Shocker! N17Billion approved for Nigeria Independence celebration

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David Mark and Dimeji Bankole
David Mark and Dimeji Bankole

Barely few weeks to the commencement  Nigeria’s Golden Jubilee Independence celebration, the House of Assembly has approved a whopping sum of N17billion for the occasion.

The approved amount is far above what Nigerians have envisaged as the nation already has  kicked against an initial budget of N10 billion for the celebration.

Even, the  National Assembly which has now approved the amount   had previously criticised the budgeted N10billion  for the celebration calling it excessive.

But in a bizarre move, the House reportedly  has turned round to approve the more whopping figure  leaving the entire nation speechless and with several unanswered questions as to how  N17 billion would be disbursed within two months.

President Goodluck Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan

The President had initially asked for N16.4 billion for the anniversary but later reviewed it downwards to N9.48 billion following severe criticisms from the public, civil society groups and even the lawmakers.

When the request for N16.4billion was turned down on July 7 and returned to the Presidency, President Goodluck Jonathan scaled down the request to N9.48 billion in a revised supplementary budget.

However, the lawmakers have now approved N17.195 billion, an excess of about N7.715 billion for the anniversary.

Assembly bonanza

In approving the new revised budget, the national assembly accommodated the additions under the capital expenditure budgeted for the ministry of the Federal Capital Territory and the ministry of aviation.

For instance, the president had requested only N97 million for the ministry of Federal Capital Territory for the replacement of the carpets in the International Conference Centre, but the lawmakers ended up approving N3.8 billion for the ministry.

This is N2.83 billion above what was requested.

Also, the Aviation ministry which had tendered a N2.25 billion request, out of which N1 billion will be used for the renovation of the Abuja airport, N1 billion for the provision of additional parking and N250 million to buy equipment for safe aircraft parking at five airports, it got an approval of N7.135 billion from the lawmakers.

The addition to the ministry’s request was in excess of N4.885 billion.

Tight-lips

Unlike the original budget proposal sent to the national assembly by the executive, which had detailed explanation for each allocation, the budget as approved by the lawmakers had no details, and was arranged in lump sums for subheads only.

Both secretariats of the House and Senate committees on appropriation which handled the computation of the budget denied any knowledge of the details saying they believe details of the approvals will be made available in future.

Nigeria,  a nation in perpetual chain?
Nigeria, a nation in perpetual chain?

Also, Ayo Adeseun, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on appropriation, said he will offer explanations on a future date. Mr. Adeseun who was reacting to questions said he will need to consult the records before offering the needed explanation.

However, Iyiola Omisore, the chairman of senate committee on appropriation did not reply to enquiries nor returned calls.

In addition to the N7.715 billion excess made to the revised anniversary budget, every other fund requested by the president for the anniversary was approved as requested.

The designing and hosting of the Nigeria @ 50 website for 2 years will still cost N6 million, anniversary Logo- N30 million, and anniversary parade including march past, fleet review, aerial display – N950 million.

The ministry of foreign affairs plans to use N600 million to organise celebrations for Nigerian missions abroad and the information and communication ministry’s plan to use N1 billion to insert special reports on Nigeria in local and international media were also approved.

The women affairs ministry budget of N105 million for seminars for women and children and 50th anniversary party for 1000 children were also approved as requested.

Frivolous and extravagant

Hungry Nigerians sufferingThe Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) had in criticising the anniversary budget described it as “wasteful and insensitive.” The NLC spokesperson, Onah Iduh, said considering that the mass misery and poverty in the country has been made worse with the prevailing cash squeeze due to the global economic crisis, the over N10 billion budgeted for the anniversary was “very frivolous and extravagant.”

He said, “As far as the NLC is concerned our leaders must realise that the logic, essence and philosophy of nationhood is purely the welfare and security of citizens through humanitarian, progressive and egalitarian ideals enforced through the instrumentality of government.

These are fundamental obligations that the Nigerian political leadership has abdicated in the past 50 years.” However, the Minister of Finance, Olusegun Aganga, while defending the budget said the public perception that the money was wasteful amid pressing economic problems, was wrong because it was tied to capital expenditure.

He had said, “We just tied them to the anniversary budget to make things faster. We are renovating Lagos and Abuja airports, for example.

Both airports should measure up to international standards normally. We are doing that and putting in place standard security systems so that the airports will be up to standard.

These are places people will visit first. There are many other beneficial projects tied to this budget.

Rather than fault the budget, people should ask, what is the money being spent on?”

Source:

Emmanuel Ogala, Next.com