Presidential Yacht And First Lady’s SUVs

By Casmir Igbokwe

You would think the man is a mad man. But he was only driven by hunger to behave like one. Just as I was gulping down my food at a restaurant at Ekwulobia in Anambra State last week, he sauntered in and sat down. “Please buy food for me. I am hungry,” he started. When I did not respond, he continued, “I have not been feeling fine and I need to eat to take my drugs.” Although I later paid for his food, I wondered how long he would have to resort to begging to survive.

Many other able-bodied Nigerians do not feel any shame to beg for food or money these days. Some cannot pay their children’s school fees. Some others cannot afford the cost of even paracetamol when they are sick. Simply put, the cost of living has jumped to an unbearable height. Nigeria has become a country where more than half of the citizens live in penury.  The Federal Government has continued to ask poor Nigerians to make sacrifices.

Unfortunately, the people in power have taken these sacrifices for granted. While the poor citizens die in droves, those in the corridors of power engage in ostentatious living that makes you wonder if sanity has given us certificate of divorce.

Last month, members of the National Assembly took delivery of brand new Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) estimated to cost at least N130 million each. The total cost is said to be about N57.6 billion. When criticisms trailed the purchase of these SUVs, the lawmakers resorted to you-too fallacy. They pointed fingers at the executive, saying that arm of government was also culpable. True, our new ministers were reportedly given three four-wheel drive vehicles each on their first day in office. Last September, President Bola Tinubu was said to have spent $507, 384 (390.6 million) on hotel rooms alone in the one week he stayed at St. Regis Hotel in New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Last week, President Tinubu submitted 2023 supplementary budget of N2.17 trillion to the National Assembly for approval. A breakdown of the budget indicates that N1.5 billion is mapped out for vehicles for the office of the First Lady. The sum of N2.9 billion is said to be for the SUVs for the Presidential Villa while another N2.9 billion is to replace operational vehicles for the Presidency. The government also intends to spend N4 billion on the renovation of the residential quarters of the President and N2.5 billion on the renovation of the vice-president’s residence. The State House will gulp a total of N28 billion and N12.5 billion on the Presidential Air Fleet. Presidential Yacht will cost the sum of N5 billion.

Pretending to have the interest of Nigerians at heart, members of the House of Representatives scrapped the N5 billion presidential yacht in the budget and transferred the allocation to the student loan component of the budget. Perhaps, they expected us to clap for them. I have clapped with one hand. But I will only clap with two hands when they also reject the SUVs procured for them.

In any case, the clarification of the Presidency on the yacht issue is not satisfactory. The President’s Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, said what was named as Presidential Yacht in the budget “is an Operational Naval boat with specialized security gadgets suitable for high-profile operational inspection and not for the use of the President. It is called presidential yacht by way of nomenclature because of the high-level security features.” Stating that the navy ordered the boat under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, Onanuga added that Tinubu was focused on securing our country and territorial waters and investing more resources to enhance greater economic output from our oil and gas, marine and blue economy.

Very good! But, were the House of Reps members not apprised of this information? Or, did they just focus on this yacht thing to curry applause from Nigerians? And is this yacht what Nigeria needs most now considering that the onslaught of terrorists is more on our roads than territorial waters?

Our lawmakers should think more of initiating bills to stop pumping money into the so-called Office of the First Lady. There is no such office in our constitution. Nigerians voted for a president, not a First Lady. The earlier we stopped certain nonsense, the better for this nation.

It won’t be surprising to hear that some billions of naira have been mapped out for the office of the First Daughter or the First Son. Was it not the other day we heard that the President’s daughter crowned herself the First Daughter of the Federal Republic. The President’s son, Seyi, was reported to have been flown to Kano recently in a presidential jet to watch the finals of this year’s Kano International Polo Tournament. That’s probably why they want to beef up the presidential jet.

Profligacy has no better name. With the acute hardship in the country currently, one would have expected the present government to cut down on certain expenditure. What it did was to ‘bribe’ federal civil servants with a miserable N35, 000 as minimum wage pending when a new one is signed into law. I suspect that this is to douse any protest that may come from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Many of the workers are happy, oblivious of the fact that they may have been scammed.

