Budget Padding: Case of ‘chop make I chop’ — Sen. Melaye

Budget Padding: Case of ‘chop make I chop’ — Sen. Melaye

The former representative of Kogi West in the Red Chamber of the Nation’s Assembly, Senator Dino Melaye, has called on the Senate to save the nation from massive corruption bedevilling the economy.

Melaye stressed in a statement that “this will be the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly, whose initial allocation in the 2024 budget proposal was pegged at N197.93bn.

According to the Senator, “On an x-ray of some of the budget, it appears that they have no national significance but an avenue to syphon public funds.”

He said, “Some years ago, I called the attention of well-meaning Nigerians to the most unfortunate and poignant situation we Nigerians have found ourselves in, where our collective wealth has been consistently looted under the guise of budget padding.

“I also recalled stating that more than 60% of corruption issues in Nigeria are built into and legalized in the budget. It’s impossible to argue the veracity when, out of 115 countries globally, Nigeria is ranked 90th on budget transparency, according to the Open Budget Index (OBI). 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.

“Lately, the news of an increase in the budget that was passed by the National Assembly. On November 29, 2023, President Bola Tinubu presented the N27.5 trillion budget to the joint session of the National Assembly. The budget has a recurrent expenditure profile of N9.92 trillion and a capital expenditure component of N8.7 trillion, while N8.25 trillion was set aside for debt servicing. Within 30 days, the lawmakers passed the budget, increasing it by N1.2 trillion and bringing the total figure to N28.7 trillion.

“Obviously, the lawmakers sacrificed diligence on the altar of speed, and so did the Commander-in-Chief, President Tinubu, who signed the bill into law within 48 hours after it was transmitted to him. The Premium Times reported on December 30, 2023, that the budget was passed after considering a report presented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Adeola Olamilekan (APC, Ogun West).

“The lawmaker explained that the increase in the appropriation was a result of a request for additional funding for items that were not listed in the Appropriation Bill as submitted by President Tinubu. He said the joint National Assembly Committee on Appropriation observed inadequate funding in the budgetary allocation of some ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government.

“It was on the basis above that the National Assembly raised its 2024 budgetary allocation by 74.23 per cent to N344.85 billion. May I humbly remind Nigerians that this will be the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly, whose initial allocation in the 2024 budget proposal was pegged at N197.93bn? On an x-ray of some of the budget, it appears that they have no national significance but are an avenue to syphon public funds.

“The new legislative budget is more than what NASS got between 2011 and 2014. The increase in allocation to the Senate and House of Representatives is happening amidst a cost-of-living crisis in the country, with the government telling citizens that the country is facing tough times.

“The same cost applies for the Senate car park (109 members) and the Reps car park (360 members). In other words, a 109-car capacity car park costs the same as a 360-car capacity car park. N15 billion for the NASS hospital (a project for 500 people). This project is enough to build one primary health care centre in every local government area in Nigeria. This applies to all the projects listed above.

“Sadly, it is the same story through all the ministries, departments, agencies, parastatals, and even the presidency. Our budgeting system is now an avenue to cheat, defraud the country, and enrich a few elected principal officers through manipulation of budget numbers, yet we still try to legalise the act.

“The complicity is jaw-dropping, especially when one discovers that the Executive is now defending the actions of the National Assembly. Could it be because the National Assembly is their alma mater? No wonder at the presentation of the budget, Senate President Godswill Akpabio declared: “Our old boys are running the executive.”

What Nigerians have witnessed so far in this administration is the over-pampering of the lawmakers by President Bola Tinubu’s led administration at a time when ordinary Nigerians are enduring the pains of the reform initiatives of his administration, like fuel subsidy removal and the merger of the exchange rates of the Naira.

“The National Assembly has failed in its primary assignment of checking the excesses of the executive arm of government. The National Assembly has turned a blind eye to a huge sum of money budgeted for imaginary projects. Both now work in partnership to perpetrate this miasma. It has become the case of chop-make I -chop. Things have fallen apart.”

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