The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to cut the N26 billion presidency budget for the construction of the presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, ‘sitting allowance’, and ‘welfare package’, and to use some of the savings to address the growing level of deficit, as well as improve public healthcare facilities across the country.”
SERAP also urged him “to send to the National Assembly a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the reduced proposed spending on the construction of the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, and ‘welfare package’, for its approval.”
In the letter dated 9 October 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Many Nigerians will find it quite odd, unfair and unjust that the government is spending so much money on many of these items in the middle of a public borrowing crisis. The proposed spending could be better allocated to improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”
SERAP said: “The government would continue to borrow to fund the country’s budget until there is a substantial cut to the cost of governance. The government should stop spending so much money on these items. Persistent borrowing is neither sustainable nor fair to the Nigerian people.”
It added:“Your government has a responsibility to ensure the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria and its citizens. The growing budget deficit and debt problems threaten Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services, and will hurt future generations if not urgently addressed.”
The letter, read in part: “SERAP also urges you to publish details of spending on construction and repairs of the presidential wing at the medical center and office furniture and fittings since May 29, 2015.
“The proposed spending figures highlight the lack of political will to cut the cost of governance, starting from the presidency. This spending is unsustainable, and would take away critical funding to provide access to quality healthcare and education.
“This would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and burden the next generation.
“According to our information, for the Office of the President, you recently proposed in the 2022 appropriation bill to spend N24,835,805,231 for the construction of the presidential wing at the state house medical center, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments.”
The agency noted that “The construction of the presidential wing will cost N21,974,763,310. N2,309,066,788 is proposed to be spent on general travel and transport while N301,138,860 will be spent on foodstuff and catering materials supplies. N250,836,273 is proposed to be spent on refreshments, meals, honorarium, sitting allowance, publicity and advertisements.
“For the Office of the Vice-President, N1,136,717,757 is proposed for local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, purchase of office furniture and fittings, and other expenses. The details are: N778,261,411 is proposed to be spent on general travel and transport.
“N168,210,826 is proposed for office stationeries/computer, consumables, printing of documents, uniforms and other clothing, food stuff and catering materials supplies. N2,350,626 is proposed for cooking gas and fuel costs.
“N99,795,229 is proposed to be spent on refreshments, meals, honorarium, sitting allowance, publicity and advertisements. N31,909,380 is proposed for computer software acquisition while N30,817,085 is proposed for the purchase of motor vehicles. N25,373,200 is proposed for the purchase of office furniture and fittings.
“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our requests.”
The organisation said it “is concerned that the huge spending is neither necessary nor in the public interest, especially in the face of the country’s dire economic position, the scant allocations to education and health, and the growing level of borrowing by your government to fund the 2022 budget.
“Spending limited public funds on the construction of the presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, honorarium and sitting allowance, and welfare packages at a time the government is borrowing to fund the budget would undermine your government’s constitutional and fiduciary duties to ensure a responsible budget spending.
“The country’s fiscal situation must be changed – and changed quickly – through some combination of cuts in the areas highlighted above. Cutting waste and apparently unnecessary spending would go a long way in addressing the budget deficit and debt problems.
“The recommended measures would also ensure that your government is spending the country’s maximum available resources to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to basic needs of the poor and marginalized groups.”