Nigeria’s cash-strapped government will likely do everything to meet its big-on-paper-light-on-impact budgets except one: cut its administrative cost.
As the government deals with budget deficits year after year, it prefers to pile debt rather than cut back on a costly lifestyle that has eaten away at national budgets for decades. A key beneficiary of that extravagant culture is President Muhammadu Buhari. The president preaches prudence in government spending in public, but the budgets he signs off annually tell a different story.
In 2022, the president’s office will spend a whopping N1.6 billion on new vehicles – the fourth largest by any government office. That comes just a year after the office spent nearly half a billion on the same item.
Since coming to power six years ago, the president’s office has spent N5 billion on vehicles – enough to build 500 health centres at N10 million each. It has spent billions more on food, uniforms, travels, a huge presidential air fleet, president’s hospital and more.
The expenditures are an example of how Nigeria’s federal and state governments annually channel scarce public resources into projects that sustain their flashy lifestyles while critical programmes that should benefit citizens are perpetually underfunded.
While the Buhari government has successfully increased Nigeria’s aggregate spending compared to previous administrations, a bulk of that rise still finances non-essential items.
As the budgets and their deficits rise since 2015, so has the cost of governance that covers everything from fuel to printing paper to “welfare packages”.
The N16.4 trillion for next year has a shortfall of more than N6 trillion and recurrent expenditure of more than N4 trillion, meaning that for every N160 the government spends, N60 will be borrowed and N40 will go to financing government operations, not building badly needed roads and hospitals.
Nigeria’s public debt has risen the most under the Buhari administration when compared to previous governments since 1999, and foreign debt has grown three times more than the combined figure recorded by the past three administrations, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis showed.
“The revenues are simply inadequate to fund fundamental expenditure, therefore, every available fund should be spent with the greatest value for money, tied to a high-level national policy framework and aimed at improving livelihoods, growing the economy, reducing poverty and inequality,” said Eze Onyekpere of the Centre for Social Justice, whose organisation launched an initiative to identify wasteful items in the 2022 budget.
“It is against this background that the pull-out of frivolous, inappropriate, unclear and wasteful expenditure calls the attention of the executive, legislature, private sector, civil society including the media to these frivolities at a time of grave national crisis.”
Mr Onyekpere condemned the culture of assigning billions of naira annually to projects such as “routine maintenance”, “foreign and local travels” and purchase of computers.
“According to the 2022 budget call circular, resources are to be allocated based on actual needs, in line with the immediate needs of the country as well as government’s developmental objectives and priorities. Starting from the presidency’s state house headquarters, the pull-out calls on the leadership to lead by example.
“Spending billions of naira every year on routine maintenance of statehouse facilities is a huge waste. All statutory transfers are stated as lump-sum provisions without details. No person, government agency or organisation has the right in a constitutional democracy to spend public funds in a way and manner that is unknown to the ultimate sovereigns, being the taxpayers and citizens.”
Rising Administrative Cost
The spending on vehicles follows a trend. For 2021, the president requested the National Assembly to approve N18.9 billion for the purchase of new vehicles for government offices. Of that amount, N336 million was proposed to buy new vehicles for the president.
In the new budget, the president will spend N1.6 billion on new vehicles while the vice president will spend N30 million on new vehicles.
In this regard, the president’s office is only surpassed by the Federal Road Safety Commission which intends to spend N1.7 billion on operational vehicles; the Nigerian Correctional Service (N1.1 billion); Ministry of Works and Housing (N720 million) and Ministry of Health – headquarters (414 million) and Ministry of Defence ministry (N835 million).
The presidency is also seeking the allocation of N21 billion for the construction of a new presidential wing for the president and his family as well as vice president and his family. The government plans to spend N19 billion on software, with the presidency amongst the biggest spenders.
READ ALSO: Senate passes 2021 budget; raises spending by N505bn
“For a government that routinely allows medical practitioners to go on strike on the excuse of lack of resources and a president that routinely indulges in medical tourism, this vote is a waste. It is better channelled to the health of the entire population. Save this vote,” Mr Onyekpere said of the new clinic.
