FINANCIAL RECKLESSNESS: LAGOS TO SPEND 7.475MIL ON FRAGRANCE FOR GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, SEE WASTAGES FROM OTHER STATES

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By Geoff Iyatse and Kehinde Olatunji
 

Budget lines

• Opposition parties kick against profligacy
• Allegations scandalous, says Rhodes-Vivour
• Official waste complicating state fiscal crisis

Scrutiny over profligacy in statecraft and fiscal recklessness has shifted from the centre to Lagos, the supposed Centre of Excellence, and its peers at the weekend, as the state government was kicked for what its critics described as frivolous procurements, which run into several billions of naira.

Other states in similar baskets are tied with the Lagos State government in a campaign that shocked the social media space. This comes at a time the country is enmeshed in a revenue crisis with the current administration tottering around a fiscal cliff and a debt mess not seen in the history of the country.

Funso Doherty, a chartered accountant and governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the 2023 election, had hit the social media trend lines at the weekend, after writing an open letter to Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, requesting an explanation over certain budget items he dismissed as frivolous and requires “greater scrutiny”.

“Under the office of the Chief of Staff, procurement of a brand-new Lexus LX 600 bulletproof sport utility vehicle for use in the pool of office of Chief awarded for the total sum of N440,750,000.
“Replacement of liquid fragrance in the office of Mr. Governor, Lagos house Ikeja awarded for the sum of N7,475,000.
“In addition, Decorations for the venue of political delegates for the sum of N20,084,550.
“Flying hours expenses for ad-hoc Charter plane by Lagos State Government awarded for the sum of N400,000,000,” he wrote.

The attached document, which has set the Internet on fire with millions of netizens joining the politicians in calling for probity, claimed the government allocated N69.94 billion for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and upgrade of the phase of the Eti Osa/Lekki Epe Expressway (phase b) from Greensprings to Abraham Adesanya in Eti Osa and Ibeju-Lekki local government.

It added that sundry consultancy services received generous allocations ranging from N2 billion to N7 billion from the state, which has been bleeding, like every other state in the country.

The call comes while the state goes cap-in-hand in search of funding from the private sector for critical infrastructure, including rail and road projects.

Two weeks, the governor was in Marrakesh, Morocco where he pitched Lagos to international investors at a boardroom session where he touted Lagos as a city where every African and other people in the rest of the world could come to “play and work”.

In an exclusive interview, he told The Guardian that infrastructure was on top of his shopping list as he mounted the rostrum to engage the international community on the opportunities the coastal state offers.

Recently, Sanwo-Olu signed a partnership agreement worth $1.35 billion with the African Export-Import Bank and Access Bank for the construction of the long-proposed Fourth Mainland Bridge, the Omu Creek Project, the Second Phase of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit and Blue Line from Mile-2 to Okokomaiko.

Also, the state is sinking into a debt crisis like every other state in the country. As at the end of June, the state government sat close to one-sixth of the total domestic debts owed by the sub-national entities. In absolute terms, it owed N996 billion to local debtors captured and managed by the Debt Management Office (DMO).

Sanwo-Olu

Its $1.26 billion external debt is also disproportionately higher – almost 30 per cent of the value of external debt commitments of all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

But the state government has argued that it is unequally yoked with its peers in terms of debt-carrying capacity – the ability to pay, internally-generated revenue, infrastructure need and size of the economy.

Yet, critics said the state government ought to have shown an example in terms of fiscal discipline and others. They are particularly piqued about the nature of expenditures the government has to shoulder.

The spending of over N20 million on political delegates has particularly caught the attention of social media critics. Such responsibility, some have suggested, should have been passed on to the political or offset by the governor.

For featuring in the state procurement book and many others, Prof. Sam Amadi, a lawyer and rights activist, said that redeeming the state is a near impossibility, adding that it has been hijacked by intellectual hypocrisy.

Interestingly, the contentious expenditures are partly funded by debt, with a projected deficit amounting to ₦350.411 billion.

But it is not only Lagos that is battling to assure taxpayers that it has not chosen luxury and waste in place of prudent resource management. The Oyo State government is also being called out to explain how it spent N43.5 million to purchase 55 fire extinguishers in the current budget.

Several other governors face similar queries in what is currently assuming an organised social protest over the state governments’ questionable expenditure lines.

According to state statistics, Benue State Governor Hyacinth Alia has also sanctioned N2,040,780,000 for the purchase of cars for himself, his deputy, members of the House of Assembly, and other state officials.

The money was approved on September 5, 2023, according to state financial documents. It is just one of the governor’s many questionable expenses, which have totaled more than N40 billion in just five months.

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