On top of this profligacy, the government is bent on another borrowing binge which will likely catapult our foreign debt to about $51 billion. As of June 2023, Nigeria’s foreign debt was $43.2 billion. Overall public debt stock as of June 2023 was put at N87.38 trillion. Tinubu has sought Senate’s approval for a fresh $7.8bn and €100m loans. This request came barely 24 hours after he sought approval for the N2.17trillion supplementary budget and a few months after the approval of N819.5 billion 2022 supplementary budget. Recall that we spent 96.3 per cent of the country’s revenue to service these debts last year. Tinubu said the fresh loan would be deployed to projects across all sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, security and employment.

Nevertheless, borrowing amid wastage of scarce resources amounts to stocking your warehouse with expensive goods bought on credit and then leaving the doors open for bulls to enter and wreak havoc on the goods. It is easy to borrow. The question is, what is our source of repayment? The best way out is not to put the nation into more debt trap but to engage in more production and export that will earn us more foreign exchange.

Everywhere you turn to, there is acute wastage of our resources. Nigeria will never move forward with the set of people we have in the corridors of power now. Tinubu’s first major policy thrust was to announce the removal of fuel subsidy. Since that singular action, Nigerians have had to undergo different punishment in the hands of the rulers. There are harvests of deaths everywhere. I have found myself in not less than 10 different Whatsapp groups soliciting financial assistance for some bereaved friends.

The hardship is indescribable. Little wonder there is an upsurge in criminal activities in Nigeria. Kidnappers are on the prowl. Terrorists are ever looking for whom to devour. The other day, there were reports that even Lagos is not free from these kidnappers. At Ago Palace Way, a number of incidents have been recorded. And the kidnappers reportedly boasted that the police were no match to them. They vowed to match the security agencies fire for fire and juju for juju!

It will be insane to expect positive changes to occur in this country with the mindset of the current leadership. We must continue to hold the government accountable. Our lawmakers are representatives of the people. They should go beyond stopping presidential yacht to act as a serious check on the excesses of this government.

Citizens have a role to play. They should begin to take their reps to task. Let there be protest against legislators who have not measured up to their responsibilities. Let there be protests against local government chairmen who are not doing their work. Let there be protests against state governments that have neglected their duties to their people. Let there be protest even against any Federal Government agency or ministry that is not measuring up to expectations. This is the revolution we need in this country. We must learn to question the shenanigans of our so-called leaders now or forever stop complaining.

 

Re: Edo roads and Supreme Court are twins

Casmir, superimposing the bad state of roads in Edo state with the ‘ugly’ state of the Supreme Court of Nigeria is thought-provoking! The common denominator is that both are ‘bad’. While the roads in Edo are ‘eyesores’, the verdicts from the Supreme Court were ‘earsores’! They are congenital unidentical Siamese twins. The status quo of both was made so by human factors. Edo roads, like most roads in Nigeria are consequence of lack of maintenance culture. The indifference on the part of those charged with the welfare of the roads is largely responsible. Like Edo roads like the Supreme Court. The latter oozes out putrid offensive odour via its ‘technicality’ based verdict. It copiously and expressly defends the respondents beyond measure. The Supreme Court is an impediment and a ‘poison’ to the growth and development of Nigeria’s democracy. In other climes like the USA and Britain, they are catalysts! In Nigeria, a timid Supreme Court is too lily-livered to remove a sitting president – the source or channel of the ‘feeding bottle’ and the ‘contents’ of the Supreme Court.  The condition of these Edo state federal roads seems intentional and punitive! It is the result of Gov. Obaseki dumping APC for PDP! Ladipo Road Mushin has the highest number of potholes in the country – and the portion of the Agege Motor Road – is also competing with these Edo state roads for attention too! Over to Gov. Sanwo-Olu too.

-Mike, Mushin, Lagos, 0816 111 4572

•Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, November 6, 2023

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