• Sunday, May 19, 2024
businessday logo


Presidential yacht, luxury cars in extra budget draw flak

Presidential yacht (1)

Widespread criticism has greeted the billions of naira earmarked for a presidential yacht and luxury cars, among others, in the N2.1 trillion supplementary budget submitted by President Bola Tinubu to the National Assembly.

The document seen by BusinessDay shows that N5.09 billion is allocated for the yacht, N2.9 billion for sport utility vehicles for the Presidential Villa, and another N2.9 billion for the replacement of operational vehicles for the presidency.

Presidential yacht

The yacht is listed under the Nigerian Navy’s proposed capital expenditure of N42.3 billion.

The sum of N1.5 billion was budgeted for vehicles for the Office of the First Lady, an office that is not recognised by the constitution.

The government allocated N4 billion for the construction of an office complex in Aso Rock while N2.5 billion will be used for the renovation of the Vice-President’s official residence in Lagos. In all, N28 billion is proposed for the State House.

It plans to spend N12.5 billion on the Presidential Air Fleet.

The presidential fleet includes Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Critics say politicians are not adopting the austerity measures being forced on the people.

“There is no way we can explain that we are budgeting this amount for vehicles at this time in this country,” Paul Alaje, a financial analyst and senior partner at SPM Professional, told BusinessDay.

Gulfstream 550
Gulfstream 550
Falcons 7X
Falcons 7X
AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopter
AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopter

“Some of the things in the budget like the construction of bridges are commendable. However, we must know why we are spending so much money on vehicles knowing what Nigerians are currently going through.”

Some have said the supplementary budget may not get any resistance from lawmakers, who despite public outcry, spent over N75 billion on procuring official vehicles for themselves. It scaled through the second reading at both the Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday.

“Presidency and National Assembly spend billions on luxurious cars while Nigerian citizens pay billions in taxes,” Kalu Aja, a personal finance expert, said. “Nigerian citizens defend the Presidency and Legislators as their wages get inflated away.”

Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, executive director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, said the major items of the budget defeat any rational thinking, given that the country currently faces both economic and financial difficulty.

He said: “This supplementary budget is full of dubious and suspicious items. Why are we budgeting monies for the Independent Electoral Commission for an election that has already been taken care of? The states confirmed receiving monies for the election but we are seeing it in the budget again. This is suspicious spending.

“Also, the office of the first lady is not recognised in the constitution, so why are we budgeting for that? This is financial recklessness. Nigerians are suffering and the Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led administration seems not to be concerned about it.”

Kabir Isah, an Abuja-based public affairs analyst, said the government may have to look at more borrowing to fund the budget.

He said: “The government at this time should be looking for ways to boost revenue and not planning to spend the lean revenues on irrelevant items. It is even worse to know that there are no plans to patronise our local vehicle manufacturers.

“This government is not even considering that many Nigerians are unable to feed themselves, the price of petrol is impacting the prices of other items consumed by the average Nigerian. And the president is expecting us to bear with him.

“Since the removal of fuel subsidy which has pushed up the cost of transportation, one would expect that we should have government-owned buses everywhere across the country. We are not seeing them and the president wants to spend this much to import vehicles. This is insensitive. ”

Sam Adeyemi, senior pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, while speaking on a Channels Television programme on Wednesday, stressed the need for leaders to make sacrifices.

He said: “All the contracts going out of the MDAs (Ministries, Departments and Agencies), even the oversight functions for the National Assembly, it is money driving it.

“The people in leadership need to make sacrifices now for that collaboration to happen but I promise you most people in leadership now are not thinking sacrifice, they are thinking survival.”

Oluwatobi Ajayi, the CEO of Nord Motors, a local automobile company, expressed his disappointment, saying the lawmakers ignored their proposals despite the potential benefits for the economy.

The legislators’ choice to buy foreign vehicles was seen as a missed opportunity to promote ‘Buy Nigeria’ and support local industries, he said.

He said on social media platform X: “The National Assembly buying foreign-built vehicles at this time is dispiriting, especially when you consider that we are all trying to promote buy Nigeria to grow the Naira.

“A sad part of this is that we (assemblers and manufacturers of vehicles in Nigeria) actually proposed our vehicles and explained how it would make a lot of financial, technical and political sense to buy from us but they didn’t even entertain the idea for long.”

Tinubu and some of his aides and other government officials have repeatedly pleaded with Nigerians to be patient with the administration as the prices of most goods and services have surged owing to the removal of petrol subsidy, risimg inflation, and the unification of exchange rates, whereas the incomes of many citizens have remained stagnant.

Wilson Erumebor, a senior economist at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, said petrol subsidy was no longer sustainable, “but so too is corruption, wastage and inefficiencies. Let’s reform that government budget and hold them accountable for every kobo spent”.

“The best gift the President can give Nigerians right now is to carefully scrutinise the federal government budget and remove those frivolous items that we see every year. Business-as-usual for a N26+ trillion FG budget will be disastrous,” Erumebor said on X.

Nigeria still has a host of economic reforms on the table including growing its tax collection rate, increasing its non-oil revenue, and reducing its N77 trillion debt to local and foreign creditors.

However, growing tax revenues in a country like Nigeria will require sacrifice from businesses and individuals who point at decrepit infrastructure to make the case that tax revenues are not efficiently utilised.

“A broke and unproductive country is buying a presidential yacht and cars worth billions for the first woman and NASS?” Tunde Martins said on X .
Read also: Uproar as Tinubu’s supplementary budget allocates N6.9 billion for luxury vehicles

Critics noted that many Nigerians have long believed the government only exists for a privileged few and not for a population of over 200 million, many of whom are struggling to afford the most basic standard of living.

“At a time like this, there is no car the president wants to buy that he does not already have. His convoy prior to being sworn in was already presidential. So why, at a time like this? More of the same keeps us in a state of same of the same,” said Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in Lagos State in the 2023 general election.