In October, President Muhammadu Buhari presented an Appropriation Bill of N20.51trn ($43.7bn) for the fiscal year 2023 to the joint session of ... the lower and upper Chambers of the National Assembly. He described the 2023 proposed budget as one “of fiscal sustainability and transition" - his very last budget as Nigeria's president. However, what financial legacy is he leaving behind?
A document detailing the transfer was shared by journalist, David Hundeyin, on Twitter
I'm going to put this on Twitter because @WestAfricaWeek is a long-read platform that doesn't do breaking news, and this needs to be out there.
— David Hundeyin (@DavidHundeyin) August 2, 2022
Justifying the decision to spend over N1.14bn ($2.7m) finance minister, Zainab Ahmed, said the vehicles were purchased for the government of Niger for security purposes.
However, it remains unclear how such SUVs could boost the security of Niger Republic which borders Nigeria’s troubled northwest.
Back to school?
The development comes barely months after Buhari approved the transfer of $1m to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes in the wake of the takeover of the Taliban.
Pro-transparency group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), in a tweet called on Buhari to withdraw the gift from Niger.
BREAKING: The Buhari administration must immediately ask Niger Republic authorities to refund the N1.4 billion approved for them to buy vehicles, and use the money to offset the funding for ASUU, so that poor children can go back to school.
— SERAP (@SERAPNigeria) August 3, 2022
SERAP argued that the gift amounted to waste coming amid a five-month strike embarked on by university lecturers over poor funding among others.
Security sources tell The Africa Report that such gifts to poorer neighbouring countries was not new in Nigeria,which is Africa’s largest economy.
An official in Nigeria’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), told The Africa Report that there is a budget in the Foreign Affairs Ministry for such gifts while the President also has an emergency fund approved by the National Assembly for such.
I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in the Niger Republic. The same way there are Yorubas in Benin.
“Nigeria has been playing the big brother role in Africa for over 50 years. These car gifts are not new. We have given to Central African Republic and Mali in the past. These things are done to foster friendly relationships with them because we are wealthier than them and we sometimes rely on them for security intelligence,” an assistant director at the agency said.
Critics, however, say Buhari’s closeness to Niger in particular is worrisome. During his re-election campaign in 2019, two governors from Niger attended his Presidential rally in Kano State, a move which attracted criticisms from the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Buhari’s administration is also constructing a $1.9bn railway that will extend into Niger despite the countries dwindling resources and rising debt. The amount spent on debt servicing has now surpassed the country’s income.
Defending his decision last year, Buhari stated that he had first cousins in Niger and that borders were mere artificial lines drawn by colonialists.
“I have first cousins in Niger. There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in the Niger Republic. The same way there are Yorubas in Benin,” he said.
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