• Owes over N319m electricity bill, N52m for sewage
Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The ongoing budget defence in the National Assembly yesterday revealed how in contrast to general beliefs about President Muhammadu Buhari’s perceived frugal lifestyle, the State House has since last year been spending whopping sums of money to purchase printed tyres, otherwise known as bullet proof tyres.
Against this backdrop, the Presidency has planned to spend about N100 million for the purchase of same tyres as contained in 2017 budget.
The disclosure which appeared to be coming to public knowledge for the first time, was shocking to some watchers at the meeting who wondered why presidency officials should be using bullet proof tyres in the face of biting economic recession.
Making the disclosure while defending the 2017 budget of the State House before the Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-governmental Affairs, Permanent Secretary, State House, Jalal Arabi, said the N100 million budgeted for printed tyres this year was only 50 per cent lower than what was budgeted in 2016.
“Another area of interest Mr. chairman, distinguished senators is the purchase of tyres, a total sum of N94.5 million is proposed for 2017, representing 50 percent of actual sought for the 2016. This will hope will address the shortfalls and complement the requirements of this sector which are mostly printed tyres procured at exorbitant prices. Mr. chairman, some of the tyres being purchased are bulletproof and hence, constitute the bulk of the budget cost.
“Let me re-emphasise Mr. chairman that the state house has been consistent and indeed conservative in the budget estimates as we are always mindful of our current challenges in the areas of revenue generation over the years,” he said.
Jalabi, who however, disclosed that only paltry sums of the total budget for 2016 was released, said the State House only got N46 million capital release throughout the year adding that of N2.4 billion budgeted for State House Clinic in 2016, only 800 million, representing 30 per cent of the budget was released.
He said the poor releases had resulted in various hiccups and debt accumulation in the Presidential Villa including huge indebtedness to electricity providers. According to him, N319.6 million has been budgeted in 2017 to upset electricity bills owed by the Villa.
“A sum of N45.3 million only was approved in the 2016 budget for this purpose. Suffice it to inform that the State House electricity bill for 2016 alone as forwarded by Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) for state House Abuja was N252 milliom with another outstanding liabilities of over N300 million for state House, Lagos facilities.
“Clearly the provision in the 2016 budget could not accommodate this. It may interest Committee to note in 2016, it took the management of the State House the installation of meters to ensure proper billing and that was what reduced the bill to a reasonable figure. However, since these bills are currently subject ofreconciliations, we have made a modest provision for sum of N319.6 million for 2017 to settle current and part of outstanding bills,” he said.
He also disclosed that the Villa owed an accumulated bill of N52.8 million sewage charges.
“There is a proposal for the sum of N52.8 million in the 2017 budget. The Committee may wish to be informed that the bills received from Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) for liquid waste disposal for the state House for 2016 is in figure sum of N15.6 million with outstanding liabilities of previous years standing at N37.5 million (totaling N52.8m). This figure has remained consistent over the years.
“This informed the provision of the same figure amount in the sum of N52.8 million in 2017. This position was the same sought for in our 2016 proposal but only paltry sum of N6.1 million was appropriated. We have however, commenced negotiation with AEPB in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable charges henceforth,” he added.
The situation however, irritated the committee which said it was unfortunate that the State House which it described as the symbol of the nation’s sovereignty and authority could be brought into such disrepute by owing sewage and electricity bills.