Additional reports by Damilola Ojetunde and Victoria Nwaziri
For three consecutive years, President Muhammadu Buhari has presented budgets that are more reckless and ridiculous than his predecessor’s.
Buhari did not only adopt the budget template of Goodluck Jonathan, whom his administration has consistently accused of financial profligacy, he has presented more outrageous budgets than the defeated PDP leader did while at the helm.
The most inexplicable item in the 2018 budget is the reappearance of N5.4 billion for repair and rehabilitation of office buildings at the State House headquarters, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In 2016, Buhari earmarked N4.5 billion for the repair and rehabilitation of residential and office buildings, while in 2017, N5.6 billion was budgeted for repair of residential houses in the Presidential Villa.
In three years of budgeting, Buhari has earmarked over N15 billion to repair and rehabilitate buildings in the State House.
This outrageous expenditure on repairs of buildings is unbelievably coming from Buhari, who had just five houses and two mud houses in Kaduna, Kano, Daura, and Abuja before he became President in 2015.
In contrast, Jonathan earmarked N2.1 billion in 2014 for repair of both residential and office buildings, and N1.1 billion in 2015 for all repairs and rehabilitation at the State House.
Buhari’s first budget for 2016 attracted public outcry but he blamed the inflated figures on “budget padding” by unnamed civil servants. However, the 2017 and 2018 budgets are not better than the “padded” 2016 budget.
Buhari’s State House is more expensive than the Jonathan’s. The 2017 budget for State House headquarters was N11 billion, lower than N11.5 billion in 2016 but N11.5 billion again for 2018. The same budget under Jonathan in 2015 was only N5 billion and N8.7 billion in 2014.
Comparing Buhari and Jonathan’s budgets in figures may not be realistic because of naira devaluation. However, Buhari has nearly doubled the figures on all the budgetary items in the State House and made provision for suspicious items.
Buhari has earmarked N66 million to the ever-changing residential rent in the Presidential Villa. In 2017, the rent was N77 million and only N27 million in 2016. The same residential rent in the last two years of Jonathan’s presidency was N22 million in 2015 and N41 million in 2014. It seems there is nothing as fluctuating and elusive as this annual rent paid to the Presidential Villa landlord or probably a landlady.
The 2018 budget is as disappointing as the two previous budgets under the leadership of Buhari who came to power riding on a reputation of integrity based on years of living an austere and “Spartan” lifestyle. His lifestyle contrasted sharply with many of his contemporaries who occupied public offices and relished ostentatious living.
Buhari was known for his simplicity of taste, clothing and living standard, spawning the notion of Buhari as a more financially prudent and disciplined political leader who would bring positive change into public finance.
But it appears that times may have changed, as the President’s austere lifestyle has given way to opulence and ostentatious living.
Buhari, who obviously enjoys travelling, has earmarked over N1 billion for local and international travels in 2018. That is a presidential privilege because he did not even have N27 million to buy his party’s nomination form for the presidential contest in 2014, which he said he borrowed from his bank.
In 2016, nearly N1 billion was budgeted for vehicles at the State House but Buhari is again earmarking almost N1 billion for the purchase of motor vehicles in 2018.
Since Buhari moved to the Presidential Villa, the cost of services have been rising at an alarming level. Although electricity charges have reduced from N319 million in 2017 to N274 million in 2018, it was only N45 million in 2016. Jonathan budgeted N36 million for electricity in 2016 and N68 million in 2014.
Water rates have also risen from N18 million in 2016 to N76 in 2017, but have slightly come down to N65 million for 2018. The same water rates were N15 million in 2015 and N28 million in 2016.
Following wide criticism, sewerage charges have reduced from N52 million in 2017 to N45 million for 2018. The same service was N6 million in 2016, N4 million in 2015 and N9 million in 2014.
Upon assumption of power, Buhari made a grand gesture by announcing N50 percent cut in his salary. But this gesture is insignificant when he has earmarked N164 million for his honorarium and sitting allowance in 2018.