Govs’ spending spree amid economic downturn


A poem, ‘Eating tomorrow’s yam’ satirises the culture of wastefulness by humans, admonishing us that when we devour everything today, what will we eat the next day? A work by a poet and social realist, Niyi Osundare, comes to mind in examining the activities of Nigeria’s state governors, and their proclivity for lavishing state funds, which has a ripple effect on the masses. This calls for caution and the need for the leaders at the state level to shun avarice in the management of state funds.

Moreover, as Nigeria languishes in debt laced with unending economic crisis, it would have been given that the state governors would cut their coat according to the cloth but the reverse has been the case as some of the state chief executives have been leading a profligate lifestyle. The removal of fuel subsidy, increase in taxes, and others are enough for the state governments to wake up to the existing realities of proffering timely solutions to these economic maladies that plunged the states and citizens into difficulties.

Some states in the country are riddled with hopelessness since crude oil no longer serves their expectations as its prices increased drastically. As it is widely known, during the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meeting, revenues from oil are being divided among the three tiers of government and the FCT. Not quite long ago, money was available like in the era of oil boom. Then, funds allocated to states to address their needs increased as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy.

In this vein, there has been a general belief that state governors will fulfil the righteousness of discarding the culture of profligacy. However, there has been no record of commitment towards doing away with the spending spree the states have embarked on, even when there are other pressing needs to cater to, which the funds at their disposal cannot address.

As a pressing matter, some of these states that are infested with the squandermania syndrome owe civil servants salaries and pensions. Also, the states are plagued with bad roads, and poor healthcare centres, to mention a few, which deserve ultimate priority.

Some are of the view that instead of the state governors embracing financial moderation as a benchmark for cutting the cost of governance, numerous creation of positions for aides, funding of first ladies trivial activities, unrealistic free education scheme, funds for jets hiring, buying of luxurious vehicles, gargantuan convoys, needless travels, unnecessary donations and funding of needless projects and a host of others. Unquestionably, these are submissions to wasteful spending.

According to a report bythe 36 states of the federation have spent N1.71tn on recurrent expenditures, including allowances, foreign trips, office stationery, and aircraft maintenance in the first nine months of 2023. Also, the state governments borrowed about N46.17bn from three banks to pay salaries between January and June 2023.

Similarly, the total spending by states, including capital expenditure, amounted to N4.59tn in the period under review. States may not match their 2022 spending (N8.2tn) due to reduced revenues and macroeconomic challenges. However, there is a public outcry that the states are spending lavishly.

observed that the Lagos State had the highest domestic debt (N200bn), then Delta (N70bn) and Oyo (N58.87bn). Also, Delta State is topping the list of borrowers from multi-lateral lenders with N71.45bn in debts, Lagos followed with N51.36bn, Akwa-Ibom (N27.04bn) and Ogun (N22.82bn).

The huge expenditures from the states are coming despite the removal of fuel subsidies and calls by various governments for the longsuffering Nigerians to continue to tighten their belts and make sacrifices.

In a letter, the 2023 governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Congress in Lagos, Funsho Doherty, noted that that the sum of N440,750,000 was awarded to the Office of the Chief of Staff for the “procurement of a brand new bullet-proof Lexus LX 600 for use in the pool of the Office of Chief of Staff.” Other items flagged are the “provision of supply items (rechargeable fans, rechargeable lights and fridge in the Office of the Deputy Governor” which was procured under the Office of the Deputy Governor.” The item was awarded to Judkom Enterprises in July 2023 at the sum of N2bn (2,017,840,000). Also flagged was the sum of N7,475,000 awarded for the “replacement of the liquid fragrance in the Office of Mr Governor, Lagos House, Ikeja.”

According to the document, the government reportedly approved N152m for the restoration of water supply at Idunganran Palace, the official residence of the Oba of Lagos. Records allegedly showed that the state would spend N581m to renovate Saint Andrews Anglican Church in the Oke-Popo area of the state. The Office of the Deputy Governor was awarded N30m for monthly outreach of indigent citizens by the wife of the deputy governor. The office also got another N30m for empowerment programme. In addition, decorations for the venue of political delegates were reportedly done at the sum of N20,084,550. “Flying hours’ expenses for ad hoc charter plane by Lagos State Government were awarded for the sum of N400,000,000,” the document read. It added that sundry consultancy services received generous allocations ranging from N2bn to N7bn from the state.

