Nigeria’s economy may be in a recession and the country may not have enough money to fund its 2021 budget but this has not deterred the Muhammadu Buhari administration from allocating its highest amount ever to the State House including the ‘presidential wing’ of a hospital the president seldom uses.
President Muhammadu Buhari will spend N17.3 billion this year to run the State House, Nigeria’s seat of power, details of the assented 2021 budget have shown.
About N3.4 billion of this approved expenditure will be spent on feeding and travel expenses for the offices of the president and the vice president. The former gets about N2.6 billion and the latter, about N873 million.
The N17.3 billion is the highest amount budgeted for running of the nation’s headquarters since Mr Buhari assumed office in 2015, comparison of the approved budget figures in those years show.
Last year, Nigeria’s administrative centre had N14.6 billion for its running. This was an increase from the N13.7 billion in 2019; N15.5 billion was allocated in 2018; in 2017, N13.6 billion was allocated; and N16.6 billion in 2016.
These allocations are higher than what was earmarked in the latter years of Mr Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who in 2014, approved N12.2 billion for the State House and N6.6 billion in 2015.
The 2021 allocation covers the State House Headquarters, the president’s office and the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. It also covers the budgets of the State House medical centre, the offices of the chief of staff and chief security officer and the Lagos liaison office.
The breakdown of the allocation shows that the State House Headquarters and its medical centre will spend about N11.1 billion and N641.2 million on their activities respectively.
The president approved about N3.8 billion for his office, while N1.1 billion has been penned for the vice president’s office.
The office of the chief of staff to the president will run on a N76.6 million budget this year. The chief security officer, N357.9 million and the Lagos Liaison Office, N300.7 million.
Amidst uncertainties fuelled by dip in oil prices and COVID-19 pandemic, both of which contributed to sliding the nation’s economy into the worst recession in about three decades, with about a quarter of this year’s budget to be funded by debt, the president’s office will spend N1.1 billion for the “construction of (the) presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre.”
This amount is more than the budgeted amounts for the entire state house medical centre in each of the last five years.
It is also more than the amount slated for the capital projects in 12 of the 20 listed federal medical centres in the 2021 budget, with the exception being those of Abeokuta, Abuja, Bayelsa, Delta, Katsina, Kebbi, Taraba, and Zamfara.
Meanwhile, about N416.7 million was budgeted for the same purpose last year. It is unclear how much was released for the project from the 2020 budget, which is one of the constituency projects contained in both year’s budgets.
Many Nigerians have criticised President Buhari and his family for always travelling abroad when sick despite the existence of the State House clinic and other hospitals in the country. It is unclear if such medical tourism will cease after the expenditure of the N1.1 billion for the “construction of (the) presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre.”
Also in the budget, the State House Headquarters will get N399.4 million for feeding. The maintenance and purchase of vehicles will gulp N569.3 million while building of new and the rehabilitation of old office and residential buildings will cost N5.8 billion.
Again, comparatively, the latter amount is more than the capital budgets of all the listed 20 federal medical centres and 21 teaching hospitals in the year’s budget.
Although the exact release for last year’s budget is unclear yet, rehabilitation of some buildings in the State House alone had N4.1 billion approved for 2020.
A flurry of projects, mostly constituency projects, featured in the 2020 budget and were repeated in this year’s appropriation act, suggesting money was not released for them last year.
A classic example is the recurring clamour by the vice-president’s office to purchase shredding machine, spiral binder, vacuum cleaners and air sucker at N5.7 million. Last year, N3 million was penned for the same purpose.
In addition, the office is poised to also purchase two photocopying machines and their accessories for N13.6 million. Last year, N8.3 million was approved for the same number of photocopiers and their consumables.