The budgetary allocation to the Presidential Air Fleet has risen by 121 per cent in eight years, The PUNCH can confirm.
Findings indicate that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) has since 2016 allocated N81.80bn for the Presidential Air Fleet maintenance and foreign trips.
The amount includes N62.47bn for the operation and maintenance of PAF, N17.29bn for foreign and local trips and N2.04bn earmarked for other related expenses.
The Presidency has maintained 10 aircraft since the inception of the Buhari regime in May 2015.
They include Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.
Though Buhari promised to reduce the size of the fleet as part of his pledge to cut the cost of governance, checks reveal that his regime has failed to live up to this promise.
In October 2016, the Presidency placed an advertisement in a national daily for the sale of Falcon 7x and Hawker 4000.
Interested buyers were asked to inspect the Falcon at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International, Airport, Abuja, and the Hawker at Cessna Zurich Citation Service Centre, Zurich, Switzerland.
In March 2018, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu told Saturday PUNCH that the bid amounts agreed upon by the two preferred bidders for the two aircraft stood at $24m, which was the projected sales figure.
The presidential spokesman, however, said the unnamed winners of the bids reneged when they were asked to pay. According to him, they came up with a new figure of $11m for the two jets.
Describing the preferred bidders’ attitude as absurd, Shehu said under the Buhari regime, no one would be allowed to “take a public asset and run away (with it) for nothing.”
He added that the Presidency was still determined to sell the jets, which he said were still available for “serious buyers.”
In September 2020, the Federal Government announced that the Hawker 4000 aircraft, with registration number 5N-FGX/: RC 066, had again been put up for sale
But the sale of the business-size jet, which entered into service in December 2011, has yet to be confirmed by the Presidency.
However, the National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen. Babagana Monguno (retd), delivered the two AgustaWestland AW101 VIP helicopters in the presidential fleet to the Air Force.
In the 2016 budget, N3.65bn was allocated for the PAF, but this rose to N4.37bn in the 2017 fiscal year.
In 2018 and 2019, the allocation almost doubled, amounting to N7.26bn and N7.30bn respectively.
Closer observation showed a slight drop by N503.75m in 2020, where N6.79bn was budgeted for the PAFs.
This was attributed to the global lockdown following the outbreak of the Coronavirus which stalled flight operations for the better part of 2020.
In the two years following the pandemic, the allocation almost doubled; rising to N12.55bn and N12.48bn for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal budgets.
However, it dropped by 35 per cent in the 2022 and 2023 appropriation bills, with the latter showing an N8.07bn allocation for the PAF.
The PUNCH also observed that the Offices of the President and Vice President earmarked N17.29bn for both local and foreign trips.
Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spent N1.4bn on travels in 2016; N1.29bn in 2017; N1.30bn in 2018; N1.30bn in 2019; N2.28bn in 2020; N3.23bn in 2021 and N3.09bn in 2022. They proposed N3.34bn for the 2023 fiscal year.
Aircraft fueling for that period also gulped at least N2.69bn, bank charges, N53.01m and insurance premium on all 10 aircraft on the fleet, N1.78bn.
Meanwhile, the sum of N2.04bn has been allocated for foodstuff and refreshments since 2016.
A comparison of the budgets for the review period revealed a 265 per cent jump in allocations for food and refreshments.
According to the budget documents, in eight years of the Buhari Presidency, N139.2m was allocated for food in 2016; N168.46m in 2017; N193.11m in 2018; N193.11m in 2019; N132.13m in 2020; N193.11m in 2021 and N508.71m in 2022.
The Presidency allocated N508.71m for refreshments in the 2023 budget presented by the President last Friday.
Debt servicing rising
Meanwhile, the cost of debt service has exceeded the amount spent on salaries, pensions and overheads between January and July 2022, The PUNCH has learnt.
While presenting the 2023 appropriation bill to a joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja on Friday, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), noted that debt service gulped N3.09tn in seven months.
However, N2.87tn was spent on salaries, pensions and overheads within the same period, with a difference of N220bn.
The president further noted that despite the revenue challenges in the country, it still consistently meets its debt service obligation.
“Despite our revenue challenges, we have consistently met our debt service commitments. Staff salaries and statutory transfers have also been paid as and when due,” Buhari added.
However, speaking at the launch of the World Bank’s Nigeria Development Update titled, ‘The urgency for business unusual,’ held recently in Abuja, the finance minister had admitted that Nigeria was struggling to service its debt.
She said, “Already, we are struggling with being able to service debt because even though revenue is increasing, the expenditure has been increasing at a much higher rate, so it is a very difficult situation.”
Buhari further disclosed that Nigeria had a budget deficit of N4.63tn in the seven months under review, adding that this deficit is largely due to revenue shortfalls and higher debt service resulting from rising debt levels and interest rates.
In a document by the Director General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha, recently obtained by our correspondent, the DMO stated that high debt levels would often lead to high debt services and affect investments in infrastructure.
According to the DMO boss, “High debt levels lead to heavy debt service which reduces resources available for investment in infrastructure and key sectors of the economy.”
Despite this, the government plans to borrow N8.80tn and spend N6.31tn on debt service in 2023.
In its latest Africa’s Pulse report, the World Bank said that public debt in Nigeria is concerning due to the rising debt service-to-revenue ratio.
