Rights activists on Friday described the N4bn proposed for Aso Rock clinic and N800m for a website in the 2016 budget as embarrassing and abnormal.
The activists claimed that the proposals were the direct opposite of President Muhammadu Buhari’s change mantra.
President, Rights Monitoring Group and Country Director, Centre on Convention for Democratic Integrity, Mr. Femi Aduwo, said proposing such a huge amount for Aso Rock clinic and website indicated that the President’s change mantra was just by name and not by action.
He said, “If N4bn is proposed for Aso Rock clinic in a year and the facility is meant for the Very Important People, I want to believe that the VIPs go beyond the President and the Vice-President. For example, if you have an equipped clinic in Aso Rock, all the former presidents, former ministers and former governors can go there for medical checkup, but as it were today, we know that all the former presidents and former governors don’t use Aso Rock clinic. This is an Aso Rock clinic that could not take care of former President Umaru Yar’Adua when he was sick.
“So, if you propose N4bn to be spent and there are elements of trust and transparency in the spending, there is no problem with that, but if you propose N10 for the project and the money is looted or stolen, we will still go back to square one.
Aduwo added that it was shameful that N800m was proposed for a website in this modern era, when the website of the United States President, Barack Obama, cost less than $1m.
Another activist and lawyer, Mr. Ebun Adegboruwa, urged Nigerians to join him to persuade the President to reduce the budget for the Aso Rock clinic and the website.
While recalling that Nigerians were angry when former President Goodluck Jonathan budgeted N1bn for feeding in 2014, Adegboruwa asked Buhari to be a “shining example of a Spartan leader who is not interested in living a life of luxury at the expense of the people he was elected to govern. He should let the charity begin at home.”
He said, “There is a consensus that the budget is not that of change expected from the President. The change means you don’t want to do things the way they were used to be done.
“Though I accept the fact that the Office of the President deserves all the glamour and the state of the art equipment, the amount budgeted for Aso Rock renovation, for website, for Aso Rock clinic, for maintenance of generator is becoming like a scandal to us as a nation. This is very bad and I urge the President to scale down the items of luxury; the items that have no explanation.
“The President has no record of any medical illness. When the campaign was on and it was alleged that he had health challenges, he denied it flatly. So, who is going to use the N4bn Aso Rock clinic? The vice-president and his wife are hale and hearty. So, who is going to use the facility? This is not a good example at all. I believe that the President will listen to the cry of Nigerians and scale down the budget.”
The Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr. Debo Adeniran, said some of the proposals in the budget were embarrassing.
Adeniran said some Nigerians, who had expected Buhari’s government to be prudent, would be disappointed by the proposals, which he considered as outrageous.
He said, “The costs of many items in the budget are very outrageous and it is very embarrassing that a government that claims to be prudent in spending is allocating so much money to some little items.
“If one ministry plans to upgrade its website for as much as N800m, then how much would all the federal ministries upgrade their websites or set up new ones?
“This is a country that is asking average Nigerians to tighten their belts; why should it be that it is at the level of the people that we tighten our belts while those in authorities will be losing theirs? It is uncalled for.”