WIKKIDATA: Nigeria’s Decades of Budget Controversies, ‘Padding’ and Compromises

There have been continuous allegations of budget padding within Nigeria’s National Assembly in the last couple of decades, threatening the quest for accountability and transparency in the governance system.

Starting from 2000 for instance, the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo submitted a proposal of N667.51 billion for the 2000 fiscal year. N22.7 billion was allocated to the national assembly, but the lawmakers added an extra N2 billion to their budget, raising it to N24 billion.

But Obasanjo refused to sign the budget passed by the legislative arm, claiming it had been padded with about N2 billion.

However, after weeks of a face-off between the executive and legislature, Obasanjo agreed to assent to the budget on the condition that he would bring a supplementary bill to address the contentious issues.

Similarly, in 2008, late ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua faced issues of budget padding by the national assembly.

Yar’Adua had proposed N2.45 trillion, but the national assembly raised the allocation for some items, a move the president was unsatisfied with, which led to him withholding assent to the bill.

Yar’adua eventually signed a budget of N2.74 trillion down from the national assembly’s initial N2.89 trillion.

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In December 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan presented a budget of N4.642 trillion for the 2014 fiscal year to the national assembly.

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The national assembly later raised the figure to N4.695 trillion adding N53 billion.

Jonathan signed the bill into law in May 2014, after the presidency complained of distortions to the budget.

Also, in 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari proposed N6.8 trillion. However, there was an allegation of budget padding following revelations by former House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin.

Jibrin accused principal officers of the House, including the then Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, of padding the 2016 budget with billions of naira. He said the Speaker allowed 10 committee chairmen to insert projects worth N284 billion.

Despite denials by top officials of the National Assembly, it has been discovered that the legislators padded the 2016 budget to the tune of N481 billion.

The House subsequently suspended Jibrin for 180 legislative days for alleged breaches of parliamentary rules, a move also criticized by some as an attempt to silence transparency.

In 2017, Buhari presented a N7.298 trillion budget estimate for 2017 to the national assembly on December 14, 2016.

By the time the Senate passed the appropriation bill on May 11, 2017, it had jumped to N7.44 trillion, with an increase of N143 billion.

Despite promises of the Nigerian Senate to investigate the inflated budget, no conclusive findings have been made public.

In 2018, the presidency submitted the 2018 budget proposal of N8.612 trillion to the national assembly in November 2017.

Six months later, the national assembly passed the budget and raised it to N9.12 trillion — an increment of N500 billion.

In June 2018, Buhari assented to the appropriation bill. While signing the budget, Buhari accused the lawmakers of reducing allocations for important projects and injecting 6,043 projects.

On December 19, 2018, Buhari presented a proposed budget of N8.83 trillion for 2019 to a joint session of the national assembly.

The lawmakers passed the budget in April 2019 but increased N85 billion to make it N8.916 trillion.

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Buhari proposed a 2020 budget of N10.33 trillion, but the national assembly increased it to N10.59 trillion — adding N260 billion. The lawmakers also added N3 billion to the national assembly budget, increasing it from N125 billion to N128 billion.

For 2021, President Buhari submitted a proposed budget of N13.08 trillion on October 8 2020, but the lawmakers increased it by N505 billion to N13.58 trillion.

In the proposed budget, a total of N128 billion was earmarked for the national assembly, but the lawmakers increased their budget to N134 billion.

The presidency had submitted a proposed fiscal budget of N16.391 trillion for 2022 to the National Assembly but the lawmakers later raised it to N17.127 trillion with an increase of N735.8 billion.

Buhari lamented that the lawmakers reduced the amount allocated to some projects but added over 6,500 projects of their own to the 2022 budget.

The 2024 which is the latest budget padding allegation, claimed by Senator representing Bauchi Central Abdul Ahmed Ningi that over N53 billion worth of projects in the 2024 Appropriations Act are without a specific location, is true.

According to Ningi, the consultants traced 36 projects with no specific locations they are to be sited.

On 29 November 2023, President Bola Tinubu presented the N27.5 trillion budget to the joint session of the National Assembly.

Within 30 days, the lawmakers passed the budget, increasing it by N1.2 trillion and bringing the total figure to N28.7 trillion.

From the amount approved, Senator Ningi insisted that there is an unaccounted sum of N3.7 trillion in the 2024 budget.

The lawmaker was however suspended for three months by the Senate over the claim.

Civil society groups and activists have renewed calls for transparency and accountability in the budgeting process.

Although the government has continually pledged to address concerns raised and strengthen oversight mechanisms within the National Assembly, controversies around budget continue to remain an issue.


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