Personnel cost has continued to rise yearly despite the government not conducting a major recruitment.
In 2022, it hopes to spend N350 billion more on personnel costs and N167 billion more on the overheads than it did in 2021.
Overhead (costs related to administration) totals N792.4 billion for 2022, meaning spending on overheads will surge by more than a quarter in the year ahead should the legislature go ahead to assent to the appropriation bill.
The government got approval of N3.76 trillion for personnel costs for this year and wants N4.11 trillion for that same purpose for 2022.
The combined overhead and personnel expenses proposed for next year sum up to N4.9 trillion, 8.9 per cent higher than Nigeria’s entire budget of N4.5 trillion for 2015, the year Mr Buhari began his first term in office.
Those two expenditure categories also exceed the cash Africa’s largest economy intends to commit to developmental projects in 2022, estimated at N4.89 trillion.
The rising expenditure is of concern even to the government. In October, the finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, said the government was incurring huge debt as a result of a bloated payroll.
“Our debt service to overall revenue is high because we have a very large expenditure base,” Mrs Ahmed, the minister of finance, budget and national planning, told Bloomberg TV this month.
“We have a large proportion of our budget dedicated to payroll, and Mr President had decided from the beginning of his administration that we were not going to disengage staff.”
The government’s spending on non-debt recurrent expenditure in the last decade totalled N29.3 trillion, way too high when considered alongside a consolidated revenue of N33.2 trillion in the period in question.
There have been claims of “ghost workers” in the employ of the government, prompting it to introduce the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System. Mrs Ahmed did not immediately respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment.
The head of the government’s budget office, Ben Akabueze, however, had a slightly different opinion from the minister’s position about big spending. He disagreed the country’s expenditure base was “large” and said Nigeria was indeed spending too little and had the lowest expenditure to GDP ratio in all of Africa.
READ ALSO: Nigeria’s revenue, expenditure to GDP ratios lowest in Africa – Budget Office
Mr Akabueze, however, argued the government needs to spend smartly and effectively on important things.
“Our revenue to GDP ratio is also the lowest in Africa,” he said at a meeting with journalists on Friday in Abuja.
“As I said earlier, it is about 9 per cent. So, if our revenue to GDP ratio is at 9 per cent and our public expenditure to GDP ratio with recent significant growth is about 14 per cent, then already you see a gap between 9 and 14 and that gap is funded by debt.
“That gap of 5 per cent is funded by debt. We must fix our revenue challenge because oftentimes people just say cut expenditure.
“The truth is cutting expenditure is not currently a viable option for two main reasons. Firstly, our public expenditure to GDP ratio is about the lowest even on the continent of Africa. As a country, our public expenditure to GDP ratio is under 15 per cent.
“Even on the continent of Africa, that ratio, the average is over 30 per cent. The global average is over 30 per cent. I am talking of the whole of the federal, state and local governments.
“The reality is that in aggregate, governments in Nigeria are not spending too much, they are spending too little,” he added.
He said the solution is not to cut government spending.
“The solution is to make government spending more efficient and increase the scope for the government to be able to spend more because our public expenditure to GDP is so low, that is why the delivery of public goods and services is weak,” Mr Akabueze noted.
He noted that cutting personnel cost which currently stands at N4.11 trillion would not be right because public sector wages are already low compared to the private sector.
“There is a correlation between low public expenditure to GDP ratio and low revenue to GDP ratio.”
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UK: OSCE Ministerial Council 2021: UK national statement
Thank you Foreign Minister Linde, Excellencies, friends, I am very pleased to be joining you here today. Thank you, Ann, for your leadership this year. We are looking forward as well to Zbigniew’s Chairmanship.
Nearly half a century ago our predecessors gathered in Helsinki to sign the Final Act. And we made a collective pledge to peace, security and justice.
We agreed a core set of principles – renouncing the use of force, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and protecting human rights and freedoms. These values are universal and they apply to all our populations and all of our societies. And they remain at the heart of the OSCE – and they have the UK’s full support.
