Business Features

How National Assembly ‘padded’ 2021 budget with over N500 billion

Before transmitting the 2021 budget to President Muhammadu Buhari, the National Assembly inserted several projects, as well as increased and cut down the budget of some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), according to an appraisal conducted by the Premium Times.

The 2021 budget proposed by President Buhari to the lawmakers was N13.08 trillion. But upon passage, the federal lawmakers were said to have used their legislative powers to increase the bill to N13.6 trillion, that is by over N500 billion.

By this, the legislators made the proposal larger than the actual estimates; while also inserting new, controversial projects to the budget, said to be numbering over 1000.

PREMIUM TIMES’ review of the budget shows that the Ministry of Finance was the most favoured institution in the increments made.

The sum of N5.4 trillion was initially proposed for the ministry by the president. However, upon assenting the new law, the ministry’s spending plan was put at N5.67 trillion, a hike of almost N300 billion.

About 97 per cent or (N296 billion) of the finance ministry’s increase went to Service Wide Vote (SWV).

The SWV is a major component of the nation’s yearly budget where a lump sum of money is kept to tackle unforeseen expenditure both for recurrent and capital.

The National Assembly also increased the budget of the Centre for Management Development, the newspaper stated.

President Buhari had initially budgeted N2.3 billion for the centre, but upon passage, its new capital expenditure was increased to N5.87 billion.

The increment, like those of other ministries and agencies, is billed to cater to a flurry of vague projects inserted by the federal lawmakers, many of which are constituency projects of the lawmakers.

These include “training and empowerment for selected LGAs of Enugu North Senatorial Zone” and “empowerment for selected young ladies and girls in Nsukka, Enugu State,” – each for N100 million.

Also, N250 million was budgeted for an “entrepreneurship development programme for youths and women in Sabon Gari LGA, Kaduna state.”

The ministry of agriculture got the next highest raise, from N179 billion to N280 billion.

Of the total N100 billion increase for the agriculture ministry, Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute, Ilorin, got N15.8 billion; Federal College of Marine Fisheries, Lagos, N12.3 billion; National Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research, N8.16 billion; and National Cereal Research Institute, Badeggi, N3.73 billion.

These increments are slated for projects like the “supply of fertilizer and grains in Safana/Batsari/Dan Musa Federal Constituency in Katsina state” and the “provision of empowerment materials to youths in some selected states in the North-East” each for N500 million.

Likewise, “solar street lights across Nasarawa-West Senatorial District” was priced at N200 million; and “provision of installation of 3-in-1 solar street lights in selected locations in Ikorodu 1 Federal Constituency, Lagos,” which would gulp N450 million.

Similarly, the lawmakers also increased planned spending of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Its new expenditure was put at N157 billion, up from N115 billion.

About 70 per cent (N29 billion) of the increase went to Nigeria Building and Road Research Institute Lagos (NBRRI).

The capital expenditure of the agency which was initially N20 billion is now N49 billion.

The N29 billion increment is for, among others, “construction of Ijebu-Igbo Heritage Centre in Ogun” and “rehabilitation and construction of Jauro- Bose road in Gombe,” each of which will cost N200 million; as well as the “construction of roads and drainages in Z/Kanwa and other locations,” which would gulp N800 million.

The “construction of internal roads within Ikorodu Federal Constituency” was billed for N500 million and “supply and installation of solar street lights in selected locations in Lagos,” will cost N667 million.

The sum of N446 billion was proposed for the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs.

However, the ministry’s new expenditure plan was jerked-up to N465 billion, about N20 billion increase.

The Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGS (OSSAP-MDGS) domiciled under the Humanitarian Ministry got the highest percentage increase in the approved budget.

The initial budget of the office was N250 million, but it is now N4.4 billion.

This increment is meant for the “supply of empowerment items to Katsina-North Senatorial District,” and “construction of solar powered boreholes in selected LGAs and supply of motorcycles in Katsina-South Senatorial District,” each at N500 million.

The office will “provide mini buses to selected communities across eight LGAs of Delta Central senatorial district,” for N1 billion.

Recall that in 2019, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) issued a report detailing how federal lawmakers, in connivance with executing agencies, perfected fraudulent means of stealing public funds in the guise of constituency projects.

In the said report, ICPC said: “These Capacity Building and Empowerment projects have become a convenient conduit for embezzling public funds by the sponsoring legislators and the executing agency as they are difficult to track and verify due to their “soft” nature,” ICPC said.

Aside from the four ministries listed above, other ministries and agencies that benefited from the increase include Ministry of Education, N28 billion; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, N20 billion; Ministry of Defence, N4.6 billion; Ministry of Labour and Employment, N14 billion; Ministry of Trade and Industry, N12 billion; Ministry of Power, N8.4 billion; Ministry of Water Resources, N6.9 billion; Ministry of Information and Culture, N5.5 billion; National Assembly, N6 billion; Ministry of Special Duties, N3.8 billion and Public Complaints Commission, N3.49 billion.

Others are the Ministry of Health, N2.8 billion; Ministry of Women Affairs, N2.7 billion; National Security Adviser, M2.6 billion; Ministry of Mines and Steel, N2.4 billion; Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), N1 billion; Ministry of Petroleum Resources, N730 million; Police Service Commission, N500 million; Federal Character Commission, N450 million; Ministry of Justice, N269 million; Presidency, N230 million; and Code of Conduct Bureau, N200 million.

The Ministry of Police Affairs, N190 million; Ministry of Foreign Affairs, N184 million; Ministry of Youths and Sports, N169 million; Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy, N135 million and Fiscal Responsibility and Commission, N52 million, as stated.

Nonetheless, the National Assembly slashed the budget of some other ministries.

These ministries include Ministry of Transportation, N46 billion; Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), N8 billion; Ministry of Works and Housing, N4.9 billion; Ministry of Niger Delta, N2.2 billion; National Population Commission, N1 billion; Office of the Head of the Civil Service, N371 million; Auditor General of the Federation, N32 million; and National Salaries, Incomes and Wages, N16 million.

The Ministries of Aviation and Interior, Judiciary, Independent National Electoral Commission, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Allocation, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory, Federal Civil Service Commission and Code of Conduct Tribunal all had their budgets unaltered.

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