Buhari’s Government Hasn’t Spent N1.5 trillion It Claimed In Response To Bill Gates Criticism
The Buhari administration has not spent N500 billion annually on social investment programmes for Nigerians as it has led the public to believe, as that claim has not been cash-backed, the government has confirmed.
The government announced the initiative in 2015 as it came into office, and in last week’s response to American billionaire, Bill Gate’s criticism of the government’s low spending on human capital, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said the yearly N500 billion social investment package was the biggest in sub-saharan Africa, and unprecedented in Nigeria.
“…We also decided to put in place an audacious Social Investment Programme to the tune of N500 billion, the largest pro-poor programme in our nation’s history, and the largest social safety net, at least in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Mr Osinbajo said at the Bola Tinubu Colloquium in Lagos March 29.
The initiative aims to provide easy-to-access jobs for the unemployed, feeding for school children and a N5,000 monthly handouts to some of the nation’s poorest people.
The government claims more than 7.4 million primary school pupils in 22 states have been fed, while almost 300,000 poor Nigerians are also receiving N5000 monthly cash transfer. It said almost 300,000 Nigerians benefited from micro-credit loans of between N10, 000 to N100,000.
The figures have not been independently verified. If implemented as it repeatedly claims, at least N1 trillion would have been expended between 2016 and 2017 when the government fully administered the national budget. The amount would be more if a part of 2015, when the SIP started, is considered. In announcing this purported achievement, administration officials often cite the government’s ability to do so despite low oil receipts and generally dwindling revenues.
But the administration has been economical with the truth, and failed to clarify that only a comparatively small chunk of the amount was released.
As at February 3, the administration said it had spent N109 billion of total budget release of N110 billion for the programme.
By this week, the government spent only N175 billion in three years as against N1.5 trillion many Nigerians are led to believe.
That confirmation came Friday after the Senate Appropriations Committee questioned the programme, with lawmakers from the ruling All Progressives Congress expressing doubts about its value.
At a session on Thursday with the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Maryam Uwais, members of the Senate committee picked holes in the implementation of the initiative, and challenged Mrs. Uwais to provide names of the beneficiaries of the social intervention programme from their various states.
“You have N500 billion every year, which is unprecedented, totalling N1.5 trillion in three years. I am from Gombe State, and I’m yet to see one single boy or girl that has benefited from the programme. I have been active and politicking for 40 years. As far as a I am concerned, I don’t know of anybody who has benefited from your programme and this is N13 billion every month,” chairman of the committee, Danjuma Goje (APC-Gombe) said.
Mr Goje’s comments infuriated Mr Osinbajo, and his spokesperson issued a statement condemning the remark as “irresponsible.”
But the Senate’s query served another value: it triggered a disclosure of the the actual amount spent on the programme over three years.
“To restate the facts, while indeed we have budgeted a total of N500B for the 2016 & 2017 Budgets each, including the N100B for the Family Housing Fund in the 2017 Budget, only a total of N175B has so far been released since the commencement of the historic Buhari Social Investment Programme.
Odilim Enwagbara, an economist, told PREMIUM TIMES the administration’s admission that only N175 billion had gone into the policy was typical.
“This is similar to what they did with the fuel subsidy matter. They lied that fuel subsidy had been abolished, but when its expenses became too much and they could no longer cover it up, they opened up to Nigerians that the subsidy is still in place,” Mr. Enwagbara said. “There’s absolutely no accountability or transparency in this government.”
The analyst called on the National Assembly to immediately conduct a public hearing on the matter in order to unravel potential sharp practices that might have characterised the scheme.
“The government has been giving Nigerians the impression that N500 billion was being spent annually on their welfare, but clearly that turned out to be false and I appeal to the House of Representatives and the Senate committees on social policies to conduct a public hearing without delay,” he said.
Laolu Akande, a spokesperson for Mr Osinbajo, dismissed allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the administration, saying the fact that money was not released was not sufficient to jump into conclusion.
“What I know is that this is the amount that the government could afford at this time,” Mr Akande told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Saturday afternoon.
He said the government would continue to budget N500 billion as projected annual expenditure for the programme, even though it couldn’t implement half of it in the last two budget cycles and without assurances that much would change within the next fiscal year.
“You don’t know what is going to happen in future,” Mr Akande said. “It is the intention of the Buhari administration to spend a significant part of our resources in investing in our people. This is our own plan. This is our own projection and we will continue to push.
“The fact that we were unable to get the money in the past does not mean we would lower our ambition and aspiration for the Nigerian people. It is important that the resources of this country is spent on the generality of the Nigerian people,” he added.
But Mr Enwagbara slammed the government’s resolve as indicative of its alleged criminality and incompetence.
“The Appropriation Act is a a law, so how could the government continue to put amounts into it indiscriminately without proper projection all in a bid to swindle the citizens?” Mr Enwagbara said. “This government is the most fraudulent and incompetent I have seen since 1999.”
ENJOY FREE CONTENTS FROM US
IN YOUR EMAIL
Breaking News, Events, Music & More
Thank you for subscribing.
Something went wrong.