Friday, November 3, 2023

SUVs and Yachts in Nigeria Budget During Economic Hardship

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s first supplementary budget includes a fleet of SUVs for himself and his wife, a presidential yacht and the renovation of his villa amid a cost-of-living crisis for some of the poorest people in the world.

The proposal — which seeks additional funding beyond the annual budget approved by Tinubu’s predecessor — comes as the government asks Nigerians to persevere through pain caused in part by a raft of economic reforms ushered in by the new president. Africa’s most populous country faces rampant unemployment, soaring food prices and a plummeting currency.

Federal lawmakers approved the president’s request for extra spending on Thursday, but eliminated the provision of 5 billion naira ($6.01 million) to buy a presidential yacht. Instead, the doubled the allocation to a student loan fund to 10 billion naira, according Abubakar Bichi, chairman of an appropriations committee in the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers approved 1.5 billion-naira proposed to purchase SUVs for the office of First Lady Oluremi Tinubu — an amount larger than that allocated to many individual federal colleges. The supplementary budget also proposes almost 6 billion naira to purchase SUVs for the presidency — more than the amount initially allocated to fund a student loan program for poor families.

A spokesman said the president didn’t ask for a yacht and criticized coverage of the budget. The “public attack” is because of the “very simplistic way some of the line items are described by civil servants, who prepare the budget,” Temitope Ajayi said in a column posted to a local media outlet. New vehicles, he said, will be used by aides and civil servants, not Tinubu himself.

The legislature has also been slammed for buying hundreds of its own expensive SUVs.

Tinubu, who took office in May, ended a popular but costly fuel subsidy and removed currency restrictions that saw prices spike and the naira sharply devalued. That’s left many households struggling to survive in Africa’s most populous nation, where at least 40% of its more than 200 million people live in extreme poverty.

Last year, the country spent about 96% of its revenue servicing debt and the government plans to raise 9 trillion naira to help fund next year’s budget.

By Nduka Orjinmo, Bloomberg

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