N7.4bn earmarked for Abuja city gate, N150m for revamp of VP’s guest house
There was anger on the floor of the Senate Thursday when the chamber opened the debate on the 2013 budget for Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which contained a whopping N4 billion allocated to the construction of an office for the First Lady.
Neither the wife of a serving president who serves as first lady, nor her office, is accorded any form of recognition in the 1999 Constitution, which makes the N4 billion allocation illegal.
Other contentious issues contained in the budget were N7.5 billion earmarked for the construction of the Abuja city gate as well as N150 million for the renovation of vice-president guest house in Asokoro, Abuja.
A recent allocation of N9 billion for the building of the vice-president’s official residence had generated anger among Nigerians who described it as outrageous and insensitive to the plight of the citizenry.
While opening the debate on the 2013 FCT budget, Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma-Egba, had implored his colleagues to support N253 billion Appropriation Bill for FCT in 2013.
The budget allocated N155 billion to capital expenditure, N49 billion to overhead costs and N48 billion to personnel costs.
However, Senator Babajide Omoworare condemned the allocation of N4 billion for the first lady’s mission building, describing it as scandalous.
According to Omoworare, the allocation was nothing but misplaced priority, wondering why such a huge amount was earmarked for the office of first lady, which he said was not recognised by law.
Describing it as an aberration, Omoworare asked if such a development had ever been heard of in the United States, Ghana or any part of the world.
He also criticised the funds allotted to the construction of the Abuja city gate and vice-president’s guest house, noting that it was wrong when only N1 billion was allocated for each federal university.
“N4 billion for first lady’s office is scandalous. We allocate money for immaterial issues. Some of these allocations should have been moved elsewhere. There ought to be concentration on infrastructure.
“If N1 billion was budgeted for each federal university, how can you budget N4 billion for first lady’s office? I’ve never heard that in the US or Ghana.
“Again, N150 million for renovation of the VP’s guest house is not done. All these are against the principles of federalism. What Abuja suffers is maladministration.
“It is not proper for us to allocate money for the building of the first lady’s mission house in the FCT budget. It is against federal system of government and again, how can we budget N7.4 billion for entrance gates? I support the bill for second reading but l oppose all these. It is wasteful spending,” Omoworare said.
In the same vein, Senator Babafemi Ojudu (Ekiti Central) added that the N4 billion allocation for the first lady’s mission building was absolutely unnecessary especially in the face of rising unemployment in the land.
Ojudu told his colleagues that posterity would not forgive them if they approved the allocation.
He noted that it was such misplaced priorities that usually led to the abuse of lawmakers in the social media, warning that embarrassing allocations in the budget must be done away with at the committee level.
Joining the debate, Senate Deputy Leader, Senator Abdul Lingi, said: “N150 million is too much for the renovation of the vice-president’s guest house in Asokoro. How much will the building now gulp if we want to build it afresh?”
In his own contribution, Senator Ayogu Eze said that the money usually budgeted for FCT was not justifiable when compared with its impact.
In his remarks, Senate President David Mark, who commended the senators for their contributions to the budget proposal, also noted that the FCT administration did not usually get its priorities right before earmarking money for projects.
He advised the FCT administration to focus on specific projects and ensure their completion before embarking on other projects.
Thereafter, Mark referred the budget to the Senate Committees on Appropriation, Finance and FCT for further legislative action, asking them to report back to the house in two weeks.