Budget Padding and Conflict of Interests

What is budget padding? Does it exist? Is it legitimate? These and many more were the questions, which dominated debates and conversations among different publics in Nigeria; since Senator Abdul Ningi, (PDP Bauchi Central,) raised the alarm that Nigeria’s 2024 budget was padded with over N3 trillion.

Senator Abdul Ningi made the disclosure in an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service. He revealed that what the Senate debated and passed was N25 trillion and not the N28 trillion being implemented by the President.

The Senator further claimed that he got experts to review the budget and discovered that 36 projects worth N53 billion in the 2024 budget were without specific locations.

It was further revealed that ranking Senators got N500 million each, for their constituency projects in the controversial 2024 budget; while Senate President got an approval of N2.5 billion for the procurement of deep freezers, generators and other items as empowerment projects for the people of his constituency. 

Naira metrics reported that Senator Ned Nwakolo (Delta North) disclosed that he received more than a billion Naira for constituency project; he was reported to have said that “Allocations of resources to Senators varie, based on the magnitude of the constituency projects…”

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had on 29 November 2023, presented a N27.5 trillion budget to the National Assembly. The budget had a recurrent expenditure of N9.92 trillion; a capital expenditure of N8.7 trillion; and a debt servicing profile of N8.25 trillion. The budget was given an accelerated legislative work, and it was passed within 30 days.

In 2016, House Appropriation Committee Chairman Abdulmumuni Jibril, accused Speaker Yakubu Dogara, and three other officials of removing N40 billion out of the N100 billion Constituency projects to themselves. That year N480 billion was allegedly inserted into the budget during defence sessions.

In 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, accused the National Assembly of raising the budget by about N264 billion; he alleged that projects were added to the budget of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies for unpatriotic reasons.

In 2022, President Buhari, also alerted the nation, while assenting to the budget that there were deductions and additions to the 2022 Appropriation Act, by the National Assembly without justification.

He explained that there was an increase of projected Federal Government revenue by N400 billion, reduction of the provisions for non-regular allowances of the Nigerian Police Force, and the Nigerian Navy by N15 billion and N5 billion respectively. He quarreled with the new provisions, which totaled N36.59 billion for the National Assembly projects; saying most of the projects inserted related to matters that were responsibilities of the States and Local Governments. 

In 2023, President Buhari further observed, while signing the budget that new projects worth about N770 billion were inserted by the National Assembly; while estimates made by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies, were increased by about N58.55 billion.

In 2000, President Olusegun Obasanjo, refused to assent to the budget passed by the National Assembly because it was padded with about N26 billion, which he said was added to the National Assembly budget; and identified 15 other areas which he said, did not emanate from the Ministries Departments and Agencies, but which were inserted into the budget by the National Assembly.

In 2009, President Umaru Yar’adua (late,) refused to sign the budget because he said the document was padded.

In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari, described the action of those who padded the budget as embarrassing and unforgivable; he said the Minister of Budget and Planning, almost worked day and night to get the budget ready, only for some unscrupulous elements to pad and inflate the policy document.

Senator Shehu Sani, who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District between 2015 and 2019, reportedly, wrote on his X handle (formerly Twitter) that “many people hear about padding but don’t know what it means: padding budget means tampering with the budget presented by the President or MDAs by either adding figures to the costs of projects or by inserting projects that were not in the original budget presented.’

He said for example, ‘a Minister can say he wants to buy 5 buckets for his Ministry at 5k each, marginally, he will see 8 buckets approved for him, or 5 buckets approved at the rate of 10k each, or he will see shovels and diggers added to his request for buckets.”

Those legislators, who have exposed budget padding in the past were punished; for example, in 2016, Chairman House of Representative Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumini Jibril, was removed, July 2016, for accusing Speaker Yakubu Dogara of budget padding. Similarly, in the 2024 budget padding controvercy, rocking the Senate, Senator Abdul Ningi has since been suspended from the Senate for three months.

While students of Management Accounting argued that budget padding is unethical; they also argued that those who practice it, defend it on the grounds of practicality.

Nnamani Desmond Okechukwu, of the University of Nigeria; and Nnamani Kelein S.

of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, in a joint work, published in the Journal of Economic and Allied Research, Vol.3, issue2, December 2019, observed that “budget padding came in due to conflict of interest between the subordinate and the superior principal…” They argued that “budget padding is a persistent corruption act of illicit enrichment of limited funds or resources that undermines policy changes for socio-economic development in Nogeria.”

Other scholars further argued that budget padding allowed the actors to engage in fiasco and hijack of budget envelopes, distort expenditure, plans, cost templates and jeopardise the objectives of Ministries, Departments and Agencies’ fiscal architecture…” 

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