Despite the gripping recession, the 2021 budget for Aso Villa’s refurbishment stands at ₦11.04bn.
The State House has budgeted over ₦37bn for the repairs of residential and office buildings since 2016.
In the last five years, the Buhari administration budgeted over ₦37bn towards the refurbishment of its State House.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s debt profile keeps increasing, never mind worries over debt servicing for 2021.
An expert says allocations speak to the fiscal irresponsibility of the Buhari administration.
“So, rather than build over a 1000 Primary Healthcare Centres at a rate of ₦28m, he repainted his garage. With premium paint, one might add. But perhaps this should not surprise us.”
“It was the same Aso Villa that spent over ₦25bn on electricity/plumbing in the same period. And to top it off, 2021 allocations for this purpose stands tall at ₦11bn. Never mind all the conversations on deficits and low revenue projections.” Dataphyte stated in its report.
Starting at ₦7.1 billion in 2016, the appropriations fluctuated over the years, peaking at 2017 and dipping in 2018 at ₦11.83 billion and ₦6.33 billion.
It further declined in succeeding years with 2019 and 2020 allocations standing at ₦4.34 Billion and ₦3.28 Billion, respectively.
Curiously, the appropriations for electricity and plumbing in Aso Villa were also lowest in 2020.
General budget cuts owing to low revenue projections for the year might be a reason, while 2019 records ₦7.92tn as revenue, this present year realizes ₦6.91tn.
Interestingly, when Dataphyte tried to interrogate how much funds the National Assembly releases toward the State House repairs, it was unable to.
Rather than give a clear breakdown of expenditure, the Open Treasury Portal lumped expenses on rehabilitation work for all the MDAs.
This omission, while not extreme as cases of nameless transactions, still hinders transparency.
Allocations Speak To A Gross Fiscal Irresponsibility
Policy Analyst, Atiku Samuel condemned the billions that went into ‘repainting a drywall’ as against the numerous deficits in key developmental sectors.
The Economist added that budgeting ₦11bn for Aso Villa refurbishment amid uncertain revenue projections for 2021 spoke to the fiscal irresponsibility of the Buhari administration.
“After all, Nigeria has infrastructural deficits running in billions. Not to mention loans from the International Monetary Fund and China which is pending for repayment.
“Even the Finance Minister, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, last year, lamented the infrastructural deficits present, maintaining that to recover, Nigeria needed an annual allocation of ₦38 trillion for the next three decades.
Is Nigeria’s budget a ‘needs assessment’ document or periodic allowance?
An Architect who preferred to stay anonymous painted a picture of Aso Villa’s excesses to Dataphyte.
“Ten billion naira would build an estate with 5 four-bedroom en-suite detached duplexes, 5 four-bedroom semi-detached duplexes and 7 four-bedroom three-storey semi-detached terrace flats. All complete with a pool, sports facilities and green areas. It would build it from scratch. So, I don’t understand what type of repairs would necessitate ₦11bn.”
He further noted that rehabilitation differed from refurbishment further querying how the latter would run into billions for the State House Headquarters.
“Rehabilitation work is what Landlords do for new tenants after say a two-year lease. In such instances, there is dilapidated material that needs fixing. Refurbishment work, on the flip side, is more bespoke.
“Rather than bringing things to code, you’re retrofitting. I find it hard to believe that Aso Villa refurbishment ran into billions. Because let’s be honest, it cannot be rehabilitation work; that is for old buildings with poor maintenance.”
Overall, these excesses speak to the importance of a ‘needs assessment’ document prior to budgeting. In fact, a Dataphyte report once queried whether Nigeria’s budget was a ‘needs assessment document or periodic allowance.
In the end, times like this call for real transparency on the part of the Federal government. Alongside accountability, efficient budgeting based on needs assessment is a way to go as we brace for 2021.