Jonathan, Sambo to spend N1billion on food in 2012

The panel will review the judgment and decide the propriety of handing over the disputed area to neighbouring Cameroon
The panel will review the judgment and decide the propriety of handing over the disputed area to neighbouring Cameroon

The Federal Government plans to spend approximately N1 billion in feeding its first and second citizens next year if the National Assembly approves President Goodluck Jonathan’s spending proposal as submitted to it last week.

The president and his deputy will together enjoy N992.57 million worth of food and general catering services in 2012.

According to a  detailed analysis of the N4.749trillion  budget the president presented to lawmakers last week, the cost of purchasing food stuffs, catering supplies, kitchen equipments for the president and his vice, and their offices, will cost the nation N992.57 million, about N7 million away from a billion naira.

The document, obtained by Premium Times, contains the administration’s fiscal outlay for the next 12 months, and remains subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

Lawmakers have already questioned the huge allocation of nearly a fourth of the budget to security, and the still high recurrent cost, and have indicated plans to review the figures downward.

The estimate indicates that of the N18.34 billion budgeted for the State House, about N1billion would be spent on providing food for the president’s household as well as that of his deputy.

A further breakdown shows that taxpayers would have to cough out approximately N477million to pay for foodstuffs and “catering materials supplies” for the president’s office. The taxpayers, most of which are poor and frustrated, will have to fork out an additional N293 million to provide “refreshment and meals” for the president’s comfort at his home and office.

Yet, an additional N45.4 million would be needed to buy canteen and “kitchen equipment” for the president’s household, although similar purchases were made last year.

For the vice president’s office, the foodstuff, catering and materials supplies are to cost N104 million, while cooking gas and cooking fuel will consume N6.2 million.

Refreshments and meals at Mr. Sambo’s office and home are estimated at N20.8million. Then separately, another N45.4 million has been allocated for purchase of kitchen and household equipment at the state house headquarters.

At N70,000 a month, the N1billion budgeted for presidential feeding would pay the wages of 1,200 Nigerians for a year. Analysts believe that for a nation grappling with widespread poverty and growing unemployment, spending such an amount on food is wasteful.

“It is a continuation of the ‘food is  ready’  culture,” says Osita Okechukwu, spokesperson of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). “These guys don’t care about what happens to the common man. For them it is grab, grab, grab. What will they be eating that should cost that amount in a country with high unemployment , poverty and disease?”

The one billion naira feeding bill reflects the contradictions that have attended national budgets yearly, with government on one hand emphasizing its intention to limit overhead cost, and on the other, spearheading some of the most outrageous spending.

Notorious for being overloaded with running costs, federal budgets for decades have hardly catered for developmental projects, and where allocations are made for infrastructural development, the projects are hardly ever executed.

President Jonathan has acknowledged that problem in our budgeting system, and has repeatedly announced his administration’s commitment to lowering running cost in favour of more development projects and job creation.

“This administration will promote job creation and inclusive growth by investing in critical infrastructure, human capital development and security, including more support for the police, defence and counter-terrorism operations,” the president told lawmakers last week during the budget presentation.

But while the commitment remains, at least orally, the president’s first constituency, the state house – including his office and residences as well as those of the deputy – has remained one of the top spenders of Nigeria’s scarce resources.