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BudgIT probes N81.7b FG streetlights budget

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Despite the decline in health care, more funds are allocated for streetlights.

The Federal Government’s decision to allocate N81.7 billion towards the installation of solar streetlights in the 2023 budget has been challenged by BudgIT. Compared to the N77.9 billion allocated to schools and the N3.1 billion allocated to primary health centres, the planned amount for streetlights is far larger, according to a statement made by the budget monitoring body on Friday. It noted that in 2022, UNESCO estimated that 20 million Nigerian children were not in school. This represented a 52% increase from the 10.5 million they estimated in 2020.

It further revealed that the child mortality rate in the country is the second highest in the world, while the rate of maternal mortality is the fourth highest in the world, coming in at 576 deaths per 100,000 live births. Refers to the allocation that was made for streetlights as a severe case of priority misplacement. According to BudgIT’s study, Nigeria is currently riddled with non-functional and vandalized streetlights that have been rendered inoperative less than two years following their construction, which is a problem that has been going on for quite some time.

Over 687 projects had been given to agencies outside of the jurisdiction.

Further budgetary analysis looking at how government agencies were assigned projects were carried out and they found that over 687 projects worth N112 billion had been given to agencies outside of their jurisdiction. The Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research received N1.2 billion for a total of four projects aimed at delivering medical supplies to health centres in Ogun State; the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, was given N580 million for the construction of streetlights and roads in Abia State; N4.5 billion was also allocated for the Nigerian Army for the Construction of Dengi-Kwalmiya-Gagdi-Wawus Bauchi Road in Plateau State and many others.

Being a platform that enables citizens to cooperate, follow, and provide remarks on public initiatives in their areas, Ayomide Ladipo, the acting head of BudgIT Tracka, showed her concern over this recent development. Assigning projects to organizations that lack the resources to properly monitor, evaluate, and maintain them is counterproductive. There is a massive waste of taxing people’s money and valuable resources because these agencies do not have the knowledge and manpower needed to guarantee quality service delivery of these projects.

Political empowerment schemes are mostly misused.

In context, in Rivers State, the News Agency of Nigeria was given N200 million to install solar streetlights. Ayomide questioned the relevance of NAN’s involvement in the subject of streetlights. On the other hand, BudgIT reported that Tracka had found a 21% drop in the proportion of funds provided to empowerment projects between 2022 and 2023. In 2022, N58 billion of N100 billion was assigned to empowerment initiatives, but in 2023, only N37 billion of N100 billion was provided.

People believe the reduction in empowerment represents a step forward because it is the first time in the past three years that its percentage in the ZIP will be less than fifty percent. They highly warn against making empowerment programmes take up much of the budget because they are mostly unclear and hard to track. According to the report, these political empowerment schemes have also been exploited as a channel through which political gains have been transferred to party loyalists.

Concerned parties should ensure effective implementation of the projects.

Lastly, in view of all this, BudgIT urges Nigerians to question the irregularities that were found in the 2023 budget expenditures. Moreover, it urged elected representatives to fulfil their oversight responsibilities appropriately, keep the public informed of developments, and involve citizens in the process. It is strongly recommended that they take steps to ensure that the projects they proposed are carried out effectively so that local residents may receive the possible advantages of using public funds.

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BudgIT: Website

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