BusinessDay

Here are 10 frivolous projects in Nigeria’s 2022 budget

Despite Nigeria’s rising fiscal deficit, the decision of the federal government to include at least ten frivolous projects in its 2022 budget has again signalled another cycle of government’s ill-conceived and questionable decisions, BusinessDay analysis has shown.

The development makes a mockery of the government’s posture as cash-strapped, yet maintains habitual wastefulness that gulps over a trillion naira per annum among other overly expensive ventures.

Data from budget documents and BudgIT, a civic organisation driven to make public data more accessible across every literacy span, shows there are at least ten major questionable projects worth about N94.65 billion in Nigeria’s next budget cycle.

BudgIT, a foremost fiscal transparency group, states that the proposed projects are frivolous, suspicious and inflated and have asked the National Assembly to expunge the frivolous and suspicious items, and slash the ones seen to have been inflated.

Read also: FG’s 2022 budget: Ministries to spend billions on projects without location

Construction of gym for N300m

Despite having one of the world’s highest numbers of out-of-school children, 13.2 million, according to the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Nigerian government is planning to spend N300m on the construction of a recreational gym at the federal ministry of education headquarters in 2022.

“This is a misplaced priority given the lamentable state of public education infrastructure, the number of out-of-school children and the country’s outdated university curriculum in key courses,” BudgIT explained.

BudgIT recommends that the National Assembly should eliminate this line item because staff can explore paid subscriptions in private gyms.

“This sum should be wired to the procurement of classroom furniture and learning equipment in Federal Unity Colleges as the N200m proposed budget for this activity is grossly inadequate,” BudgIT said.

N150m for national air consultancy

In the 2022 budget, the federal government allocated a consultant fee of N150 million for the creation of Nigeria’s National Carrier which was launched in July 2018 at the Farnborough International Public Air show in London.

Considering the fact that N186 million and N190 million were allocated in the 2019 and 2021 approved budgets for the same line item, most public finance analysts raised red flags about the new amount in the 2022 budget with some describing the new allocation as a suspicious waste of public funds.

“The National Assembly should expunge this item and such funds should be used to provide additional screening points at the MMIA terminal and improve baggage scanning equipment (that leads to delays in loading passengers’ luggage),” BudgIT said.

N21.9bn for construction of a 14-bed clinic

The federal government also allocated N21.9 billion for the construction of a 14-bed Presidential Clinic at the State House Medical Centre, Abuja despite allocating the sums of N395 million, N416 million and N1.06billion in previous 2019, 2020 and 2021 federal budgets.

The Permanent Secretary, State House, Umar Tijjani, had in October said the physical construction of the clinic would commence November 1, by Julius Berger Nigeria (JBN) and is expected to be completed by December 31, 2022.

“The project was conceived in 2012 by the previous administration and the brief was produced. It was estimated at about N21 billion and the facility contains 14-bed space without a total area of 2,700 square metres. There will be underground and the first floor,” Tijjani said during a budget defence session with the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Intergovernmental Affairs.

He added components of the facility to be “two number operating theatres, two number executive suites, two VIP, two isolation and one six-bed isolation area.”

Nonetheless, BudgIT recommended that the budget be reviewed downwards by the National Assembly.

“The National Assembly should review this downwards. Savings from the revised allocation should be reallocated to refurbish and equip at least 500 dilapidated Primary Health Care Centres across Nigeria,” the organisation said.

Working capital of N400m for a national carrier

In spite of its failure to begin operations since 2015, the Federal Government is planning to spend N400 million as working capital on its proposed national carrier in the 2022 budget.

The proposed airline has been in the works for the last six years, drawing criticisms from many stakeholders who questioned the huge amount of money on the same line item which got working capital allocations of N2.29billion and N500 million in the 2020 and 2021 budget respectively.

“The federal government should let the private sector lead in this sector while FG creates an optimal regulatory environment,” BudgIT said.

BudgIT asked the National Assembly to expunge the item and recommend that the funds should be used to provide additional screening points at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) terminal and improve baggage scanning equipment that leads to delays in loading passengers’ luggage.

N22.52bn for purchase of motor vehicles

In the proposed 2022 budget, the Federal government allocated a whopping N22.52billion to 212 government agencies for the purchase of motor vehicles.

This spendthrift is coming at a time when Nigeria’s resources are thinning out due to a growing population projected to hit 400 million by 2040.

“The National Assembly should slash the allocations to Motor Vehicles across the board and reallocate the savings towards the purchase of shared Ambulance Vehicles and services especially for rural areas,” BudgIT, a civic organization that applies technology to intersect citizen engagement said.

N18.4 bn for monitoring and evaluation

In a year when at least 30 state governors and successors to President Muhammadu Buhari will be jostling for populous attention, the Nigerian government ranked the allocation of N18.4 billion for ‘monitoring and evaluation’ above improving economic growth or standard of living of its 0ver 200million people.

“This allocation is inflated especially as the majority of the agencies requesting these budget allocations already have M&E staff on their payroll, separate travel allowances to project sites, and allocations for vehicles amongst others key M&E cost drivers,” BudgIT noted.

It further asked the National Assembly to revise the M&E allocations of all agencies affected and reallocate the funds saved to strengthen the M&E function of the Budget and Planning Office.

N3.78billion for refreshments and meals

The federal government is also proposing the sum of N3.78 billion for ‘Refreshments & Meals’ for guests and government officials at 538 federal agencies scattered around the country’s 36 states of the federation.

According to BudgIT, this figure is a bit inflated especially as there is an additional N176bn allocated for “Meals for Government Schools/Institutions”.

“We recommend that the National Assembly significantly cuts the proposed allocation for meals and refreshment and redirect the funds to priority areas in the budgets of the respective MDAs,” the Organisation added.

N11.2bn for international travel and transport

Despite the warning from the Budget Office of the Federation for Ministry Department and Agencies to utilize local training as much as possible, the federal government has allocated the sum of N11.24bn for logistics and cost of International Trainings.

Most Nigerians are bewildered that the government is making plans to spend this huge money considering the fact that in the same 2022 budget a total of 58 Agencies have a budget for International Training summing up to N3.94billion, while 195 Agencies have budgets for travels for international training summing up to N7.3billion.

“Conferences and workshops can be now attended virtually, as such the National Assembly should slash this overall international travel budget by at least 50percent. Funds saved can be wired to other priority areas like the provision and rehabilitation of primary health care centres,” BudgIT suggested.

N1 billion for provision of road signages and others

The Nigerian government made a provision of N1 billion for road signages and other road furniture on federal highways scattered around major roads in the 36 states of the federation.

The proposed 2022 sum is twice the 2021 approved budget and 5.5 times 2020 approved budget for the provision of road signages and other road furniture on federal highways

Recall, the federal government allocated N453.79 million, N183.44 million, N500 million to this line item in 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively.

N15 billion for subscription to shares in international organisations

In 2019, 2020 and 2021, FG approved N28bn, N15bn and N15bn for this line item. This line item has another N15bn allocation in the proposed 2022 budget.

“We are unsure of the ultimate use of these subscriptions to the nation. We recommend that the amount be reviewed by the National Assembly,” BudgIT concluded.

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