Lagos, the so-called “Centre of Excellence,” and its contemporaries came under fire this weekend for what some have called wasteful spending and a lack of fiscal responsibility, with the state government taking a beating for spending several billion naira on “frivolous” things.
According to The Guardian, the government of Lagos State launched a campaign that startled the social media realm, and the other states in similar packages responded in kind.
As the present administration teeters on the brink of a fiscal cliff and a debt problem unlike anything the country has ever seen, this development comes at a particularly inopportune time.
In an open letter to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, chartered accountant and African Democratic Congress (ADC) 2023 gubernatorial candidate Funso Doherty questioned the necessity of some budget items, calling for “greater scrutiny.” The letter quickly became a viral sensation over the weekend.
For the low, low price of N440,750,000, the Chief of Staff’s office has ordered a brand-new Lexus LX 600 bulletproof sport utility vehicle for the Chief’s office fleet.
Mr. Governor’s office liquid fragrance replacement contract awarded for N7,475,000.
In addition, N20,084,550 will be spent on decorations for the site where political delegates will be present.
The state of Lagos has paid him N400,000,000 to cover the cost of flying on an ad hoc charter plane.
Attached document claims N69.94 billion was allocated for the rehabilitation, reconstruction, and upgrade of the Eti Osa/Lekki Epe Motorway (phase b) between Greensprings and Abraham Adesanya in Eti Osa and Ibeju-Lekki local government. This has set the Internet on fire, with millions of netizens joining the politicians in calling for probity.
It went on to say that despite the state’s financial crisis—which has affected every state in the country—various consulting services were given hefty sums, ranging from N2 billion to N7 billion.
The state has recently gone begging to the business sector for money to improve its transport network, so this plea comes at an opportune time.
In a boardroom discussion with international businessmen in Marrakesh, Morocco, the governor spent two weeks promoting Lagos as a place where people from all over the world, including all of Africa, could come to “play and work.”
He informed our correspondent in an exclusive interview that infrastructure was at the top of his wish list before taking the podium to address the international community about the possibilities available to the coastal state.
With the help of the African Export-Import Bank and Access Bank, Sanwo-Olu recently inked a cooperation deal worth $1.35 billion to fund the construction of the long-awaited Fourth Mainland Bridge, the Omu Creek Project, the Second Phase of the Lagos Rail Mass Transit, and the Blue Line from Mile-2 to Okokomaiko.
Also, the state is slipping into a debt problem like every other state in the country. The state government owes nearly one-sixth of all domestic debts due by sub-national organisations as of the end of June. It owed local debtors administered by the Debt Management Office (DMO) a total of N996 billion.
It has the most external debt of any of the 36 states and the FCT at $1.26 billion, or about 30% of the total value of external debt commitments in the country.
However, the state administration has stated that it is unfairly compared to its peers in terms of debt-carrying capacity, which includes factors such as ability to pay, money generated inside the state, the need for infrastructure, and the size of the economy.
However, detractors maintained that the state government should have set an example of budgetary restraint and other similar practises. The nature of the costs that the government must bear has particularly enraged them.
Social media critics have zeroed in on the government’s spending of almost N20 million on political delegates. There have been suggestions that the governor should have transferred or offset such duties.
Prof. Sam Amadi, a lawyer and rights activist, claimed that restoring the state is nearly impossible since it has been hijacked by intellectual hypocrisy because of his inclusion in the state procurement book and others.
Interestingly, the disputed expenditures are partly paid by debt, with a projected deficit totaling to ₦350.411 billion.
But it’s not just Lagos that’s struggling to reassure citizens that it hasn’t opted for wasteful spending over careful budgeting. The Oyo State administration is being questioned over the N43.5 million it allocated from the current budget to buy 55 fire extinguishers.
Several other governors have been asked similar questions in what appears to be the beginnings of a coordinated public outcry against the questionable budgetary priorities of state governments.
State records show that Governor Hyacinth Alia of Benue State has authorised the expenditure of N2,040,780,000 on vehicles for use by Alia, his deputy, members of the state legislature, and other state officials.
State budget records show that the funding was okayed on September 5, 2023. Among the governor’s nearly N40 billion in questionable spending in just 5 months, this is just one example.
Concerns have been raised about how much money the state government of Abia State is spending on things like road construction and building upkeep.
