Nigerians have expressed anger over the plan by the Presidency to renovate President Bola Tinubu and Vice President Kassim Shettima’s official residences in Lagos with N7bn and purchase official vehicles for the First Lady’s Office with N1.5bn.
Housing tv reports that the expenses will be funded from the N2.176trn supplementary budget passed for second reading by the National Assembly on Tuesday.
This is amidst the nationwide hardship occasioned by the removal of petrol subsidy, the foreign exchange unification and the rising inflation which has led to increase in food prices.
Nigerians had also recently flayed the procurement of Prado SUVs valued at N160m for each of the 469 members of the National Assembly.
Findings by Daily Trust indicate that the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari had, between 2016 and 2020, spent N37bn to keep Aso Villa in tip-top shape.
In 2021 alone, the budgetary provision for its refurbishment was N11.04bn in addition to the over N25bn reportedly spent on electricity and plumbing in Aso Rock.
The proposed expenditure for Tinubu and Shettima’s residences’ renovation and the purchase of official cars or the Office of the First Lady is part of the N28 billion budgeted for the State House in the 2023 supplementary budget.
Other items for the State House include; the purchase of SUV vehicles at N2.9 billion and the replacement of operational pool vehicles at N2.9 billion.
While the renovation of Aguda House would gulp N2.5bn; computerization and digitalisation of the State House was allocated N200m.
Other allocations include N4bn for the construction of an office complex in the State House; the acquisition, renovation and rehabilitation of two EFCC forfeited quarters at the State House Complex at Mabushi area of Abuja is to gulp N1.5bn and another N1.5bn for cquisition, renovation, and rehabilitation of two EFCC forfeited quarters as the State House Complex at Guzape area of Abuja.
Labour Party, CSOs kick
Reacting to the proposal, Tanko Yunusa, spokesperson, Obi Datti Presidential Campaign Council of the Labour Party (LP), said, “AS opposition party, we feel this is detrimental to the development of our nation and therefore, we reject this mismanagement of priority against the interest of Nigerians.
“The same goes for the yacht, renovation of homes and buying of needless cars and everything that has to do with the usage of taxpayers’ money at our detriment and we reject it in its entirety.”
Tanko said Nigerians had seen “how this country has been captured by the present government when it used the instrumentality of the law to institutionalize themselves into power by legalizing illegality.
“They feel they can do anything and get away with it. How can one explain that N7bn would be spent on renovation let alone constructing a new home? The impunity and disdain in which they hold this country is too much.
“Nigerians must stand up for their rights because this is their money as taxpayers that could have been used to enhance the living standard of Nigerians but is now being used to enrich the pockets of few Nigerians at the expense of the masses.”
Also, Executive Director, Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education (CHRICED), Ibrahim Zikirullahi, described the planned renovation of the president and vice president’s residences, and purchase of N1.5bn official vehicles for the First Lady Office as an act of misappropriation of the nation’s resources.
“This makes it very clear that even the billions of dollars borrowed externally will end up being used for frivolous expenses that add no value to the lives of citizens.
“In the same country where roads are death traps, where health facilities are in dire need of attention, and where inflation keeps rising and people can no longer feed well, one wonders how the minions in the government reasons.
“Putting N1bn out of this amount to create jobs in each of the 36 states and FCT would have gone a long way to reduce youth unemployment and insecurity in the country. In accountable democracies and saner societies, this amount will be enough to turn around a comatose economy into a vibrant one that can service our debts and curb corruption,” Zikirullahi said.
Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Head of Transparency International Nigeria, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the organisation was concerned about the questionable 2023 supplementary budget.
He said despite the nation’s vulnerable financial situation, the government had continued its inclination towards “extravagance, opulence and a lack of efficiency in its second 2023 supplementary budget.
“This behavior has become a well-established practice among successive administrations in the Fourth Republic, as they persistently fail to curtail expenses or cut back on their extravagant way of life funded by the public, even in the face of persistent economic challenges, recessions, revenue shortfalls, rising joblessness, and mounting debt.
“Supplementary budgets are meant to take care of expenditure that was not factored in during budget-making. While the National Assembly had recently passed and signed, a Supplementary Appropriation Act 2023 for over N819bn, a second supplementary budget was conceived in response to the impact of the petrol subsidy removal for further provision of additional palliative measures, including the wage award for public servants and the enhanced cash transfer programme, which was intended to benefit the most vulnerable members of our society.
“What informed these budgets? How pertinent are they in the face of Nigeria’s more pressing economic needs? Should we be borrowing for frivolities considering our overbearing debt burden? Should Nigerians be tightening their belts to satisfy a few? It is insensitive and irresponsible to earmark N6.9bn for the procurement of vehicles for the State House and N1.5bn allocated for new cars for the unconstitutional Office of the First Lady, among other frivolous items,” Rafsanjani said.
“Tinubu and the National Assembly must abandon the culture of wastefulness and the maintenance of officials in luxurious conditions. All expenditures should be directed towards the urgent priorities of job creation, economic growth and diversification, revenue enhancement, and the reduction of the national debt burden,” Rafsanjani added.
Reacting on X (formerly Twitter), Nigerians described the proposed expenditure as a misplaced priority.
Akeem Adebowa on his handle, @AkeemAdebowal11, said: “This is what you get when you place a heartless character in a position of leadership. You have never seen anything. Now don’t expect change until 2027.”
Similarly, Kamal T tweeting @_Kamalkt said: “Your total revenues can’t pay your salaries or debt, yet you are buying a yacht. To impress who? An absolute joke.”
Also, @AdebajoAdebiy said: “The person that campaigned on cutting the cost of governance was Peter Obi. Tinubu said he just wants to dance. Let him keep spending and dancing.”
David Duru @durudavid108 said: “Tinubu and his cabinet plus our current politicians are out to finish this country. Were the previous presidential and executive residences demolished? Do they lack facilities? Does it mean these guys don’t have cars or what? What is it about wasteful spending and 9ja?”
@DavidHarts2 posed a question: “How much will it cost to build them a new house and furnish it all together?”