2024 National Budget: Corruption Incorporated

Mar 29, 2024 | Press Releases

The culture of shameless avarice and prebendal politics by the Nigerian political elite is laid bare by the shocking revelations of the surreptitious insertion of 7,447 projects valued at N2.24 trillion by members of the National Assembly into the 2024 National Budget. This is yet another dispiriting example of corrupt expropriation of our commonwealth by our elected political leaders.

 BudgIT, a civic-tech advocacy organisation committed to transparency and accountability of national budgets speaking on the discovery declared that, ‘’the national assembly has indiscriminately added projects to the budget, with most projects having no national significance but narrowed to personal interests”. BudgIT’s analysis of dubious insertions of projects in the 2024 Budget was on the back of Senator Abdul Ningi’s (Bauchi Central and former Chairman of Northern Senators Forum) revelations about discrepancies in the 2024 National Budget that suggest large-scale official corruption by the National Assembly leadership. These sordid disclosures have further been amplified by another damning revelation by Senator Agom Jarigbe (Cross River North) on the humongous amount of money some ranking senators and others got in the guise of allocations for constituency projects.

 President Tinubu failed to grasp the mettle in this matter and offered an unfortunate defence of these shameful and criminal acts by the National Assembly when during Iftar (breaking of fast for muslims) with members of the Senate, he declared that the integrity of the Senators is intact, blaming claims on budget padding on poor understanding of arithmetic by those making the accusations. 

 The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, NAS/PC is extremely saddened by these scandalous revelations about the insertions of projects in the 2024 national budget by the National Assembly. We are disappointed that President Tinubu, who should be concerned about the ugly trend in the 2024 national budget and the implication for development for Nigerians on his watch, is the one endorsing the impunity of Federal lawmakers.

Strangely, opposition parties in the National Assembly that should have risen to the occasion to speak up in defence of the people have been quiet in a conspiracy of silence. This is a sad betrayal of the people and an abdication of robust opposition politics.

 It is shocking that at time 133 million Nigerians are multidimensionally poor; when inflation is in double digits, standing at 32%; when unemployment is at an all-time high; when hunger is ravaging Nigerians prompting deaths at venues of distributions of free food and palliatives, elected representatives of the people would be allocating our scarce resources to nurture their profligacy lifestyle.   

 At the centre of this brazen plundering of Nigeria’s common patrimony by members of the National Assembly is the Zonal Intervention Projects known as constituency projects. The ZIP introduced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000 was to bring the government closer to the people through execution of projects at various constituencies across the country. However, the purpose of the constituency projects now valued at N100 billion has been defeated under successive administrations in the country as it has been turned into slush funds for Nigerian politicians to perpetuate underdevelopment in the country.

 While we acknowledge that Federal lawmakers have the constitutional right to look out for their constituents in terms of beneficial projects, such projects being executed by the federal lawmakers or their proxies is an anathema. It is illegal and has only encouraged official corruption on a grand scale. Indeed, it makes mockery of Section 88, subsection 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution which mandates the National Assembly to “expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it”. Clearly, federal lawmakers would have no moral fibre to speak against corruption among members of the executive through their oversight functions when they are allegedly neck-deep in these corrupt schemes to misappropriate public funds.

 According to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, between 2019 and 2022, N529.69 was recovered in cash and N1. 55 trillion was recovered in assets from 703 ZIP projects out of the 1,377 projects tracked under this period. This is heart-rending!

 Unfortunately, this contemptible behaviour among the Federal lawmakers is also common to members of the executive who allegedly insert projects for the benefits of their principals and godfathers without any iota of consideration for the people. These corrupt tendencies are also rampant in budgets of states in Nigeria where state lawmakers also benefit from constituency projects, thereby making development a Herculean task. Nigeria cannot afford to continue with this wasteful trend.

 NAS/PC demands a review of the ZIP to align with the vision of its establishment. If President Tinubu wants Nigerians to take him seriously on his promises to fight corruption, then he should immediately call for review of the 7,447 projects inserted by the National Assembly and streamline the same for execution by independent contractors to reflect priority needs for the people. Public officers in Nigeria should be told that using the privileges of their office to corner projects for personal gains is gross abuse of office and blatant corruption.

 Crucially, it is about time Nigerians show more than a passing interest to the budget process in Nigeria and demand that our public servants and elected representatives design and implement policies and programmes for the development of the country, and are held accountable for the prudent management of our common patrimony. This cannot happen if we do not undertake a comprehensive rethinking of our value system, especially the whole idea of public office and handling of public funds. This is the first step to the sustainable development that we desperately yearn for.

 Abiola Owoaje

NAS Capoon




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