What we need to see is all countries respecting these commitments. Yet some are taking an à la carte approach. We see ongoing conflicts impacting regional stability, and devastating the lives of civilians. And we have seen freedom and democracy under attack.
What we see most of all is a lack of political will to follow through on these principles.
We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia’s lack of transparency over its military build-up heightens tensions in the region and degrades trust. This threatening behaviour is unacceptable.
I want to be very clear: any action by Russia to undermine freedom and democracy in Ukraine – or elsewhere in the region – would be a strategic mistake. I call on Russia to use the OSCE tools to build trust and live up to commitments on transparency.
Moreover, the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission, and international humanitarian monitoring missions, need full, safe and unimpeded access throughout Ukraine, including in Crimea.
We are also deeply concerned by rising tensions in the Balkans. There has been hard-won peace in the Western Balkans and it must not be lost or threatened.
The UK is stepping up its political engagement. Today we appointed Sir Stuart Peach as Special Envoy for the Western Balkans, and we are working with the High Representative and colleagues including the United States and the EU.
Attempts to destabilise peace and stability of the Western Balkans are unacceptable and we call on everyone to respect freedom and democracy in the region.
The reality is, in other areas, civilians’ lives need to be protected and regional stability preserved.
In Georgia, in Moldova, we continue to have human rights concerns. In both of these cases, we support the OSCE’s efforts towards conflict prevention, resolution and reconciliation.
In Afghanistan, we need to work together to stop the country becoming a hotbed of terrorism and falling into humanitarian disrepair.
We also need to push back on attacks on human rights and democracy in Belarus, in particular the weaponisation of migration. The Belarussian people continue to suffer, and we want to see a true national dialogue, through the OSCE, to resolve the crisis.
Elections are a key part of the OSCE’s work, and we support an impartial, facts-based approach to the OSCE in observing elections.
A thriving civil society makes all of us safer and more secure. Ultimately, we want a world where freedom and democracy don’t just survive – they thrive. To achieve that and support the region’s safety and security, we have to stick to our commitments.
The values and principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and subsequent OSCE agreements provide a roadmap for a safe, secure environment for all our citizens. And I hope all of the participating States here today will have the confidence and the political will to uphold them.
Baldwin On If He Feels Guilt For Killing Halyna Hutchins: ‘No,’ ‘Someone Is Responsible … It’s Not Me’
Actor Alec Baldwin said during an ABC News interview on Thursday night that he does not feel guilt over the shooting death of Halyna Hutchins, claiming that someone else is responsible for what happened.
“Do you feel guilt?” ABC News host George Stephanopoulos asked Baldwin during an exclusive interview.
“No. No,” Baldwin said. “I feel that there is, I feel that someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
“I might have killed myself if I thought I was responsible, and I don’t say that lightly,” he added.
.@GStephanopoulos: “Do you feel guilt?”
Alec Baldwin: “No. Someone is responsible for what happened and I can’t say who that is, but I know it’s not me.”
— ABC News (@ABC) December 3, 2021
ABC News reports:
On Oct. 21, Baldwin was holding an antique revolver during a dress rehearsal for the Western at the Bonanza Creek Ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico, when it discharged, killing the film’s cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, and wounding its director, Joel Souza.
Halyna Hutchins “was someone who was loved by everyone who worked with and liked by everyone who worked with and admired,” Baldwin said. “And even now, I find it hard to believe that, it just doesn’t seem, it doesn’t seem real to me.”
When pressed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos about how “it wasn’t in the script for the trigger to be pulled,” Baldwin responded by claiming, “Well, the trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger.”
“I cock the gun. I go, ‘Can you see that? Can you see that? Can you see that?’” Baldwin said. “And then I let go of the hammer of the gun, and the gun goes off. I let go of the hammer of the gun, the gun goes off.”
“So you never pulled the trigger?” Stephanopoulos pressed.
“No, no, no, no,” Baldwin claimed. “I would never point a gun at anyone and pull the trigger at them. Never.”
