BUDGET defences give us rare opportunity to behold wastes in government. Possibly worse is the adamancy of government officials in defending their preferences for their comfort at our collective expense.
An expenditure of N9 billion to furnish the palace of the Vice President should not pass. Low as various governments have rendered the value of the Naira, N9 billion today is about $52.25 million.
How could anyone spend that type of money in this economy to furnish a house? The construction of the same house cost N7 billion. Ironically, it is cheaper to build the residence than to furnish it. The total cost would top N16 billion about $100 million.
Other components of the waste would soon be obvious. If we use N9 billion to furnish the residence, we may require not less than N1 billion to maintain it annually.
By whatever calculation, N9 billion is a lot of money. The Presidency knows so, and it applied similar sum to a seemingly wiser expenditure only two years ago.
When it decided to build six new universities, the total allocation was a paltry N10 billion. In other words, the furnishing of the Vice President’s residence is slightly cheaper than building six new federal universities.
In 2010, N9 billion was the entire capital vote of the House of Representatives. Today, we are considering the adequacy of the sum for the furnishing of a residence for the Vice President.
Our neighbour Ghana built a controversial presidential palace (offices and residence for the president) for about $30 million in 2008 – it included furnishing.
Late President John Atta-Mills on succeeding John Kufuor refused to use the facility which he considered a waste!
What we really have in our hand is a scandal. Other obnoxious expenditures like the proposed N2.2 billion banquet hall (with capacity for only 150 people) all raise alarm, not only about wastes, but the myopic thinking in government.
Why does anyone need another banquet hall, moreso, when it is too small to accommodate only presidential aides? Does government realise that these wastes are guaranteeing a country that would remain in poverty since it is frittering away its resources?
Sadly, the National Assembly is in league with the Presidency in this waste. Its public posture on the needless expenditure on the comfort of the Executive is matched by its own profligacy.
We therefore have both conspiring against the future of Nigeria by wantonly wagering its resources, at a time of withering economic conditions that government remains clueless about countering.
The National Assembly should approve N1 billion for the furnishing, the rest of the money should be deployed to improve Abuja’s infrastructure, particularly in the surrounding villages.