The controversy over some of the Federal Government allocations in the 2019 budget continues to mount as Nigerians yesterday raised queries over its decision to earmark a whopping N8.7 billion for the suspended national carrier project.
The figure is contained in the budget breakdown presented by the Minister of Budget and National Planning Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.
The government had at a Federal executive Council (FEC) chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, in September suspended the national carrier project indefinitely, barely two months after an estimated $8 million was allegedly spent on consultants working on the logo and brand name of the airline (Nigeria Air) following its unveiling in July 2018 at the Farnborough Air Show in London by Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika.
A number of stakeholders in the aviation industry had lauded the government for suspending the national carrier project, describing it as a scam given that it was shrouding in so much secrecy even as the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Muhammed cited the inability to attract the right technical investors to take up the 95 per cent state in the carrier as core reason for the suspension.
Although administration folks have restated government’s commitment to continue with the project, the N8.7 billion allocation as working capital for Nigeria Air in the 2019 budget even without a formal announcement that the indefinite suspension of the project has been lifted, left many Nigerians questioning the rationale behind the allocation.
Even more curious was government’s decision to also earmark another N500 million for transaction advisers and N200 million for consultancy towards the establishment of the national carrier.
“Setting up a national carrier will cost Nigeria at least $3billion; is it wise and should it be our priority as a national to take $3 billion from the Nigerian coffers and put it into a venture that will for sure go down the drain and not make profit within the first five years?” queried the Chairman of the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Capt. Nogie Meggison.
Meanwhile, the government said it plans to spend N42,628,061 for the extension of Villa bodyguard kitchen, reconstruction and furnishing of security building in the Villa while sporting equipment for State House Sports Club will gulp N27,213,525 in the 2019 budget.
It was also discovered in the budget that about N22,000,000 will be used to purchase giant HD copiers for the library and archive while purchase of scanners will cost N6,720,000 whereas the State House proposes to spend N15,834,950 on digital medical references., It also intends to spend about N53,774,000 on purchase of tyres for bullet proof vehicles, plain Toyota cars, CCU vehicles, platform trucks, land cruiser and Prado jeeps, Hilux, Peugeot 607, ambulances and other utility and operational vehicles.
Speaking at the budget breakdown, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said that the 2019 Budget proposal was intended to further reposition the economy on the path of higher, inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth and to continue to lift significant number of Nigerians out of poverty.
“The Budget also reflects the key execution priorities of the ERGP (Economic Recovery and Growth Plan), namely restoring macroeconomic stability; agriculture and food security; energy sufficiency (in power and petroleum products); transportation infrastructure; and industrialisation (focusing on SMEs).