However, in a report by The PUNCH, this was debunked by the Office of the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, which faulted the publication on the website of the Lagos State Public Procurement Agency, attributing the sum of N2,017,840,000 for the provision of items, noting that the correct amount was N2,017,840.

It was noted that within nine months, the state spent N17.61bn on housing/rent allowance, meal subsidy, entertainment allowance, wardrobe allowance, social benefits, pension, gratuity, internet access charge, telephone charges, local and international travels, office stationeries, maintenance services, consulting and professional services, fuel, financial charges, miscellaneous expenses, and others.

Meanwhile, in a press statement on Monday, the state Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Kingsley Anosike, denied the accusation of spending N900m on feeding and welfare, adding that the Abia State Government has so far spent the sum of N397,520,734.84 for welfare. Equally, he mentioned that the total amount spent on refreshments and meals is N223,389,889.84.

For Akwa Ibom, in the first two quarters, the state spent N92.54bn on allowances and social contributions, social benefits, travel and transport, utilities such as electricity chargers, Internet access charges, and more, materials and supplies such as office stationery, drugs, laboratory and medical supplies, maintenance, training, and more. So far, the state has spent N10m on hosting/mobilisation of political associations and interest groups, N841.83m on entertainment at meetings, and more.

Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, and Benue are among the states that are enmeshed in the act of profligacy. For Adamawa, the state has so far spent N40.90bn on non-salary expenditure as of the end of Q3, 2023. Part of its recurrent expenditure, which includes allowances and social contributions, is N1.29bn on furniture allowance, N1.19bn on travel and training, domestic and foreign, N214.37m on office stationery and consumables, and N413.32m on refreshments and meals.

Anambra State’s non-salary expenditure was N15.17bn as of the end of Q2, 2023, while that of Bauchi State was N70.25bn. By the end of Q2, 2023, Bayelsa had spent N58.26 on non-salary recurrent expenditure. These expenses include N2.18bn on training and travel, N1.81bn on welfare packages, N78.60m on burial logistics, N1.48bn on town hall meetings expenses, and N48.20m on praise night/thanksgiving expenses, N17.70m on marriage ceremony support, and more.

Benue’s non-salary expenditure was N34.44bn. It spent N387.55m on special day celebrations, N434.17m on welfare packages, N7.06bn on security votes, N1.23bn on materials and supplies such as office stationery, books, and more.

Borno State spent N32.63bn as of the end of Q3 as non-salary expenditure, 2023 was, Cross Rivers was N43.71bn, Delta was N152.15bn, Ebonyi was N30.91bn, and Ebo was N41.11bn. As of the end of Q2, 2023, Ekiti’s non-salary spend was N31.33bn. Part of this expense includes N2.74bn on local and international travel and transport, and N1.97bn on miscellaneous such welfare packages, refreshments, honorarium and sitting allowances, and more. Enugu State’s non-salary spending as of the end of Q3, 2023 amounted to N33.36bn, while Gombe State’s spending was N24.73bn (for Q1 and Q2).

That of Imo State was N58.21bn, where N1.21bn was spent on refreshments and meals, N866.81m on welfare packages, N3.26bn on allowances, and more. Jigawa State’s non-salary spending was N49.64bn which included allowances of N22.07bn, N1.18bn on transport and travelling, N1.83bn on materials and supplies including drugs, vaccines, medical supplies, stationeries, and more.

Total non-salary spending by the Kaduna State Government was N27.87bn as of the end of Q3. For Kano State, it was N17.79bn (Q1 and Q2), Katsina was N40.49bn, Kebbi was N24.51bn, Kwara was N41.19bn, Kogi was N58.02bn. Lagos’s non-salary spend was N289.49bn. These expenses include N741.34m as severance pay for political office appointees, N340.95m on aircraft maintenance, N8.07bn on plant and generator costs, N1.13bn on special days/celebrations, N107.79bn on special duties, servicing of meetings N11.45bn, N2.53 on welfare packages for the public, N3.69 on enforcement expenses, and more.

