Youth Development budgeted a total of N3.917 billion on local training, travels, data bank, fuel, and what it called “annual budget expenses and administration,” Economy Post found.

A breakdown of the 2024 budget shows that while N2.592 billion is budgeted for local training, N150 million has been set aside for “youth data bank.” A total of N478.559 million is being used to fuel generators and motor vehicles in the ministry.

The ministry budgeted N53.329 million for an inexplicable “annual budget expenses and administration” and N647 million for travels.

READ ALSO: Amid acute hunger, agric ministry budgets N5bn to install transformers in Senate president’s constituency

Headed by Ms Jamila Bio Ibrahim, a medical doctor, the ministry will spend taxpayers’ N142.406 million on staff welfare and another N370.750 million on “office stationeries and computer consumables.”

Financial analysts have described the budget as dubious and generic, stating that the ministry had set itself up for failure.

“I can see N1 billion in the budget to be used to build youth villages and another N800 million for the rehabilitation of youth development centres. So, what is the difference between these two?” asked a former senior bank worker, Mr Simon Uguru.

“By the way, what is the meaning of “youth data bank?” If what they mean is to build data on youths, can’t they request data of young people from the National Identity Management Commission or other agencies like the Independent National Electoral Commission?

“Moreover, the ministry deserves to tell Nigerians why it is spending over N2 billion on local training. Who are they training? Staff members or young Nigerians? If they are training Nigerian youths, how many will be trained? How many consultants will be engaged? And to think that the ministry will spend another N94 million on consulting is laughable,” he said.

Energy commission’s inflated Land Cruiser

At a time governments across the world are cutting the cost of governance, the Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN) set aside N190 million in the 2024 budget to purchase a Land Cruiser Jeep for its Director-General/Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Abdullahi Mustapha.

On Jiji.com, the price of a 2023 Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep is N160 million, according to Economy Post‘s checks. The 2022 model costs N135 million.

On autocheck.com, the 2022 brand costs N108.015 million. However, the ministry is spending N190 million on the Land Cruiser.

Similarly, the Energy Commission of Nigeria plans to spend N260 million on 4 Hilux vehicles, which means N65 million for each. Checks on Autocheck Africa shows that its 2023 model costs N56.515 million, while the 2022 and 2021 brands are sold at ₦55.015 million and ₦46.515 respectively.

Jiji.com prices range from N49 million to N64 million. The agency did not specify whether it would buy new or used vehicles in the 2024 budget.

Wasteful investment forum

Similarly, the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment is setting aside N500 million in the 2024 budget for “investment promotion, image rebranding and roadshows.”

It also earmarked N1 billion for the “survey, feasibility and development of investable assets for foreign and local investments,” Economy Post had earlier reported.

Analysts consider these items as wasteful and ineffective considering that tens of road shows and investment drives embarked upon by the ministry in the past yielded little or zero results.

READ ALSO: Inside the ‘dubious’ 2024 budget of Ministry of Youth Development

They also wonder why the ministry cannot take existing lists of investable assets published by professional organisations and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), but is bent on developing a new one at the cost of N1 billion.

“Nobody needs to embark on road shows to convince investors that their environment is right. A new investor from Norway will ask Norwegian companies in the country how they are doing,” Dr Adewunmi said.

“If the answer is in the negative, no one comes. You can embark upon 20 road shows, but if you don’t put your house in order, nothing happens. So, for me, this is a total waste of resources because the Nigerian business environment isn’t right. The minister should concentrate on making Nigeria competitive for trade, investment and industrialisation.”

Health ministry retreat

Also, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is spending N300 million for a ministerial retreat just as the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has earmarked N938.403 million for the monitoring and evaluation of primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in the 2024 budget.

The NPHCDA, an agency under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, set aside N173.027 million for “PHC project/programme planning, review and operational research.”

The agency is yet budgeting N259.576 million for “PHC ICT including development of e-learning systems for sustainable PHCs,” including N106.633 million for “budget monitoring and expenditure tracking” for 2024.

READ ALSO: Health ministry, agency budget N300m for retreat, N938m just to monitor health centres

These items are deemed by analysts as generic and tell little stories about what the agency plans to do with the money.

Agric budget for Akpabio

Amid acute hunger ravaging Nigerians, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security has devoted N5 billion to install new transformers and cables in Senate President, Mr Godswill Akpabio’s constituency.

Mr Akpabio represents Akwa Ibom North West zone. The district will also be getting 21 out of 118 projects planned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in 2024.

While Mr Akpabio’s zone will get the highest number of projects from the ministry in 2024, some food-producing states will receive nothing.

Benue State, for instance, which is the largest producer of cassava, mangoes, and oranges, as well as second largest producer of yam, and third biggest farmer of rice, did not get anything special from the budget. Jigawa, Nassarawa, Kaduna, Yobe, among others, got no special allocations in the ministry’s 2024 budget.

Ningi’s allegation

On March 9 2024, Chairman of Northern Senators Forum, Mr Abdul Ningi, said a BBC Hausa interview that the 2024 budget passed by the National Assembly was N25 trillion, while the one being implemented by the presidency was estimated at N28.7 trillion.

“I said we have established without reasonable doubt about N25 trillion so far as nexus in the budget. That means there is money, and then there is project and then there is location. Money, project, location, but we are yet to ascertain three trillion naira of that budget,” the Bauchi Central senator said, as reported by Channels TV website.

“We have established three trillion in the budget; we have not established its location and place. I don’t want any nonsense Senator to come here; if it is a cross I will have to carry, I will carry it.”

After facing intense pressure from senators, Mr Ningi backtracked, claiming that he was thoroughly misrepresented but insisted that he stood on his earlier position and was ready to be suspended.

In response to Mr Ningi’s allegation, Special Adviser for Information and Strategy to President Bola Tinubu, Mr Bayo Onanuga, fired back at the senator, saying that his allegations were merely figments of his imaginations.

READ ALSO: 2024 Budget: Agric research institutes to spend 65% allocation on salaries, allowances

“To begin with, President Tinubu on November 29, 2023 presented a budget of N27.5 trillion to the joint session of the National Assembly made up of N9.92 trillion recurrent expenditure, Debt Service N8.25 Trillion and Capital Expenditure N8.7 Trillion. This was widely reported. He did not present a budget of N25 Trillion.

“Contrary to the strange view expressed by Senator Ningi, there was no way the Senate could have debated and passed a N25 trillion budget that was not presented to the National Assembly. We don’t expect a ranking Senator not to pay due attention to details before making wild claims. It is also important to let Nigerians know that the budget that President Tinubu signed into law on January 1, 2024 as passed by the National Assembly was N28.7 Trillion. The National Assembly, in its wisdom, increased the amount proposed by the Executive by N1.2 Trillion.”

Ningi has been suspended by the Senate for three months.

While Mr Ningi may not be completely accurate, he laid bare a major problem of the Nigerian budget, which is budget padding/inflation.

According to former Central Bank of Nigeria Deputy Governor, Prof Kingsley Moghalu, the Nigerian budgets, including the 2024 appropriation bill, were often being manipulated by civil servants, making it nearly impossible for any president to achieve any meaningful result from it.

READ ALSO: For shutting down economy 4 times in January 2024, South-East Nigeria loses N355bn

Prof Moghalu said this in a recent Arise TV interview, stressing that Nigeria needed a kind of marshal plan and must “consider floating or issuing a N20 trillion bond to finance some projects in railways in housing in agriculture that will be nationwide across 36 states using land as a resource and as the backup for that issue and creating 5 million jobs within three years, that’s one possibility.”

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