By Folarin Ademosu
When Mr. Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing, was asked by the Senate Committee on Housing, about the N2 billion ‘regional housing’ project in his ministry’s proposed expenditure for 2017, he claimed the Ministry of Finance was responsible. It is not unlikely that Mr. Fashola knew more than he divulged to the Senate committee.
More than all else, the encounter between the former Lagos governor (Fashola) and the Senate committee chairman, Senator Barnabas Gemade, justifies the concern about frivolous and questionable insertions by the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, in the N7.3 trillion Appropriation Bill for 2017 submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly last December.
Unarguably, the act of stuffing the national budget, or even those of states, with spurious projects and for which humongous sums of money are appropriated is a ploy by unscrupulous officials, elected or appointed, and dishonest bureaucrats to steal money. In a way, this marauding government officials have persuaded themselves that Authority Stealing (apologies to late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s) is an acceptable norm of budget processes and, largely, public administration.
More so, this ‘official’ heist is not without the active collaboration of the National Assembly which no less look like the trading floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange during its consideration of government’s Appropriation Bill.
With the scandalous disappearance and re-appearance of the 2016 budget which led to the sack of some officials of the Budget Office, one would think the incumbent government would demonstrate some sobriety and sincerity in their planning of the 2017 budget.
As against the bare-faced denial by the Presidency at the time, the truth would emerge that some bureaucrats imported strange items and figures into the 2016 budget and went ahead to replace the doctored version with the one submitted by President Buhari to the National Assembly.
Ironically, President Buhari’s sanctimony seems at variance with the government he leads. For instance, procurement for cooking utensils, among other inanities, proposed in the 2016 Appropriation Bill are repeated in 2017. It beggars belief that the presidency changes utensils, furniture, curtains and vehicles, e.t.c, almost every year since the items are contained in the previous and current Appropriation Bills.
The incumbent government has regaled us enough with its salacious media show of mindless looting and culprits of the last administration, but they also have to bear in mind that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.
Folarin Ademosu, a journalist, writes from Lagos