Speaking on the matter, the Chairman of the South-South United Action for Democracy, and the Rivers State Civil Society Organisations, Enefaa Georgwill, said that the misappropriation of resources by state governors was uncalled for.

“For us, as a community service organisation, we frown on the misappropriation of our resources by state governors specifically in this biting economy. However, the government has been telling us to tighten our stomachs and our jobs in the reality of the economic downturn. We want to call on the people to punish them politically in the next election so that it can serve as a deterrent to others. Equally, we want to call on the people to start challenging and questioning elected officials. The idea of waiting for the election cycle to take action is more like postponing critical action that would have been taken to save the situation.

“In Abia State, the government earmarked a few million naira for education whereas the government spent almost a billion naira for government. People have called on the government to reverse that money and change the policy to budget more money for education, agriculture, and other pro-people policies. For Lagos State, in a very tight economic situation, people are jumping into the lagoon because of the harsh economy. People find it hard to survive the surge in the price of transportation in Lagos. The governor has been earmarking money on all manners of frivolous spending. There will be mass action and litigation from human rights lawyers to checkmate these persons. It is quite pathetic.”

Also, the Deputy Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, Tai Benedict, said the country was currently in shambles, describing politicians’ attitude to spending as unfortunate.

“I saw the document and it is shocking. Nigeria is in shambles, it is unfortunate that we are in this situation. It is very unfortunate. For Lagos State, the government denied that they wanted to write N2m and not otherwise. How can this be tenable? Is it that he did not verify what they sent or what? They have spent money on cases at home and abroad, and they want to get all this money back by all means. That is what they are doing and that is the way I see it. Lagos State has always been like this and that is where you get most of the money.

“I am so sorry for Nigeria; the way things are going, it is just like the country is on a keg of gunpowder, and it could explode at any time. Things are very difficult in the country. For instance, the prices of drugs have increased so much that people cannot afford them again. The governments are there lavishing money to buy luxurious vehicles and these are people we elected to represent us. They turned everyone into a fool and no one could talk in Nigeria again. I do not know but we need a very serious revolution. Who is going to lead this revolution? If we do not do that, they will just continue to say who are we? We just pray we do not get to a stage where we eat ourselves because of hunger.”

Lending his voice on the issue of profligacy by the governments, the Executive Director of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said the system of government being practised in the country gave them the power to waste money unquestionably.

“Since the adoption of the presidential system of government which has given the executive governors and the President the wide latitude to spend money on behalf of the citizens has allowed them to be wasteful and that has been there for a very long time. When you look at the profligacy of the governors and the President, it has also permeated the legislative arm of government. So, the legislature that is supposed to carry out its oversight functions on the executive is no longer doing it but rather is also asked to be part of the largesse.

“It has been an expensive and permissive system of government we have been running. However, the Constitution provides that the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission is the authority that decides the salary and emoluments of political office holders. The act and the law that set it up have been violated with impunity over the years because everybody is participating in it. That was what led to a padding of budgetary allocation in the National Assembly; it also happened in some of the state Assemblies.

“When this happens, the excess amount is distributed among legislature and executive officers. It is a violation of the appropriation bill, and constitution and it is an impeachable offence that they are committing. They do not have the power they are exercising; it is just the lavishness that has been conferred on them by the winner-takes-all kind of politics we are running in Nigeria. Since the legislature that is supposed to monitor the activities of the executive has been compromised, nobody will oversee the agencies that should be policing the government. The EFCC, ICPC, and so on, have been rendered powerless because their activities have been subsumed under the authority of the executive. All of this has spun the checks and balances that should exist,” Adeniran added.

Calling on Nigerians to be vigilant in monitoring and tracing government officials’ activities, he expressed the need for Nigerians to ensure that the anti-corruption agencies and the National Assembly carried out their oversight functions.