“Nigeria’s House of Representatives Votes Down Proposal to Acquire Presidential Yacht”
In a significant turn of events, Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament has resoundingly rejected the government’s proposal to purchase a presidential yacht, a decision that stirred controversy given the nation’s ongoing economic challenges. A senior lawmaker, Abubakar Bichi, confirmed the rejection, highlighting that the $6 million allocation for the yacht has been reassigned. This move came in response to public criticism, with many Nigerians expressing concerns about perceived extravagance during a period of economic crisis. In a surprising twist, lawmakers decided to reallocate the $6 million to the student loan budget, effectively doubling its financial support.
President Bola Tinubu, who assumed office in May, had vowed to curb excessive government spending and alleviate the financial hardships faced by citizens. This decision by the House of Representatives aligns with the president’s commitment to prioritize fiscal responsibility and address the pressing needs of the Nigerian populace, reflecting the government’s responsiveness to public sentiment.
But he triggered an outcry after he tabled a supplementary budget in the National Assembly for approval, with the planned purchase of the yacht listed under the Nigerian Navy’s proposed capital expenditure of $53m.
Human rights activist and former lawmaker Shehu Sani reacted by saying that “the poor can’t be struggling for survival in a canoe while their leader is yachting”.
Mr Tinubu’s spokesman Temitope Ajayi distanced the president from plans to buy the yacht.
“From what I know, the request for a yacht, however it is named or couched in the budget is from the navy and they must have operational reasons for why it is required,” he said.
The budget was approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday.
But Mr Bichi, chairman of the influential House Committee on Appropriation and a member of Mr Tinubu’s ruling party, told local journalists that lawmakers had declined to approve the allocation for a presidential yacht.
The budget also earmarks $36m for State House expenditure, including the purchase of luxury vehicles and the construction of a presidential office complex.
The government is also planning to spend $15m (£13m) on the presidential air fleet. The controversy comes at a time when Mr Tinubu is under intense pressure over the cost-of-living crisis, and a massive fall in the value of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, against the dollar.
Nigeria’s annual inflation rose to 26.7% in September, according to official statistics. A leading advocacy group in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (Serap), said the purchase of a yacht could not be justified when “137 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty”.
It added that their plight worsened after Mr Tinubu scrapped a fuel subsidy in his inaugural speech as president, causing the price of fuel and other basic commodities to rise. Mr Ajayi said the president and his vice-president were not planning to add new vehicles to their fleet, and were using “inherited vehicles” from the previous administration. He said the budget for vehicles was for hundreds of civil servants and political aides working at State House.