The federal government has earmarked N23.57 billion for the purchase of new vehicles in 2023, according to the budget estimates for the fiscal year presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly.
This is despite the allocation of N22.5bn to 212 government agencies for the same item in the current fiscal year, raising concerns over budgetary provision for critical infrastructure as the country grapples with dwindling revenue, rising debts, and fiscal deficits year after year.
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The Buhari administration planned to fund the N20.51 trillion 2023 budget with N9.73tn revenue and N8.80 trillion new borrowings, pushing the country’s debt profile to N71.64trn.
Nigeria’s outstanding debt at the end of June 2022 stood at N42.845tn ($103.312bn), according to the Debt Management Office.
This excludes the N20tn in Ways and Means financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria, which when added brings the total to N62.845tn ($151.538bn). When the new borrowing proposal is added to existing debts, it will shoot up to N71.64trn.
President Buhari had repeatedly preached prudence in government spending but a critical look at the federal government’s budget since 2016, when he presented the first budget, showed that non-essential items gulp a bulk of government spending annually.
Though it is not immediately clear the type of vehicles the government ministries, departments and agencies seek to acquire, the budget proposal shows that 174 MDAs proposed to spend N23.57 billion on assorted vehicles next year, according to details of the budget.
Top 20 spenders
The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) tops the list of the 20 big spenders with a whopping N2 billion earmarked for the purchase of new vehicles in 2023.
NDLEA is followed by State House headquarters with N1.9 billion; Nigerian Army, which plans to spend N1.2 billion and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) with N946.5 million proposed spending.
The Accident and Investigation Bureau budgets N736.5 million on new vehicles; Defence Intelligence Agency N663 million; Community Health Practitioners Registration Board N616.3 million followed by the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning with N565.1 million.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) will be spending N540 million, N497.4 million, and N485 million respectively on new vehicles. Others are the National Counter Terrorism Centre, N413.2 million; the Ministry of Works and Housing, N376 million; Nigeria Correctional Service N348.4 million; the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal, N300 million and the University of Ilorin N300 million.
The Federal Polytechnic, Damaturu will spend N290 million on new vehicles, followed by Federal Polytechnic, Shendam Plateau with N287.7 million, and Nigeria Meteorological Agency with N280 million. Nigeria Immigration Service and Ministry of Health budgeted N276 million and N273.2 million for the same item.
More than half of these big spenders equally got a large chunk of the N22.5bn earmarked for the purchase of vehicles in the current 2022 fiscal year. They are State House headquarters – N1.6 billion; Ministry of Works and Housing N720 million; Nigeria Correctional Service – N738.8 million; Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Tribunal – N250 million; Nigeria Immigration Service – N322.9 million and Ministry of Health N413.6 million.
Others are the NDLEA – N250 million; Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning – N261.5 million and Secretary to the Government of the Federation – N124.7 million; Nigerian Army – N101.7 million; and Accident and Investigation Bureau (trucks) – N75 million. Other top vehicle spenders in 2022 are Federal Road Safety Commission – N1.7 billion; the Defence Headquarters – N340 million; the Defence Mission – N220.3 million; the Ministry of Interior – N200 million; Federal Fire Service – N220.4 million; and the National Institute for Security Studies – N279 million.
The Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority, Nigeria (OGFZA) budgeted N300 million for vehicles while the Ministry of Niger Delta Hqtrs, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital-Nnewi, and Mass Literacy Council are spending N300 million each on the same item.
The Federal Polytechnic Damaturu; National Social Investment Office; and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission also earmarked N408.2 million, N330.8 million, and N250 million respectively for vehicle purchase.
The Ministry of Women Affairs allocated N236 million for the same item; Federal Polytechnic, Monguno, Borno State – N209 million and Federal Polytechnic, Wannune, Benue State – N205 million.
There are concerns that while the federal government spends billions to purchase new vehicles year after year, many of them are being diverted for private use or looted by government officials with little or no effort to recover them or prosecute those in charge. In what has now become a common practice, senior government officials take government vehicles away when they go on transfer or retirement.
In 2021, the Senate Public Accounts Committee queried the Ministry of Environment over 55 official vehicles that could not be accounted for.
The Office of Auditor-General for the Federation, in its audit report, said the 55 vehicles belonging to the ministry were not presented for inspection, and that all efforts to inspect them and confirm their availability proved abortive and their location could not be ascertained.
