The Federal Government has insisted on the N100bn Zonal Intervention Projects (constituency projects) for the 469 senatorial districts and federal constituencies across the country.
This is contained in the 2020 revised federal budget which has been forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.
This is despite the negative impact of COVID-19 on the economy.
Following the drop in the price of crude oil and a fall in the projected government revenue, it was learnt that the Federal Government decided to reduce the budget by N318bn.
However, the budget for the National Assembly’s constituency project, which is under the service wide vote, remained untouched.
Ironically, the President, Maj. Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had last year complained about the N100bn allocated yearly for the National Assembly’s constituency projects, adding that it usually had no impact on the masses.
“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects, yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.”
Sunday PUNCH, however, reports that although the fund is tied to projects of lawmakers, they are often implemented by Federal Government agencies.
Also, the release of the funds in the last 10 years has not exceeded 70 per cent yearly.
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH, the Founder, Dataphyte, Mr Joshua Olufemi, said it was sad that the health and education budgets were cut while that of the constituency project remained untouched.
Meanwhile, the President and his Deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, have budgeted the sum of N2.2bn for local and foreign travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is despite the Covid-19 pandemic which has limited both local and international travel in 2020.
The item was tagged Travel and Transport (General) under State House (President) and State House (Vice-President) in the revised 2020 budget which has been forwarded to the National Assembly for approval.
While Buhari set aside N1.7bn for local and foreign travel, Osinbajo budgeted N548m for the same purpose.
Both Buhari and Osinbajo cut down their original travel budgets by 0.684 per cent each, according to the document.
The sum is different from the N124m set aside by the Presidency for travel.
About N2.8bn was also budgeted for the overhead cost and travel cost of the Presidential fleet.
Sunday PUNCH reports that Buhari has been known to travel frequently as he spent 404 days abroad between May 29, 2015 and April 20, 2019.
In 2020, however, Buhari has not left Abuja since Nigeria recorded its first Covid-19 case on March 9, 2020.
Meanwhile, the Budget Office has explained the cuts in the budget for Universal Basic Education and Basic Health Care Provision Fund.
The Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze, said the funds were tied to statutory transfers which were dependent on the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Akabueze further stated that with government’s projected revenue dropping, it was only normal for the statutory releases to drop.
He further stated that the budget for the National Assembly’s renovation had been cut by N27bn to bring it to N9bn.
He said, “The statutory transfers to UBEC (Basic Education) and BHCPF (Basic Health) are set by law at two per cent and one per cent respectively of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Therefore, when the Covid-19 pandemic eroded the CRF, the budgetary provisions were automatically adjusted in accordance with the applicable laws.
“The provision for renovation/retrofitting of the National Assembly complex in the revised budget is N9.25bn, not N27bn as being bandied around. The initial provision of N37bn in the 2020 Appropriation Act for this was cut by 75 per cent due to the impact of Covid-19 on government revenues.”