NIGERIA'S 50TH BIRTHDAY: SUSPICIOUS BUDGET INCREASE

Friday, June 18, 2010

Late President Yar'Adua apportioned $62 million to be spent on celebrating Nigeria's 50th anniversary, it's 'Golden Jubilee' as many call it. Many hoped that this celebration would provide a pivot for the country to turn the country from its troubled path to a better future. However, Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper reports that current President Goodluck Jonathan increased the Golden Jubilee budget to N10 billion, with his wife receiving at least N70 million for activities during the celebration period. In a country where contracts and budgets are inflated so as to funnel public money into private hands, many have become suspicious and highly critical of Jonathan's action. Is this inflation of the Golden Jubilee budget just one more corrupt move to ensure that politicians have the money they need to thwart their competition in the nation's upcoming elections?


PRE-ELECTION SEASON
Pre-election season is a busy season in Nigeria with politicians amassing large sums of money by any means. Politicians such as Eme Zuru Ayortor who swallowed 100 cocaine parcels and attempted to fly abroad with them in a futile effort to raise campaign funds. He was thankfully arrested before boarding his flight. Some politicians even stockpile weapons in preparation for violence that often erupts during election season.

Politics is a 'do or die' affair with incumbents doing everything to hold onto their power and opponents doing as much as possible to clinch their desired seat. And, it is easy to understand why. Members of the National Assembly become automatic millionaires once they enter the legislative body as they earn millions of Naira from their salary, more millions from their government-issued allowances and possibly billions from brown paper bags and duffel bags containing the occasional bribe. 

SUSPICIOUS SPENDING & SALARY INCREASES
For these reasons, it is absolutely fair to criticize President Jonathan for increasing the Golden Jubilee budget by a whopping 161%. In fact, it is unconscionable given the fact that Nigeria continues to suffer from epileptic power supply, unemployment hovering anywhere between 19% and 28.57%, 10 million child beggars in the north and a host of other problems that the federal government needs to address. Further suspicion is warranted given that within one month of becoming acting President in February 2010, Jonathan gave $3 billion from the Excess Crude Account to governors. This move could unfortunately be interpreted as a payoff because his ascension would have been impossible without their help. Additionally, Nigeria's Senators recently increased their allowances with the Speaker set to receive N83.33 million per month (over $55,000) or N250 million quarterly ($1653977.41 as of June 2010). This in a country where 90% of citizens live on less than $2 a day!

THE GOLDEN JUBILEE BUDGET BREAKDOWN
Here is a breakdown of the new budget:

  1. Anniversary parade - N950 million
  2. National Unity Torch tour - N350 million
  3. First Lady's package (to visit select orphanages, National Children's Parliament session, party for 1000 children) -  N90 million
  4. Presidential banquet - N40 million
  5. Cultural, historical & military exhibitions - N310 million
  6. 'Food week' - N40 million
  7. Secretariat equipment, accommodation, logistics & utilities - N320 million
  8. 50th anniversary logo - N30 million
  9. Ministry of Information & Communication (adverts in local & international press) - N1.52 billion
  10. Guests transport & accommodations - N700 million
  11. Ministry of Foreign Affairs (anniversary parties) - N105 million
  12. Party favors for foreign dignitaries - N450 million
  13. Variety Gala night & fireworks - N210 million
  14. Football friendly matches (international & local) - N200 million
  15. Event planners - N120 million
  16. Publication on Nigeria - N400 million
  17. Publication on Legislature - N150 million
  18. Publication on Judiciary - N50 million
  19. Golden Jubilee Plaza - N10 million
  20. Tower of Unity in 36 states - $540 million
  21. Debates, essays, conferences, lectures & colloquium - N150 million
  22. Concerts and carnivals - N60 million
  23. Masquerades, cultural events and durbar - N100 million
  24. 10 symbolic monuments of Nigeria's founding fathers - N80 million
  25. Tafawa Balewa Square memory tone - N40 million
  26. Security and protocol - N500 million
  27. 'Medicals' - N25 million

All these new changes made less than 4 months away from Independence Day. That only reinforces suggestions that the money is intended for something other than what is stated and will be used to line the pockets of the corrupt. The irony is that Jonathan got approval for the new budget from the National Assembly in the same letter in which he requested a 40% cut in the 2010 national budget. For that budget, Jonathan based the request on falling oil revenue due to the decline in the price of oil. That being the case, how doe sit make sense for this same government to afford the first lady N20 million to host a party for only 1000 children at N20,000 per head? The list of expenditures appears excessive given the economic realities and the fact that only a select and already financially fortunate few will benefit. There will be no long term benefits for Nigerians such as better electricity or road infrastructure.

It is unfortunate that Goodluck Jonathan seems to be using the same handbook many of Nigeria's corrupt political elite have used to fleece the nation while in office. Jonathan came to power during a period of uncertainty and was seen as a possible opportunity for transforming Nigeria. His promises of free and fair elections now lacks credibility given that his actions are seemingly funneling money to himself and others in anticipation of elections. Jonathan once said that "electoral fraud is the worst form of corruption". But, Jonathan should keep in mind that misappropriation of government funds is just as horrible particularly when such funds will likely be used to commit electoral fraud.

Thanks to fellow bloggers Shubby Doo, Medianemesis & Danny Bagucci for their mathematical assistance on this post.

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Kviklån said...

He literally swallowed those cocaine parcels? WOW! That is a desperate act to get money and at the cost of risking his life. Politics is indeed a dirty business.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for bringing this to our attention, Sydelle.

- I. A. from Facebook

O'mary said...

Dora Akunyili responded to these allegations on Wednesday..
She insisted that the final budget was drawn up by a committee set up by Yar'Adua and has not been adjusted by the Goodluck administration..
She explained that the N62 million reported was never the entire budget for the celebrations but simply a portion of it allocated to 'low-key' anniversary projects in 3 ministries..

Beauty said...

President Yar'Adua is dead, Goodluck Jonathan has not shown he is any better. We have had a World Bank director as finance minister, now, a Goldman "synthetic collateralized debt obligation" Sachs double speaker is in charge. My point, So they are all common thieves, what else is new?

sokari said...

Thanks SS for this excellent informative post and for highlighting the fact that a change in "regime" in know way relates to a change in direction. Same old Same old

Anonymous said...

all our leaders are corrupt,dey kip spendn on demselves yet dey cant increse wrker's salaries,na ril wa 4 nigerian leaders.we thought jonathan was goin 2 b beta but............, i dnt ivn knw wat 2 say!

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