President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking the National Assembly’s approval to spend N5.2 billion on maintenance of an undisclosed number of electrical and mechanical installations in 2022.
The figure is captured in the draft national budget estimate he submitted to the joint chambers of the federal lawmakers in October. This is an annual routine maintenance. Many people say the request is outrageous. The sum of N3.854 billion was allocated to this activity in 2021.
This newspaper had also reported that the President would construct the presidential wing at the state house medical centre – a 14-bed facility – with N21.97 billion in the same year if the National Assembly approves the budget.
Apart from that, the presidency is seeking to spend another N104.86 million on maintenance of office buildings in the Villa.
Some civil society organisations say most of the budget estimates are purely wasteful and inappropriate. They expect the lawmakers notorious for rubber-stamping most executive requests to cut down the incredible estimates, and cancel out those not seriously needed. But that is most unlikely.
“For a government that routinely allows medical practitioners to go on strike on the excuse of lack of resources and a President that routinely indulges in medical tourism, this vote is a waste. It is better channelled to the health of the entire population. Save this vote,” convenor of Citizens Wealth Platform, Barrister Eze Onyekpere said.
In similar breadth, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is proposing to build a new official complex with N2.5 billion.
That is a breach of the federal government’s 2022 budget call circular earlier released on August 19, 2021. According to the call circular, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are not to initiate new projects unless they can demonstrate that adequate provisions had been made for ongoing projects and the projects must be such that they would be completed not later than 2024.
The argument is that the complex does not qualify on any of the stated parameters.
In allocating capital budget resources, MDAs were enjoined to accord priority to ongoing projects, especially those nearing completion that fit into government’s current priorities.
On the flip side, the Agriculture Ministry is planning to spend N1.3 billion for the provision of potable water in rural communities in the six geo-political zones of the country.
As usual, the vague estimate does not have specific locations, a situation many say could easily lead to mismanagement of public funds.
And despite the existence of the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation in Ilorin, Kwara State, dedicated solely to agricultural mechanisation, the ministry is also proposing to spend N705.86 million on support, promotion and development of agricultural mechanisation.
Public analysts say the intended excesses in the draft budget must be cut to focus on government’s developmental objectives and priorities. They expect the National Assembly to tinker with the bogus estimates.
The proposed retained revenue is N10.13 trillion (including grants and the revenues of 63 government owned enterprises), which is 24.8 per cent more than the 2021 revised budget’s retained revenue of N8.12 trillion, and a deficit of N6.26 trillion which represents 3.39 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Many believe that government can save about N5 trillion with financial discipline in the 2022 fiscal year.
Barrister Onyekpere said universal health coverage will not be possible without a universal and compulsory health insurance scheme for its financing.
“Thus, the National Assembly working in collaboration with state legislatures should make health insurance compulsory and universal,” he stated.
He also said that road sector financing could be improved through a road fund and road management authority that will raise funds from various sources, including toll gates, special surcharge on some designated commodities, etc., special purpose vehicles.