The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has voiced its deep concerns regarding the Federal Government’s second 2023 Supplementary Budget. Despite the nation’s vulnerable financial situation, CISLAC contends that the government has continued to exhibit a propensity for extravagance, opulence, and inefficiency.
The organization has drawn attention to a disconcerting pattern of maintaining luxurious lifestyles for public officials at the expense of the general public, while Nigeria grapples with widespread poverty and high levels of unemployment. This trend, as per CISLAC, has become deeply entrenched within successive administrations in the Fourth Republic, with a failure to curtail expenses or reduce the extravagant spending of public funds, even in the face of persistent economic challenges, recessions, revenue shortfalls, rising joblessness, and increasing national debt.
Supplementary budgets are traditionally intended to cater to unforeseen expenditures not initially accounted for during budget preparation. Recently, the National Assembly passed a Supplementary Appropriation Act 2023 amounting to over N819 billion (Eight Hundred and Nineteen Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira). However, a second supplementary budget emerged, ostensibly in response to the impact of petrol subsidy removal, aiming to provide additional palliative measures, such as wage awards for public servants and an enhanced cash transfer program for the most vulnerable in society.
CISLAC has raised questions about the utilization of this supplementary budget, expressing concerns about what it refers to as “wasteful, suspicious, and unnecessary expenditure on frivolous items.” Specifically, CISLAC has noted the allocation of N18 billion to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for conducting off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Kogi, and Imo States on November 11, 2023. This allocation raises eyebrows since INEC’s Chairman indicated during a Quarterly Civil Society Consultative meeting on October 25, 2023, that these elections were already budgeted for in the 2023 budget, including the General election budget.
The organization has criticized the shift in focus of palliatives from addressing the cost of living challenges faced by the majority of Nigerians to the legislative and executive arms of government, which are considered the most privileged. CISLAC poses a series of crucial questions, such as the rationale for forgoing trillions to sustain subsidies, approving N2.8 trillion for questionable purposes, and the relevance of such expenditures in the context of Nigeria’s pressing economic needs.
CISLAC also questions the wisdom of borrowing for what it sees as frivolous expenses, given the nation’s significant debt burden. The organization deems it insensitive and irresponsible to allocate funds for luxury vehicles for the State House and the unconstitutional Office of the First Lady, among other frivolous items.
In conclusion, CISLAC emphasizes the importance of responsible government budgeting, which should efficiently allocate resources to achieve economic and social objectives while maintaining a sound fiscal position. The organization calls for public engagement and increased transparency in the budget process to ensure that expenditures are directed toward job creation, economic growth, revenue enhancement, and the reduction of the national debt burden.
CISLAC’s Executive Director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani), has underscored the critical need for substantial cost-cutting measures, asset privatization, infrastructure development, poverty-alleviation initiatives, and actions that generate employment opportunities.
The organization has called upon President Tinubu and the National Assembly to shift their focus from wasteful spending to addressing the urgent priorities of the nation.