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FACT CHECK: Did Buhari budget N79m to have his haircut in 2019?

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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari plans to spend up to N79 million in 2019 just to regularly get his haircut, goes a claim that has been repeatedly made on the Internet.

On Sunday, a Nigerian Twitter user, Funny Pikin (@funnypiki), wrote on the social media platform: “Buhari’s 2019 Hair Cut Budget is N79m. CJN Onnoghen’s life savings is N72m. And the CJN is corrupt… Head that didn’t pass WAEC.”

The tweet has been liked over 4,600 times and has been shared by over 3,300 users. A similar tweet shared by Adetutu Balogun (@Tutsy22) was liked 719 times and shared by 502 persons.

Walter Onnoghen, the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, is facing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration and failing to declare some bank accounts operated by him. The federal government had alleged that it discovered Onnoghen’s accounts containing huge sums suspected to be proceeds of corruption. The total balance of all five accounts under scrutiny, as at December, was however found to be N43.5 million, after an official of Standard Chartered Bank testified in court.

Funny Pikin is not the first person to make this claim. Using different words, many other Nigerians have tweeted similar allegations and condemned the perceived double standards on the part of the presidency.

It is also not the first time a claim has been made about how much the president is proposing to pay his barber from the nation’s treasury. A similar claim also made the rounds last year, with the figure ranging from 78 million to 79 million or 86 million naira.

“Mr President, Nigerians will like to know the kind of hair cut or hairs that you want to cut for 78 million naira in your budget. A saint must not indulge in anything staining like you inserted in the budget,” Adeyemi Juwon (@juwon2017) had tweeted in June 2018. Another tweet by The Nigerian Wailers (@NGRWailers) stated instead that N79 million was budgeted for the exercise that year.

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Lere Olayinka, former media aide of former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, also tweeted in March 2018 that N79 million was the sum budgeted by the president for his haircut.

An Abuja-based barber, Alfred Umoh, according to a Naij report, even offered to “give the President of the federal republic of Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari a free one year haircut and treatment… to help the federal government to save N86 million budgeted for the President’s haircut in the 2018 appropriation act”.

How true are these claims?

The contents of the federal budgets prepared and approved annually are accessible to the public, and budget items that directly benefit the president are often classified under the heading “State House Operations – President”.

In 2018, there is no part of this section that mentions haircut. The budget only covers local and international travel, foodstuff, refreshment, honorarium and sitting allowance, publicity and advertisements, and finally postage and courier services.

The contexts under which the word “hair” appeared in the document included youth and women empowerment in form of teaching hair making, provision of hair clippers and dryers to victims of community clashes, training youth in hair dressing, and so on. Likewise, in the proposed 2019 budget, the same pattern was repeated.

The allowances and fringe benefits allowed for the president, according to the certain political, public and judicial office holders (Salaries and Allowances, etc.) (Amendment) Act, 2008, do not include money for haircuts. The law only provides for 17 items including accommodation, utilities, domestic staff, entertainment, medical allowance, leave allowance, hardship allowance, among others.

Conclusion
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It is not true that President Buhari budgeted N79 million, or any amount at all, expressly for having his haircut in the 2019 fiscal year. Claims that he budgeted a similar amount in 2018 are also false, as no such item is contained in the budget.

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