At the same time, the opposition parties in Lagos State have mocked Governor Sanwo-Olu for his alleged callousness towards the state’s citizens, who are suffering unbearably without receiving adequate relief from the government.
They lamented the discovery that billions of naira had been allocated for dubious projects and purchases in the state.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State yesterday criticised the “extravagant” spending of Governor Sanwo-Olu and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) administration in the state, with specific focus on the 2023 budget.
State press secretary Hakeem Amode told our reporter that, for the welfare of the people, it is essential to scrutinise these expenditures to ensure accountability and transparency.
He said that despite Lagos State’s status as a hub of innovation, it requires urgent improvements to its infrastructure in several key areas, including transportation, education, healthcare, environmental protection, housing, safety, economic growth, and agriculture.
According to him, this concern comes because of recent discoveries regarding the state government’s expenditure, raising questions about the judicious use of public cash.
Budget items like “N7 million for air fresheners,” “N400 million for Charter flights,” “N20 billion for consultation fees,” “N531 million for Church renovation,” and “N20 billion for fans, lighten, and refrigerators” highlight the wasteful expenditure of the Lagos State Government in 2023.
The use of public funds intended for the development of Lagos State must be transparent and accountable, hence we are urging the appropriate authorities to conduct a comprehensive investigation of these projects and expenditures.
We believe the people of Lagos deserve better leadership, and as a party we are committed to promoting that view.
Public affairs analyst and Convener of Reset Lagos PDP Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse echoed these sentiments, criticising Governor Sanwo-Olu’s extravagant spending as unwarranted given the current economic crisis.
A budget of N7 million for the purchase of air freshener, N400 million for charter flights, N2 billion for fans and fridges, N20 billion for consultants and N30 million per month for the office of the wife of the deputy governor is outrageous.
This wasteful use of public funds in the midst of a national economic crisis is further proof that Governor Sanwo-Olu and the Lagos State Assembly don’t give a damn about the people who elected them.
They state that public services such as schools, hospitals, and transit systems are underfunded. The majority of Lagos’s residential roads are in disrepair, yet you have the audacity to pay your spouse N30 million per month.
This level of callousness is an abomination in the eyes of God and man. Now is the time for the people of Lagos to come up in protest.
The people will soon get their revenge on Governor Sanwo-Olu, his sycophants, and the Obasa-led rubber stamp Assembly in the upcoming election.
Our faith in them has been betrayed. They have not ruled with a respect for God. They have not earned our vote and we will not be supporting them!”
The Labour Party (LP)’s gubernatorial candidate in the most recent election, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, blasted the outlay of funds as “frivolous spending and scandalous,” calling it a waste of taxpayer money and condemning the state government for acting so carelessly.
To add insult to injury, the current economic crisis was largely caused by the incompetence and plain mishandling of the economy by the APC, thus the populace have every right to be angry by this mind-boggling corruption.
How can the governor use state funds to cover his own legal bills! Why are they able to spend billions on websites but not on public transport? The governor’s behaviour has been shameful and he should resign immediately. I also think the Speaker of the Lagos House, who has failed to exercise adequate oversight, should retire immediately.
You asked me about the consequences of this wasteful expenditure, and here’s what I have to say: “They are plain and foreseeable. To begin, it clarifies why funding for people-focused projects in Lagos state is inadequate. It explains the high cost of public transit, the lack of an affordable housing programme, the inaccessibility of quality healthcare, and the poor condition of our roads and street lighting.
That the state is working hard to benefit a few politically connected individuals and their friends while taxpayers are left in everyday suffering is made abundantly evident by this data, a point on which I ran my campaign. This cannot go on; it is completely intolerable.
Nonetheless, Seye Oladejo, the publicity secretary for the Lagos APC, has said that “budgets are proposals of government spending.”
He told our reporter, “It’s money on paper, not expenses. Why a budget proposal would provoke an uproar, I cannot fathom. There is a scarcity of information because the Lagos PDP has never had a position of power. That’s why our party is fine with hosting a training/workshop for the PDP to teach them the basics of running a government agency.
No money is backing up the concept at the moment, but that could change in the future.
Assigning funds for an unexpected crisis is similar. If there’s no need to spend the money, it will merely be on paper.
Nothing to lose sleep over, it’s simply a budget estimate. Most of the time, this money is never actually used. Simply because they are projected doesn’t indicate a certain budget has been set aside. Those on the losing side of the election should give up now.