By PETERS
On 19 Nov 2021.

 

1.0. The Anti-Corruption Network condemns in a very strong terms the budgeting system in Nigeria. The Nigeria’s budgeting system is marred by corrupt activities which undermines economic progress and impedes policy changes required for economic growth and development. It is so glaring even to the blind that the budgeting system in Nigeria is now an avenue to cheat, defraud the country and enrich the some few elected principal officers through manipulation of budget numbers and yet, try to legalize the act.

1.1. With Nigeria’s annual budgets laced with fake items running into billions, budget fraud would be nothing but the real foundation of all corrupt practices in Nigeria. The Anti-Corruption Network believes that more than 60% of corruption issues in Nigeria are built and legalized in the budget. And it is impossible to argue the veracity of the above when, out of 115 countries globally, Nigeria is ranked 90th on budget transparency, according to the Open Budget Index (OBI). It is poignant and most unfortunate that our national collective wealth has been consistently looted under the guise of budget padding which now calls for serious scrutiny.

1.2. A typical example is the recent Federal Inland Revenue Service Commission (FIRS) proposed 2022 budget. FIRS presented its proposed 2022 budget to the House Committee on Finance sometime last month. The said FIRS budget stands at N228bn, surpassing the 2022 budget of the National Assembly (N134bn) and the judiciary (N120bn).

1.3. The FIRS budget also surpasses the current 2021 budgets of Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Bauchi, Benue, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Ondo, Osun, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara states.

1.4. In the FIRS 2022 budget proposal, the tax body earmarked N2.5bn for the purchase of land, N3bn for office furniture, N1.5bn for photocopying machines, N2.04bn for computers and N500m for the construction of sports facilities. The agency set aside N1bn for generator fuel and N250m for maintenance while a separate N550m was set aside for purchasing more generators.

1.5. The FIRS will also spend N6bn on its new headquarters and N2bn on the purchase of vehicles. It budgeted about N1.3bn for cleaning and fumigation of its offices nationwide while N1.4bn will be spent on general maintenance services. The FIRS budgeted about N1.3bn for office stationery and computer consumables while N3bn will be spent on printing non-security documents.

1.6. The agency will spend N1.4bn on electricity charges, N460m on telephone charges and N1.3bn on security services. The FIRS will spend N7.9bn on donations and N200m as contributions to international organizations. The agency earmarked N800m for legal services, N1.04bn on bank charges, N9.5bn on welfare packages; N1.1bn on staff retreat, N2.9bn on repairs.

1.7. How on earth can FIRS budget sum of N2.8bn for “uniforms and clothing” for the year 2022 and in defence, the FIRS Chairman through his Special Assistant on Media and Communication, Johannes Wojuola had the guts to say that the word “uniform” is the corporate outfit (dressing allowance) to be enjoyed by all the staff.

1.8. As if that is not enough, the FIRS Board members shall be earning N370m sitting allowance for the incoming year, N550m for refreshments, N200m for sporting activities, set aside N262.5m for security votes while N11.36bn would be spent on miscellaneous expenses.

1.9. Is it the Presidency? The Presidency proposed budget for 2022 stands at N150.5bn and the sum of 24.8bn was budgeted for the President. It was budgeted that the President will spend the sum of N775.6m for his local travel and transport while the sum of N1.5bn will be spent on International travel and transport (No wonder Mr. President is travelling up and down). The President food stuff/catering material supplies stand at N301.1m, miscellaneous at N250.8m and Honorarium & sitting allowance of Mr. President is N174.1m.

1.10. The 2022 budget of the Vice President stands at N1.1bn. The Vice President is to spend the sum of 301.9m for his local travel and transport while the sum of N476.2m will be spent on International travel and transport. N6.3m will be spent on office stationeries/computer consumables, the sum of N4.6m will be spent on printing of non security documents. The Vice President food stuff/catering material supplies stand at N156.6m. Miscellaneous is N99.7m, Refreshment & Meals is earmarked 20.2m while Honorarium & sitting allowance is N30.2m. The Vice President is to spend N18.8m on publicity & advertisement, N23.2m on welfare packages and N5.4m on sporting activities.

1.11. Furthermore, Some other well-known examples of budgetary corruption in Nigeria also include the expenditure of billions of US dollars to resuscitate the power, transport and other sectors of the country but with very little to show for the vast sums expended.

1.12. This is the sad tale of the Nigerian State and its budgeting fraud and this is where we now find ourselves. It is the same story through all the Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Parastatals, and even the Presidency as seen above.

1.13. The complicity is jaw-dropping, especially when one discovers that the executive is the champion of the annual mangling of the budget. Buhari’s government has consistently hijacks resources meant for social programmes from benefitting the people, to serving the interest of a few, thereby engendering economic inequality, whereby the poor only get poorer.

1.14. The Anti-Corruption Network wishes to place it on record and also let the whole world know that the budgeting system in Nigeria is currently used by Nigerian government officials and public officers to regularly misappropriate public funds. Thus, despite the country’s wealth of vast natural (notably crude oil) and human resources, a huge proportion of its population lives in poverty, largely due to the dual woes of government corruption and poor leadership.

1.15. The National Assembly is also not left out in these corrupt activities as they have compromised and betrayed the trust of their electorates. They have failed in their primary assignment of checking the excesses of the executive arm of the government and are now working in partnership in perpetrating this miasma called budgeting fraud. They have turn blind eye to huge sum of money budgeted for imaginary project under the guise of budget padding. They have also failed to make critical inputs into the budget process and, as part of their oversight function, ensure the budget process outcomes align with the anticipated objectives.

1.16. Just this week, the above FIRS proposed 2022 budget scaled through the House Committee on Finance without proper scrutiny, therefore, failing Nigerians as the custodians of the nation’s commonwealth. They failed to use their constitutional mandate to ensure the judicious deployment of available resources at minimum cost. The provision of section 88(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution which gives the National Assemble the powers 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 the National Assemble is now in abeyance.

1.17. In conclusion, the Anti-Corruption Network at the risk of sounding repetitive reiterates that the current budgeting system in Nigeria is a monumental national disgrace. It shows the level of moral bankrupt and shameless open displace of inordinate financial ambition and fraud. We therefore recommend the following going forward:

a. In line with the anti-corruption stand of the Nigerian current administration, all abuse of powers and privileges by public and elected officials should be made to face the law irrespective of status or position.

b. The executive should adopt a yearly publication of the appropriation bills before sending to the legislative arms.

c. The Presidency should also engage a reputable consulting firm to guide and audit the Appropriation bill process, to ensure credibility of the budget.

d. Finally, the Anti-Corruption Network recommends that it is high time the citizens, speak out and collectively hold our elected representatives accountable, since we are all stakeholders in Nigerian project and as a nation. REMEMBER! IN AN UNJUST SOCIETY, SILENCE IS A CRIME.

Thank you.

God bless Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Signed
Sen. Dino Melaye
Executive Secretary
18/11/2021