By Temitayo Jaiyeola, Damilola Aina, and Nathaniel Shaibu
Federal allocations to lawmakers, judges, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and seven others is set to increase by 39.66 percent in 2024 to N1.38tn, an analysis of the 2024 budget proposal has shown.
This is as the Federal Government increased statutory transfers from N985.49bn in 2023 to N1.38tn in 2024, according to data from the breakdown and highlights of the 2024 Executive Budget Proposal.
In 2024, statutory transfers, which are payments made to government institutions required by law to receive their funding first from the federation account before others, will gulp 13.45 percent of the total non-debt recurrent expenditure of N10.26tn the government intends to spend in 2024.
So far (January to September), the Federal Government has spent N711.36bn on these transfers, which is 15.04 percent of its total non-debt recurrent spend
The breakdown for statutory transfers in 2024 is as follows National Judicial Council (N165bn), Niger-Delta Development Commission (N324.85bn), Universal Basic Education Commission (N251.47bn), National Assembly (N197.93bn), Public Complaints Commission (N13.69bn), Independent National Electoral Commission (N40bn), National Human Rights Commission (N5bn), North-East Development Commission (N126.94bn), Basic Health Care Provision Fund (N125.74bn), and National Agency For Science And Engineering Infrastructure (N125.74bn).
The amount to be spent on these agencies is 3.76 percent more than the amount allocated for health (N1.33tn) and 4.55 percent more than the N1.32tn allocated for infrastructure.
The rise in the cost of servicing these agencies is despite a declining macroeconomic environment punctuated by the pains of citizens and declining government revenues. It also underscores the high costs of governance in the country.
While presenting the details of the budget last week, the Minister of Finance and Budget Planning, Abubakar Bagudu, noted that the government was bothered about its declining revenues.
He said, “Revenue generation remains the major fiscal constraint to Nigeria’s fiscal viability. However, the government is reviewing current tax and fiscal policies with a view to improving revenue generation. The target is to increase the ratio of revenue to GDP from less than 10 percent currently to 18 percent within the current term of this administration.”
He highlighted that the budget was prepared against the backdrop of continuing global and domestic challenges, with increasing fiscal risks following weaker-than-expected domestic economic performance and structural issues in the domestic economy.
Meanwhile, the Presidency and Secretary to the Government of the Federation will get N186.12bn for salaries and other recurrent expenditures. This is a 6.46 percent decline from the N198.14 budgeted for both agencies in 2023.
The total budget for 2024 is N27.5tn with the lion’s share going to defense and security, education, and infrastructure.
While presenting his budget to a joint session of the National Assembly, President Bola Tinubu, disclosed that the Federal Government would have limited resources to fund its budget and intends to explore Public Private Partnership arrangements to finance most of its infrastructure projects.
He stated, “In view of the limited resources available through the federal budget, we are also exploring Public Private Partnership arrangements to finance critical infrastructure.
“We, therefore, invite the private sector to partner with us to ensure that our fiscal, trade, and monetary policies, as well as our developmental programs and projects, succeed in unlocking the latent potential of our people and other natural endowments, in line with our national aspirations.”
Recently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, revealed that the annual budget of the National Assembly had remained the same for 13 years despite rising inflation in the country.
However, a recent report by PUNCH disclosed that Nigeria would have spent over N1.79tn on the National Assembly in 13 years by the end of 2023. The report stated that from 2011 to 2022, the annual budgets of the legislature amounted to about N1.63tn.
It broke down the budgets as follows, 2011 to 2014, N150bn; 2015, N115bn; 2016, N125bn; 2017, N125; 2018, N139.5bn; 2019, 125bn; 2020, N128bn; 2021, N134bn; 2022, N139bn; and N169bn proposed for 2023.
While defending the budget, the Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, in 2020, noted, “The truth remains that if the cost of governance must be reduced, it is on the executive. I am not mincing words.
“Look at the nominal rolls; you will see strange things happening there. So, if we really want to clean our house, it starts with the executive. I want to challenge Nigerians to start looking at the executive and stop looking in the wrong direction.”
Meanwhile in the 2024 Appropriation Bill laid before the National Assembly, the government will spend N7.99tn on wages and N13.81bn for the upkeep of former presidents, vice-presidents, heads of state, Chiefs of General Staff, retired heads of service, permanent secretaries, retired heads of government agencies and parastatals.
Recently, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris-Malagi, said, “The budget as presented signifies a pivotal step towards the realisation of his Renewed Hope Agenda, by aligning fiscal strategies and priorities with broader national development objectives.”
According to civil societies in the county, the increase in allocations to government agencies despite the economic hardship in the country is despicable.
The co-Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, James Ugochukwu, said, “The increase at this material time is unjustifiable and uncalled for, given the economic situation in the country. This is a government that came into power with the promise that they are going to cut the cost of governance, of which we don’t see that happening given some of the provisions they made in the 2024 budget.
“The question we should be asking is where are we going to get the funds to run all these increases that are coming up? As it stands now, what exactly is it that they want to use all these increases to do? What particular line items have been changed that warrant this increase? These are the questions Nigerians should be asking.”
Buttressing the earlier point, the Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria, Andrew Mamedu, declared that Nigerians must have value for money if the allocations are to be increased. He noted that the primary focus of the budget should be actions and activities that would directly impact the protection of lives and property.
He stated, “We have always called on the government of the NASS to indicate and be very open with the budget that they get. The cost of living has gone up between last year and this year, and if on the average inflation is over twenty-something percent per annum, then why are we having a 40 percent increase?
“They say the devil is in the details. So, we need to look at the budget and look at those items that have drastically increased from last year’s budget and this year. This is a new Assembly, and it could be that they are trying to accommodate some new items, however, that still does not justify why we shouldn’t demand value for money.”
The Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, added, “We have been complaining about the fact that it appears that the current administration has just come to place an unnecessary burden on Nigerians and our economy by recklessly borrowing loans that nobody is seeing the positive benefit of the loans which goes against the fiscal responsibility laws.
“Loans are supposed to be taken under strict conditions and it is supposed to be for productivity and not for consumption. But what we have seen with the immediate past and current administration, that the thirst for obtaining is getting too much.”
Source: The Punch