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BudgIT Slams National Assembly For Budget Padding, Corruption Loopholes

BudgIT, a civic-tech organization leading the advocacy for transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s public finance system, has called on the citizens, CSOs, private sector, and the international community to urgently prevail on the National Assembly and Presidency to urgently amend and eliminate all loopholes in FG’s 2022 Approved  Budget.

The civil advocacy organisation reported that its preliminary analysis of the 21,108 capital projects in the 2022 approved budget revealed 460 duplicated projects amounting to N378.9 billion, recalling that it observed 316 duplicated projects inserted into the 2021 Federal Government budget approved by the Legislature.

According to the group, following its observed duplication of capital projects in the 2021 fiscal year, the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC) verified 257 duplications, while the Budget Office confirmed the existence of only 185 duplicated projects worth N20.13 billion, after which it informed the public that funds were not released for the projects in 2021.

Furthermore, BudgIT noted that the occurrence of inflated projects amounting to billions of Naira in the 2022 budget directly linked to the State House and the Presidency remained a cause for concern.

It listed some of the bloated projects’ provisions as including the N20.8 billion requested by the Presidency to construct a 14-bed presidential wing at the existing State House Medical Center, N28.72 million requested for the purchase of 2 units of 10KG washing machine and 6 units of LG Televisions in the State House Lagos Liaison Office, among others.

Speaking of projects approved under MDAs that do not have the capacity to execute them, The National Agency For Great Green Wall, which was set up to prevent land degradation and desertification afflicting 11 states in Northern Nigeria and to boost food security in the country, has N1.3 billion or 64% of its capital budget dedicated to purchasing of motorcycles, street lights and other projects outside its mandate. This is disingenuous especially as communities in these states are being ravaged by bandits and terrorists who often arrive in motorcycles.

Similarly, the civil society organisation also observed that four recreational parks under the Ministry of Environment, had a total allocation of N67.8 million to construct ‘Gun Armouries’ in Cross Rivers, Kaduna, Borno and Yobe States, even though the Ministry of Environment is not a security agency.

According to the BudgIT, this raises the question as to why is the ministry stashing guns in recreational parks in these states in an election campaign year and at a time when the country is facing unrest in nearly all of the 36 states?

Noting that Nigeria is currently battling double-digit inflation, one of the worst 20 out of 196 countries in the world marked by soaring prices of food, consumer goods, and other services, the group lamented that unfortunately, the River Basin Development Authorities (RBDA), under the Ministry of Water Resources, which was set up to facilitate management of water resources for agriculture that would end the tide of food supply fluctuations that affect food prices, has instead metamorphosed into an agency that constructs roads and supplies street lights.

It further raised the alarm that a total of N6.3 billion was allocated to supplying street lights in 73 communities across the 36 states, while N14.8 billion was allocated for the construction of 219 roads across 36 states; whereas the majority of the roads are the responsibilities of state and local governments and not the Federal Government.

According to Gabriel Okeowo, BudgIT’s Country Director, “The loopholes for fraud in the 2022 FG budget is a crime against the 86 million Nigerians living below the poverty line, an injustice to hardworking taxpayers and an open mockery of countries and lending institutions that intend to borrow Nigeria N6.29 trillion in 2022.”

The civil advocacy group hinted that it was currently finalizing its detailed analysis of the approved FG 2022 budget which would be presented to all stakeholders in the executive and legislative arm of government as well as the general citizens, adding that in the meantime, the government should prioritise projects that are of utmost benefit and exercise discipline in implementing duplicated and poorly costed projects in the 2022 budget.

This is even as it charged all Nigerians, CSOs, the private sector, the international community, and reformers to join the call for an urgent redress of the observed lapses in the 2022 budget to ensure public funds work for all Nigerians and not for a privileged few politicians.

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