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Reps reallocate N5bn yacht vote as Navy exonerates Tinubu

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•Navy, not Tinubu, requested yacht for operations – Presidency, Naval spokesman

•Senate okays N17.5bn yacht, air fleet, Reps approve N546bn defence budget

The National Assembly on Thursday approved the N2.18tn 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill forwarded to it for consideration by President Bola Tinubu.

While the Senate approved the N5bn proposed for a presidential yacht in the budget, the House of Representatives cancelled the allocation and added it to the student loan, increasing the budget for the scheme to N10bn, up from the initial N5.5bn

Although the harmonised budget report presented by the Chairman of the Senate Committee of Appropriations, Solomon Adeola, (Ogun West), was jointly signed by himself and the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abubakar Bichi, the House refused to adopt the N5bn yacht allocation.

Speaking on the House’s refusal to approve the planned purchase of the boat, Bichi stated, “As far as we are concerned, we don’t need that anymore. We have increased the student loan.

“If you can recall, the student loan was N5bn in the budget, but now we have increased it from N5bn to N10bn so that our students will be able to access that facility in order for them to be able to go to school and to be able to afford them.”

He revealed that the payment request for the boat was part of the committed obligation submitted by the office of the Chief of Naval Staff to the Ministry of Defence and the Presidency, adding that “the total of the submitted requests was in excess of N200bn out which N62bn was approved by the President.”

The inclusion of the vote for the yacht in the budget had generated widespread criticisms of the Presidency but the Nigerian Navy clarified that the marine vessel was not meant for Tinubu, adding that it was a request by the service.

The Director of Information, Nigerian Navy, Commodore Adedotun Ayo-Vaughan told The PUNCH on Thursday that the service made a “long overdue request” for the replacement of the defunct presidential yacht under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

“Under the immediate past administration, a long overdue request was made for a Presidential yacht to replace MV AMARIA, the defunct Presidential yacht. It was also to be used for the Presidential Fleet Review 2023 that was held in May this year,’’ he explained.

Also clearing the air over the controversial yacht in a statement titled, ‘The facts on the naval boat in 2023 supplementary budget,’ the Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, explained it was not for Tinubu’s personal use.

He stated the naval boat was described in the budget as a ‘Presidential yacht’ “because of its high-level security features.”

Onanuga said, “What was named as Presidential Yacht in the budget is an Operational Naval boat with specialised security gadgets suitable for high-profile operational inspection and not for the use of the President.

“The Naval boat was ordered by the navy under the previous administration. President Tinubu has consistently said that government is a continuum as he inherited both assets and liabilities of past administrations.”

The statement said the President was focused on securing the country and its territorial waters and is “investing more resources to enhance greater economic output from our oil and gas, marine and blue economy.”

While describing Tinubu as “a leader who understands the economic challenges being faced by the masses,” Onanuga said Nigerians would soon “get the benefits of the ongoing reforms that will certainly lead to a buoyant and improved quality of life for all citizens.”

In its version of the appropriation bill, the Senate allocated N18bn for statutory transfers; N1tn as recurrent (Non-debt) expenditure, and N1.12tn for development fund for capital expenditure.

Statutory transfers

The House also voted N18bn for statutory transfers, N992.8bn for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while the sum of N1.165trn is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure.

Also embedded in the budget were votes for the renovation of President Tinubu and Vice-President Kashim Shettima’s residences which would gulp about N13.5bn.

Included in the renovation plan were the residential quarters for the President which was put at N4bn; the renovation of Aguda House (VP’s residence) N2.5bn; the renovation of Dodan Barracks, the official residence of Mr President in Lagos, N4bn; as well as the rehabilitation of the official quarters of the Vice-President in Lagos for N3bn.

Also included in the budget passed by the Senate is the N5.09bn allocated for the yacht which was listed under the Nigerian Navy’s proposed capital expenditure of N42.3 billion; N2.9bn for sport utility vehicles for the Presidential Villa and another N2.9bn for the replacement of operational vehicles for the Presidency.

Presidential fleet

Furthermore, N12.5bn was allocated for the Presidential Air Fleet.The presidential fleet includes Boeing Business Jet (Boeing 737-800 or NAF 001), one Gulfstream 550, one Gulfstream V (Gulfstream 500), two Falcons 7X, one Hawker Sidley 4000, two AgustaWestland AW 139 helicopters and two AgustaWestland AW 101 helicopters.

Although not recognized in the Constitution, the office of the First Lady will spend a total sum of N1.5bn.