The report said, “We are aware that some officers take vehicles away when going on transfer or retirement. We also observed that the vehicle’s logbook has not been updated, making it difficult to track their movement and their record of maintenance.
“It is also noted that some official vehicles carry private number plates in place of government’s registered numbers.”
20 agencies to spend N29.32bn on refreshments, sitting allowance, welfare, others
Meanwhile, 20 government agencies and institutions have proposed to spend N29.32bn on refreshments & meals, honorarium & sitting allowance, publicity & advertisements, and medical expenses in 2023.
Other items to gulp the sum are postages & courier services, welfare packages, subscriptions to professional bodies, sporting activities, and annual budget expenses and administration.
These items are classified under miscellaneous. Leading the pack in this category is the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) with N7.2 billion budgeted for miscellaneous.
NAFDAC is followed by the Accident and Investigation Bureau with N2.79 billion, Police Formations and Commands with N2.39 billion, and the University of Lagos with N1.71 billion.
Other top spenders are the Ministry of Justice, N1.56 billion; the Federal Road Safety Commission, N1.55 billion; the Ministry of Youth & Sports Development, N1.48 billion; the University of Ilorin, N1.43 billion and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, N1. 33 billion.
The State House, Nigerian College of Aviation Technology-Zaria, Defence Missions, and Yaba College of Technology will spend N1.11 billion, N950.6 million, N796.9 million, and N757.8 million respectively on the same items.
The Nigeria Football Federation earmarked N753.5 million for miscellaneous; Federal Road Maintenance Agency, N710.3 million; the National Business and Technical Education Board, N595 million and Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, N558.6 million.
The sum of N544.5 million will be spent on the same items by the Nigeria Immigration Service; N540.7 million by Federal Polytechnic, Bida-Niger State, and N522.9 million by Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
Proposed spending frivolous, meant to siphon public funds – CSO
The Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, described the proposed spending in the 2023 budget as wasteful and frivolous, saying, they do not have any bearing on the economic development of the country and well-being of the citizenry.
He said it was unfortunate that the president and his team were not people-centred and patriotic enough in coming up with a budget that will be able to rescue the economy and run the financial system in a manner that can revitalise the economy.
“What we see in this budget is simply duplications, wasteful and frivolous spending that is completely not in the interest of the Nigerian people, especially as we have seen so many proposed spending that is simply meant to continue to siphon taxpayers’ money. For example, we have seen a huge amount of money to finance what many Nigerians believe is a fraud; which is fuel subsidy because the fuel subsidy has no direct benefits for the Nigerian people and the economy, especially as the government has to go and borrow money to finance what has no tangible benefits for the Nigerian people.
“Nigerian people don’t benefit from this huge amount of money that the government spends in the name of subsidy. There is no transparency, no accountability, and no benefit for the Nigerian people and the economy. Secondly, in an era when you have a serious crisis in the economy, you are still proposing to pay money in the name of constituency projects. Many countries in Africa that used to do constituency projects have stopped because they are not projects that impact the people; they have become conduits for corruption and siphoning of public funds.
He deplored the humongous sums of money voted for the purchase of vehicles and other frivolous items, urging the National Assembly to jettison ‘blind loyalty’ while examining the budget document to remove all wasteful, duplicated, and frivolous items from the fiscal document.
“Again, we are just wondering why so much proposed spending is captured even though yearly, you see all these things recurring. Every year, you are buying vehicles even though you did not tell us what you have done with the previous ones that you bought. I think it is unfortunate that President Muhammadu Buhari presented this budget that is not people-centred; it is just to show you how the people who are handling the budget preparation do not care about the future of this country. What is the business of Mr President doing new projects? What he ought to do is to consolidate what he has started.
“I don’t understand how the government will continue to initiate projects that have no economic viability and benefits for the Nigerian people. Instead of concentrating on the projects you have already started to ensure they are completed, you are embarking on new frivolous projects to continue to siphon taxpayers’ money. It is simply to continue to impoverish the economy; it is meant to keep the economy in shambles and has nothing to do with the revitalisation of the economy.
“Therefore, the National Assembly has the duty and responsibility not to give blind loyalty by endorsing whatever the executive brings at this crucial time. The National Assembly must make history as they are winding up because this is the last budget that President Buhari has presented to them. The National Assembly should do everything possible to see how they can eliminate many of these dubious, frivolous, wasteful, and duplicated items in the budget”, he said.