A joint campaign against wasteful and frivolous items and appropriations that have become routine in the national budget, led by Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), succeeded in eliminating up to N45.93 billion, out of the N74.18 billion flagged by their budget review in the 2019 fiscal plan.
The amount saved is equivalent to the 2017 planned mass metering program of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company, covering FCT, Nassarawa, Kogi, and Niger states, or the UK Department for International Development N46.2 billion spend on the promotion of education in Nigeria through projects support.
The CSJ, in collaboration with its partners in the Citizens Wealth Platform (CWP), had sustained the yearly review of budget line items, which emerged successful this year, as their increased efforts became pressure on the legislators, who reviewed the questionable provisions.
The Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, said following the presentation of the 2019 Appropriation Bill by the President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly (NASS), CSJ/CWP studied the proposals and pulled out expenditure line items it considered frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful.
“After the approval of the budget by the NASS and assent by the President, CSJ reviewed its recommendations for savings against the approvals in the assented budget. The review showed that although CSJ recommended savings in the sum of N74.18 billion, the NASS eventually approved savings in the sum of N45.93 billion,” he said. Onyekpere, noted that CSJ and its partner, CWP, are dedicated to the continuation of this tradition of meticulous and tasking budget engagement. He also called on other stakeholders to join hands for greater scrutiny on budget bills to improve value for money in public expenditure proposals.
Specifically, N538.1 million was recovered from the frivolous provision of N4.36 billion, under the code, ERGP7102245, titled: “Annual Routine Maintenance of Mechanical/Electrical Installations of the Villa”, which the activists had recommended a 50 percent reduction.
The same line item had in the 2018 appropriation plan, received a whopping N5.426 billion and was not reviewed, a development that is tending towards perpetuity for the State House to receive bloated amounts for rehabilitation and repairs of buildings yearly.
Also, N2.23 billion was clawed back from the line item titled: “Purchase of Library Books and Equipment”, with provisions of N42.33 billion, as the group recommended a relocation of the amount to other projects, stating that the State House got N67.3 billion, for the same purpose in the 2018 budget and there was no evidence of anyone being in need of books to read.
Still, in the State House, N30.36 million was saved from the purchase of motor vehicles, estimated at N607.1 million, as the group also protested for a 50 percent reduction. Their protest was based on the fact that the Presidency is not under an obligation to buy vehicles every year, especially as N907.1 million was approved in the 2018 budget for the purchase of vehicles.
The Atomic Energy Commission had requested N250 million for “Planning and Development of Nuclear Power Plant Infrastructure,” but was cut by N45.75 million after the activists recommended that such amount should be saved by reallocating it to other pressing needs.
“Nigeria does not have the human and technical capacity and the discipline to develop, run and manage a nuclear power plant. This is coming at a time more advanced countries are decommissioning their nuclear power plants.“This investment should be re-channeled for research to develop competencies and capacities in renewable energy,” Onyekpere noted.