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2024 budget: A betrayal of the compact with Nigerians, By Adamu Rabiu

 On 29 November, 2023, Nigeria’s President presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly, with a total expenditure of N27.5 trillion, which was later hiked to N28.7 trillion by the parliament. The President claimed that the budget, themed “Budget of Renewed Hope”, seeks to achieve job-rich economic growth, macro-economic stability, a better investment environment, enhanced human capital development, as well as poverty reduction and greater access to social security. However, a closer look at the budget reflects greed by those who penned it and those who signed off and reveals a picture of hopelessness and a betrayal of the Nigerian people.

Let’s look at the budget in relation to what the Presidency and National Assembly carted away and what the rest of 240 million Nigerians are left with and what is left to secure Nigeria.

One pertinent question is, “what was the budget performance for capital projects in 2023?” Less than 38 per cent.

Critical Analysis of the National Assembly’s Budget

One of the most glaring problems with the 2024 budget is the humongous allocation to the National Assembly, which amounts to N344.85 billion. This represents an increase of 74.23 per cent from the N197.9 billion proposed by the President, and the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the legislature. The National Assembly has failed to justify this outrageous increase, which comes at the expense of other critical sectors that are in dire need of funding.

For instance, the budget of N50billion allocated for the “not-fit-for-purpose” students’ loan, an unfair, ineffective, and detrimental scheme to the welfare of about seven million Nigerian students as at 2023, using a 2018/2019 projected yearly enrolment figure of 1.8 million into the tertiary institutions and the expectation from such students who are the future leaders of the country, vis-à-vis the output that will be generated from the lacklustre 10th National Assembly, shows a lack of priorities. Also the amount allocated to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, which is a paltry sum of N131 billion, as reduced from N201 billion, and also that proposed for the Ministry of Police Affairs at N969 billion, compared to the challenges facing Nigerians and the police outfit, are definitely like a ‘drip in the ocean’ in relation to what they intend to achieve. Will much come out of the two ministries?

…scrutiny must be applied to the budget earmarked for the Presidency. The allocation reflects the lack of commitment to steering the nation through the storm of socio-economic challenges, but the manifestation of a ‘Presidency cocooned in luxury’ while the masses face the harsh realities of everyday life.

Likewise, the amounts allocated to the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, which is a paltry sum of N131 billion, reduced from N201 billion and also that of the Ministry of Police Affairs at N869 billion, from a proposed figure of N938 billion are ‘drips in the ocean’, which are inadequate for the challenges they seek to tackle. Also, a look at the budgets for health at N1.33 trillion, education at N2.18 trillion, and agriculture at N12 billion, which are essential for the well-being and development of citizens, are only 5 per cent, 7.9 per cent, and 0.04 per cent of the total budget respectively. Their percentages falls  far below the international standards and commitments that Nigeria has signed up to, such as the 2001 Abuja Declaration that requires at least 15 per cent of the budget to be allocated to health, and the 2003 Maputo Declaration that requires no less than 10 per cent of the budget to be allocated to agriculture. This is a skewed and unfair distribution of resources. The national parliament should protect and serve the people’s interests, not enrich itself at their expense.

Budget Earmarked for the Presidency

Similarly, scrutiny must be applied to the budget earmarked for the Presidency. The allocation reflects the lack of commitment to steering the nation through the storm of socio-economic challenges, but a manifestation of a ‘Presidency cocooned in luxury’, while the masses face the harsh realities of everyday life.

As the ink dries on the signed 2024 budget of N28 trillion, it has dawned on Nigerians that the country is teetering on the edge of a fiscal abyss, as certain sectors are left gasping for resources, in stark contrast to the apparent opulence enjoyed by those ‘straddling the corridors of power’. This monumental financial blueprint, while ostensibly meant to steer the nation towards prosperity, raises concerns regarding its implications, and the harsh predicaments it imposes on the lives of everyday Nigerians.

Some example, of the major allocations in the budget of the Presidency, there is N1.2 billion for the purchase of vehicles, N1.1 billion for the maintenance of the presidential fleet, N1 billion for the construction of the presidential wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, and N500 million for the renovation of the State House Clinic, which became operational only in 2023 and is not meant for public use, and is said to be a world class infrastructure with every needed gadget installed in there. Yet, will there be justification for the number one to visit France for a medical check up?

In diving deeper, the supplementary budget also makes allocations for renovation of the residential quarters of Mr President at N4billion, revamping of Aguda House at N2.5 billion, renovation of Dodan barracks – the official residence of Mr President in Lagos at N4 billion, refurbishment of the official quarters of the Vice President in Lagos at N3 billion, and all these are to be carried out with borrowed money. Isn’t this fantastically senseless and silly?

Take a look at the supplementary budget signed about two months back which also has purchase of vehicles for the Nigerian presidency at N6.9 billion and N1.5 billion allocated for vehicles for the office of the First Lady which constitutionally does not have an inkling of a provision in the constitution. Is the presidency a transport authority?  

In diving deeper, the supplementary budget also makes allocations for renovation of the residential quarters of Mr President at N4 billion, revamping of Aguda House at N2.5 billion, renovation of Dodan barracks – the official residence of Mr President in Lagos at N4 billion, refurbishment of the official quarters of the Vice President in Lagos at N3 billion, and all these are to be carried out with borrowed money. Isn’t this fantastically senseless and silly?

In conclusion

The 2024 budget is a budget of renewed despair and frustration for the Nigerian people. The budget reflects the lack of patriotism, foresight, and accountability on the part of those who swore to defend the constitution and portrays a ‘prioritisation of interests of a few over the needs and aspirations of the whole’. It is incumbent upon the leadership to engage themselves in a collective introspection, fostering a sense of responsibility, patriotism, and a shared vision for a brighter future for Nigerians.

Adamu Rabiu writes from Kaduna.



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