According to the bank, the debt service to revenue ratio could stand at 102.3 per cent by the end of 2022.
Also, Buhari admitted that the government needs to pay close attention to the country’s debt-service-to-revenue ratio.
Experts fault FG
The Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, recently said the Nigerian economy had been characterised by diverse economic vulnerabilities, which included rising public debt and debt service burden.
As a result of the increasing debt service cost, he said that, “Financing of the operations of government – personnel cost, overhead cost, capital expenditure, and even part of the servicing of the debt – will have to come from additional borrowing. These portend severe vulnerabilities for the Nigerian economy.”
Also, a Professor of Development Macroeconomics at the University of Lagos, Prof Olufemi Saibu, recently said, ‘’I think we are over-borrowing. We continue to rely on international benchmarks, which make us lazy in terms of revenue generation.”
Out-of-school rate worsens
However, the FG has so far earmarked N 5.6tn to the education sector between 2016 to 2023, an indication that the sector has not received the 15 per cent recommended by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organizations.
The UN agency had advised that developing nations should give up to 15-20 per cent of their annual budget to public education.
Checks reveal that in 2016, a total budget of N6.06tn was approved by the National Assembly, but N480.28bn was allocated to the education sector which was about 7.9 percent of the total amount budgeted for the year.
Also, in 2017, N448.44bn was allocated to the sector, representing about 6.1 per cent of the N7.30tn total budget for the year.
In 2018, the approved budget for the year rose to N9.2tn and N651.23bn which is about 7.1 per cent was allocated to the education sector.
In 2019, Buhari presented N8.83tn budget estimates to the National Assembly. The education sector got N745.53bn or about 8.4 per cent of the total budget.
In 2020, the sector received a total of N686.82bn which is about 6.5 per cent of the total approved budget for the year.
For 2021, the education sector received N742.52bn allocation, about 5.6 per cent of the total budget for the year, the lowest budget the sector had ever received compared with the previous budgets allocated to the sector in the past.
Similarly, out of the 2022 budget totaling N 17.13tn, N923.79bn was allocated to the sector.
Education sector suffers
Presently in the 2023 budget, a total of N1.078tn has been budgeted for education.
The PUNCH reports that in July 2021, the FG had promised, at the Global Education Summit held in London, to meet up with the global benchmark of 20 per cent and to also increase the 2022 education budget by 50 per cent and to 100 per cent in subsequent years.
‘’We commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 percent over the next two years and up to 100 per cent by 2025 beyond the 20 per cent global benchmark,’’ the President stated.
Few months after the promise was made, Buhari presented the 2022 budget before the National Assembly on October 7, 2021 in which N1.18trn or an estimate of 7.2 per cent of the total budget was allocated to the sector.
The sector has continued to face challenges of infrastructure, poor welfare and inadequate staffing across primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, which has made stakeholders call on the Federal government to improve funding to the education sector.
According to data from the Ministry of Education, Nigeria has one of the largest out-of-school children figures globally.
The country ranks 5th with 10.19mn out- of-school children- about 34 per cent of the total children population across the six geopolitical zones in the country.
Insecurity across the different geopolitical zones is an exacerbating factor as school infrastructures have been destroyed and schools forced to close down.
Kidnapping of pupils from schools is also contributing to low enrollment especially in regions prone to terrorist attacks.
Stakeholders such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics have embarked on several strike actions to show their grievances over the state of education and demand action from the government.
Between 2016 and 2022, there have been several strike actions by the members of ASUU and ASUP.
Health sector underperforms
The Federal Government has budgeted a total of N4.30tn for the health sector across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory from 2015 to 2023.
This is contained in the budget documents obtained from the website of the budget office of the federation.
Analysis by The PUNCH showed that the allocation to the health sector increased by 323.48 per cent in eight years.
A yearly breakdown of the budget for the health sector showed that in 2015, N259.75bn was allocated to the health sector.
By 2016, the total allocation decreased by 3.73 per cent to N250.06bn. However, an increase of 21.65 per cent occurred in 2017, as the health sector got N304.19bn.
The increase continued in 2018 by 11.92 per cent, with N340.46bn budgeted for the sector.
A slight increase also occurred in 2019, as the total allocation increased by 9.47 per cent to N372.70bn.
In 2020, the health sector got N414.46bn, which was an increase of 11.20 per cent.
In 2021, the increase persisted by 32.66 per cent to N549.83bn, while in 2022, the appropriation budget for the health sector was N714.58bn, which further increased by 29.96 per cent.
Commenting on the situation, the President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Emeka Orji said even with the allocation of the N1.1tn for the health sector in 2023, it was still below the target at a time the country is facing numerous challenges of brain drain and rising cases of cholera, monkeypox, Lassa fever, and COVID-19.
The PUNCH reports that over 10,000 Nigerian doctors have left the country to practice in the United Kingdom.
Orji said “If the entire proposed budget is N20.5tn for 2023, then the budget for the health sector is still below 15 per cent as agreed in 2001. If we are going to address the challenges we have in the health sector, we have to budget up to 15 per cent or even more because some countries are budgeting more than 15 percent but if Nigeria cannot do more than that, we should be able to budget 15 percent to the health sector.
“That will help us to address the issues of brain drain, welfare, infrastructures, and manpower. Brain drain is threatening to collapse the health sector and if we don’t do anything to address this, you may have a serious issue in the next few weeks.”