December 09, (THEWILL) – Details of Nigeria’s 2024 budget proposal, now before the National Assembly, reveal numerous items of high expenditure that will further drain the economy and make effective governance a mirage.
As it stands, most of the items border on ostentation and waste, thus negating the claim that “the budget reflects the Renewed Hope Agenda of the present Administration aimed at addressing current fiscal challenges and to improve domestic economic conditions.”
More disturbing is that part of the N27.5 trillion budget is to be financed through massive borrowing to bridge the N9.18 trillion deficit. This has the consequence of worsening the current high debt service-to-revenue ratio of 73.5 percent, which the Debt Management Office (DMO) describes as unsustainable and a threat.
Allocation to State House Headquarters rose to N40.61 billion as against N14.80 billion in the approved 2023 budget (before Tinubu’s N2.3 trillion supplementary budget), a rise of 174.4 percent.
The components of the State House Headquarters’ budgetary allocation include personnel cost which jumped from N1.65 billion in 2023 to N2.16 billion for 2024, while overhead cost followed the same trend, hitting N10.33 billion from N3.04 billion.
Aside from the purchase of new operational vehicles for N4 billion and new SUV vehicles for N2 billion, government proposes an expenditure of N6.4 billion for transport and travelling allowance (general), honorarium and sitting allowance of N365.75 million, welfare package N673.16 million and N6.42 million for books. The sum of N148.26 million is budgeted for fuel.
The office of the President, which was allocated N148.16 billion in the 2023 budget, is proposed to receive N271.68 billion in the 2024 fiscal year to accommodate, among other items, N7.63 in travels and transport (general); foodstuff, catering and material supplies of N254.27 million.
The office of the Vice President is to spend N1.84 million on travel and transport and N337.52 million on foodstuff/catering and material supply.
The budget also made provisions for the office of Chief of Staff to the President which include, N285.35 million for local training and N294 million for international training. A provision of N20.65 million is made for refreshment and meals while N290.60 million will be spent on the purchase of new vehicles.
In the same vein, the State House Medical Centre in Abuja is allocated N1.13 billion while the Lagos liaison Medical Centre will receive N632.43 million during the fiscal year.
Details of the budget revealed that the State House Lagos liaison office will undergo a massive transformation during the year, with the construction of a Presidential helipad at the Dodan Barracks and reconstruction of the clinic.
The document showed that total overhaul/renovation of offices and residential buildings will gulp N40 million while a whopping N100 million is allocated to new vehicles including 8 Prado Jeeps for the President and VIP movement.
“This will give you an idea of the waste, corruption and impunity that abound in this government. If we have a revenue challenge as we are made to understand, and people are suffering excruciating hardship, is this the right time to propose such bogus expenditures? Can’t we wait for a year or two and allow the economy to recover? I cannot see what cannot wait till the next one or two years,” said a top government official in Abuja who would not want his name disclosed.
The 2024 Appropriation Bill is predicated on the following key assumptions:
Oil Price Benchmark $77.96 per barrel
Daily Oil Production: 1.78m barrels per day
Exchange Rate: N750/$1
Inflation: 21.4 percent
GDP Growth: 3.76 percent
Economic experts have expressed doubts as to the realistic status of the assumptions especially concerning exchange rate, inflation and GDP growth.
Most of the expenditure items at the epic level of the executive – the state house and the presidency – cannot be considered urgent and important given our present economic realities. It therefore seems that Nigerians are working hard to keep the presidency and those at the top echelon of the executive comfortable in all ramifications.
If the document, now being scrutinized by the National Assembly is approved (and there is little doubt that the lawmakers seen by the public as ‘rubber stamp’, will not), Nigerians will be on another round of economic challenge that will deepen the existing wounds and expand the agony of the citizens.
The reason is that the President Bola Tinubu-led government has not shown that it is determined to salvage the battered economy from the eight-year catastrophe under his predecessor, President Muhammadu Buhari. This, therefore, suggests that President Tinubu and his team are out to engage in the lavish lifestyle that betrays their hypocrisy in telling Nigerians to tighten their belts while the leaders relish in pleasure.
While inflation and devaluation of the naira are taken into consideration, the wide gap between the 2024 proposed expenditures and the 2023 figures, particularly the resort to invest huge resources in new motor vehicles, office building, transport and travelling, food, allowances and other items of little priority, is mind-boggling.
About the Author
Sam Diala is a Bloomberg Certified Financial Journalist with over a decade of experience in reporting Business and Economy. He is Business Editor at THEWILL Newspaper, and believes that work, not wishes, creates wealth.