• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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FG hooked on squandermania as Nigerians suffer daily

Budget blues: Nigeria shortchanges its future, health with underfunding

Despite rising inflation, widespread poverty and insecurity, the Federal Government is seen as more interested in squandermania than providing essential services to ease the economic realities of the recent removal of petrol subsidies.

In a country where more than half of the population lives in deep poverty, with bread now a luxury item, the Federal Government’s 2024 budget showed a sustained culture of profligacy such as renovation of presidential residences rather than reducing the cost of governance to free up more resources for critical sectors like health and education.

For instance, Femi Gbajabiamila, President Bola Tinubu’s chief of staff, is expected to get a total allocation of N21 billion in next year’s budget estimates presented to the National Assembly by the president last month. Before becoming the chief of staff to the president in June this year, Gbajabiamila spent 20 years in the House of Representatives.

A breakdown of the proposed figure, however, shows that Gbajabiamila proposed N104 million for the purchase of computers and printers, while ‘local travel and transport for international training,’ will cost N579 million, and ‘miscellaneous’, N103 million.

A further breakdown of the proposed budgetary allocations shows that the reconstruction and repair of the CoS’s official residence will gulp N10 billion.

Responding to the development, Gbajabiamila on Wednesday said the 2024 allocations to the office of the chief of staff are meant for the renovation of the Presidential Quarters in Dodan Barracks and the Vice President’s Lodge in Lagos.

“The allocations are meant to overhaul the information management and communications facilities in the Presidency to meet modern standards and to provide vehicles for the staff of the Presidency,” Gbajabiamila said on X, formally known as Twitter.

Further findings by BusinessDay showed that out of the N4.45 trillion allocated to the ministry of finance, Service-wide Vote alone accounts for N4.41 trillion or 93 percent.

Service-wide vote, also known as Consolidated Revenue Fund Charge, is the country’s contingency fund in the annual budget – the sum of money kept for unforeseen expenditure.

“It’s a big issue that has gotten worse over the years. Our budget needs retooling because this process is not working,” Oluseun Onigbinde, CEO of BudgIT said on X.

Data from FG’s 2024 Appropriation Bill also showed international and local travels of President Tinubu, Vice President Kashim Shettima, and their aides in 2024 may gulp N15.961 billion.

According to the details of the budget, the president will spend N6.992 billion on foreign trips and N638.535 million on local travel.

The vice president will also spend N1. 847 billion on international and local travel.

According to the budget proposal, Shettima will spend N1.229 bn on foreign trips and another N618.399 million on local travels.

The document also revealed that the State House headquarters will get N40.61bn, State House Operations (president) N9.1bn, and State House Operations (vice president) N3.14bn.

Also, N260.5m was provided for the office of the chief security officer to the president, the State House Medical Centre got N1.13bn while the State Lagos Liaison office got N632.4m.

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 meagre wages.

“The 2024 expenditure demonstrates the chronic self-centeredness and disconnects from ordinary Nigerians by public officials,” Nduka Omeje, a trader in Apo Resettlement in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The situation would have been different for Omeje if the palliatives promised by the Federal Government had reached her, but she has received nothing.

“The noise about the palliatives is no longer topical,” she told BusinessDay.

For Sherifat Ademuloye, a widowed mother of six, living in Ikorodu for more than a decade, the scenario is the same.

“Life is difficult,” said Ademuloye, who runs a street-food stall.

Read also: Peter Obi insists 2024 budget is ‘prodigal

After the death of her husband, Ademuloye has been finding it hard to sustain her children on a meagre income. Unable to pay for their school fees, she relies on support from aid organisations to cover the cost of education.

“The little money I make is never enough,” Ademuloye said. “I can’t afford to buy them other food.”

Ademuloye listens to the radio (her primary source of information) and has high hopes of benefiting from the Federal Government’s N3.27trn spending on palliatives and loans to cushion the effect of the fuel subsidy removal.

“Exotic cars for lawmakers are the new priority, not the scanning, screening and verifying who and who among the poorest poor will receive a paltry N25,000 monthly,” Ademuloye said.

Ademuloye is among the millions of Nigerians struggling to make a living as the country’s inflation rate of 26.72 percent has eroded the value of what many have.