As requested by Tinubu in the letter read in the Senate during plenary on Tuesday, the request was given expeditious consideration.

Tinubu had explained that the sum of N2,176,791,286,033 as the 2023 supplementary budget would address labour wage adjustments, security, and more.

The PUNCH had reported that the committee on Appropriations on Wednesday interfaced with the ministers heading the agencies captured in the supplementary budget.

The officials included the Minister of Works, David Umahi; the Minister of Housing, Ahmed Dangiwa, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari; the Minister of State for Defence, Bello Matawale as well as the Service Chiefs.

Before the bill’s passage, Senator Adeola presented a harmonized report from both chambers on the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bill.

The bill expeditiously scaled readings in both upper and lower chambers as lawmakers said it was for the benefit of the country.

Adeola noted that his committee received input from the leadership of the relevant sub-committees and heads of the benefitting ministries, departments, and agencies of government in scrutinizing the budget details.

In his presentation, Adeola recommended that N18bn be approved for statutory transfers, N1.3tn  for recurrent (Non-debt) expenditure, and N1.1tn for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure for the year ending.

He listed the federal MDAs that would benefit from the supplementary budget to include the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Ministry of Defence, police formations and commands, and the Office of the National Security Adviser.

Others are the Department of State Services, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Housing, and the Federal Capital Territory Administration.

After a clause-by-clause consideration of the appropriation bill, the Senate adopted the report of its committee, returning it to the president without any alteration.

When the document on the supplementary budget which included the draft of the budget and report of the appropriation committee were presented on the floor of the Senate, it was not subjected to a debate.

The Senate Committee on Appropriation chairman read the committee’s report on the supplementary budget and submitted it to the Senate.

The Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, thereafter subjected its approval to a voice vote and the majority of the senators supported it.

Consolidated Revenue

In the green chambers, the budget report titled, ‘A Bill for an Act to authorise the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation the total sum of N2,176,791,286,033 for the year ending 31 December 2023’ was laid by the member representing Bichi Federal Constituency, Kano State, Abubakar Bichi.

This was a sequel to the consideration and approval of the report of the Committee on Appropriations by the Committee of Supply headed by the Speaker of the House, Abbas Tajudeen at plenary on Thursday.

President Tinubu had in a letter addressed to the Speaker tasked the lawmakers to speedily pass the supplementary budget to aid the government in dishing out palliatives and other essential services to Nigerians.

As a result, the executive bill (budget) was slated for a second reading and it was passed and referred to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative action.

As expected, the appropriations committee on Wednesday conducted a budget defence session with Nyesom Wike (FCT minister), Umahi (Works), Abubakar Kyari (Agriculture and Food Security), as well as Minister of State for Defence, Matawalle, in attendance.

Out of the total of N2.176tn approved, N18bn is for statutory transfers, N992.8bn is for recurrent (non-debt) expenditure while the sum of N1.165tn is for contribution to the Development Fund for capital expenditure.

Highlighting the decisions behind the figures, Bichi explained that the appropriation committee increased the budgetary vote for the Ministry of Defence from the initial allocation of N476bn to N546bn.

According to him, the four-month wage award of N210bn for workers was considered and approved for onward transmission to the President for implementation.

He pledged adequate legislative oversight to ensure 100 per cent implementation.

He said, “Today, our committee has submitted our report, and the House after careful consideration, approved our submission, the breakdown is as follows:

“As you know, the budget is about N2.177tn and the Ministry of Defence has N456bn, but currently, they have the largest share because we know how important our security is.

“And as you are aware, we interacted with them yesterday (Wednesday) and they requested additional funding so that they can continue their work. So, we have increased their budget from N476 to N546bn.’’

Continuing, he noted, “Then, police formation and commands; we gave them N50bn while the FCT has about N100bn. You know FCT is very important to us because we want to make sure FCT can compete with any city in the world.

“Office of the National Security Adviser: We know how important that office is. Initially, the allocation was N27bn but currently, we have increased their budget to N50bn.

“The initial budget for the State House was N28bn and we still maintain their figure at N28bn as well.’

“Ministry of Agriculture: you know how important that ministry is, you are talking about food security, and of course, it’s very critical and important to our people across the nation. So, we have maintained their initial figure of N200bn as well.

“You know how serious the housing deficit in this country is and in M President’s agenda, he wants to build as many houses as he can. So, we have approved N100 billion for the Ministry of Housing,” he said.

The PUNCH on Thursday learnt that the President would sign the budget on Friday. The Speaker of the House confirmed this at the plenary on Thursday.

 

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