EXCLUSIVE: “The trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” Alec Baldwin tells @GStephanopoulos in first interview since fatal shooting on set of “Rust.”
— ABC News (@ABC) December 1, 2021
The Reload, a Second Amendment publication, analyzed Baldwin’s claims:
At first glance, this sounds far-fetched. It is exceedingly rare for a gun to fire without the trigger being depressed. Modern firearms, even replicas of antique guns, have safeties specifically designed to prevent them from firing without the trigger being pulled. It only really happens when the gun’s firing mechanism is damaged, or there is a significant design flaw. That’s why most gun owners and firearms safety trainers are highly skeptical of any claim a gun just “went off” absent user error.
In Baldwin’s case, though, the claim is at least somewhat more believable. That’s because the gun involved is more prone to firing without the trigger being pulled. And, even though it’s a modern replica of an antique design, it’s possible it did not include modern safety devices.
Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza identified the gun used in the shooting as a modern Pietta replica of a single-action army revolver. Those guns can be bought either with a transfer bar that makes it impossible for the firing pin to strike the primer unless the trigger is pulled or without one. Often, enthusiasts and collectors prefer the models without modern safety devices because it’s more authentic and perfectly safe when handled properly.
A single-action revolver usually requires the hammer to be manually cocked, and the trigger be pulled for a shot to be fired. That’s why it’s referred to as a single-action: because the trigger performs just one action. It drops the hammer. In a double-action revolver, on the other hand, the trigger can both cock and release the hammer.
However, a single-action revolver with the old-style firing mechanism can fire without either the hammer being cocked or the trigger being pulled. When the hammer is down on that kind of revolver, the firing pin protrudes and, if a live round is loaded in the chamber underneath, a sharp enough jolt can cause the pin to strike the round’s primer with enough force to set it off.
This article has been expanded after publication to include additional information.
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5G: GLO, 9Mobile Missing As MTN, Two Others Selected For 3.5GHZ Spectrum Auction– NCC
The Nigerian Communications Commission has said that only three bidders are qualified for its forthcoming 3.5 gigahertz spectrum auction for the deployment of Fifth generation (5G) networks.
NCC said on Thursday that only MTN Nigeria PLC, Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited met the regulatory requirement among the investors who showed interest.
Leading telecom companies like Globacom Limited and 9Mobile were not part of the bidders selected by the NCC.
NCC said MTN, Mafab and Airtel have also stipulated Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as outlined in the Information Memorandum.
The Commission said, “Consistent with its regulatory principle of open and transparent auction, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced that three telecoms companies have qualified as approved bidders of the forthcoming 3.5 gigahertz (Ghz) spectrum auction for the deployment of Fifth generation (5G) networks in the country.
“The qualified bidders that have met the criteria for participation in the licensing process of 3.5Ghz spectrum, including payment of the stipulated Intention to Bid Deposit (IBD) as outlined in the Information Memorandum (IM), are include MTN Nigeria Plc., Mafab Communications Limited and Airtel Networks Limited.
“Consequently, the stage is now set for the three companies to participate in the Main Auction as well as in the mandatory Mock Auction process, which will come as a precursor to the Main Auction.”
Prior to the selection of the three successful bidders, some of the requirements listed by the commission is that bidders must not have a relationship with another Bidder.
It defined a relationship as a situation where a Bidder has a direct or indirect ownership stake of 10 per cent or more in another bidder.
Applicants must transfer an Intention-to-Bid Deposit (IBD) for the amount described into the designated account in cleared funds.
“This deposit will bind the applicant to take up a Licence, should it be a Successful Bidder, at the Reserve Price or any higher bid value submitted during the process.
“Licenced Operators participating in the process must be in good regulatory standing with the commission.”
The Commission while announcing the development reaffirmed the dates for the conduct of both the Mock Auction and the Main Auction.
“The Mock Auction is scheduled to hold on Friday, December 10, 2021 at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja by 11:00 a.m., while the Main Auction will hold on Monday, December 13, 2021 at the same venue and same time,” said NCC.
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