Nigeria’s lower chamber of parliament has blocked the government’s $6 million plan to purchase a presidential yacht, sparking controversy in a nation grappling with economic difficulties.
The proposal had drawn public criticism as a misuse of funds during an economic crisis. In response, lawmakers allocated the $6 million to the student loan budget, effectively doubling its funding.
President Bola Tinubu, who assumed office in May, had pledged to cut wasteful spending and alleviate financial hardships. The supplementary budget tabled by the president, which included the yacht’s purchase, faced backlash.
The budget, also featuring provisions for luxury vehicles and a presidential office complex, has been approved by the House of Representatives. However, the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Abubakar Bichi, stated that lawmakers had declined to approve the allocation for the presidential yacht.
The controversy comes at a challenging time for President Tinubu, marked by rising living costs and a significant devaluation of Nigeria’s currency, the Naira, against the US dollar. Nigeria’s official statistics reported an annual inflation rate of 26.7% in September.
A prominent Nigerian advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), criticized the purchase of a yacht, arguing that it couldn’t be justified while millions of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. Additionally, SERAP highlighted the negative impact of the removal of a fuel subsidy in President Tinubu’s inaugural speech, which led to increased fuel prices and the rising costs of basic goods.
Activist Omoyele Sowore accused the government of indulging in luxuries while the majority of Nigerians endure hardships. However, President Tinubu’s spokesperson, Temitope Ajayi, clarified that the request for a yacht was from the Nigerian Navy, stating that it had operational justifications. Ajayi added that the president and vice-president had no plans to add new vehicles to their fleet, using vehicles inherited from the previous administration.
The budget allocation for vehicles primarily aimed to cater to hundreds of civil servants and political aides working at the State House. As the controversy unfolds, it remains to be seen how it will impact President Tinubu’s efforts to navigate Nigeria’s challenging economic landscape.