On Wednesday, the presidency proposed a supplementary 2023 budget which included a N5.095 billion allocation for a presidential yacht, N5.5 billion for education loan fund and N1.5 billion to purchase official vehicles for the office of the first lady.
These, among others, were part of the items that made it into the supplementary budget submitted two months to the end of the year.
With the cost of living rising, many Nigerians queried the decision to spend N2.176 trillion at this time, part of the money going into the pleasures of the president and his wife.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives scrapped the yacht budget and increased the student loan budget from N5.5 billion to N10 billion. However, the first lady’s office retained its allocation for vehicles.
With the green chamber choosing to prioritise education, there have been some positive reactions, but the first lady’s fleet remains controversial.
FIJ looked into how significant the N1.5 billion allocation for vehicles would be if it was put to use for student loans or building of classrooms.
We asked students of various Nigerian institutions what their school fees were. This was to determine how much they would need if they were requesting for student loans.
A student of the University of Lagos told FIJ her tuition was N120,000 for her current session. “It is N120,000 for those using laboratories,” she said. “For those who do not need it, the fees are N80,000.”
A student of Lagos State University told FIJ that fees there ranged from N25,000 to N150,000, and at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, students pay from N70,000 to over N100,000.
With this, we settled for an average tuition of N100,000.
FIJ weighed this against the proposed sum for the vehicle fleet and found that with N1.5 billion, no fewer than 15,000 students could have been able to pay for a session’s tuition at an average of N100,000.
We also found that going by the 2023 approved budget estimates of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), the average cost for the construction of two blocks of three classrooms is N50 million. This means the sum for the fleet could also build 60 blocks of three classrooms.
For more context, when legislators proposed N160 million for the purchase of SUVs for each of them, Nigerians kicked against the move as many dubbed it exorbitant, but the current allocation for the first lady’s fleet can purchase at least nine of those SUVs.
Although lawmakers have been able to save some money and channel it into sending more students to school, the country will still spend billions of naira on vehicles for an office that constitutionally does not exist.
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