ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian President Bola Tinubu’s approval of a supplementary budget earmarking millions of dollars for a presidential yacht and sport utility vehicles for his wife and top government officials has again stoked anger among ordinary Nigerians over what they see as a growing economic disparity.
Tinubu on Wednesday signed into law the budget that allocates $38 million for the presidential air fleet and other renovations. Some $6.1 million budgeted earlier for the the yacht was assigned by lawmakers to “student loans” — with the senate’s approval.
The country’s navy said it had taken delivery of the yacht, but “it has not been paid for.”
Presidential spokesperson Anjuri Ngelale defended the supplemental budget as serving to “strengthen Nigeria’s security architecture and address Nigeria’s critical infrastructure deficit, amongst other considerations.”
The spokesperson said about 30% of the money would be spent on security, and another 35% on “provision of critical infrastructure.”
Recently, the country’s 460-member national assembly confirmed that all lawmakers will get each a new SUV reportedly at a cost of more than $150,000 each. The lawmakers said the vehicles would help them do their work better.
Nigeria, one of the world’s poorest countries, is currently seeing food prices continue to soar to record highs. Also soaring is the frustration of ordinary Nigerians who see politicians earn huge salaries while others like medical professionals often have to go on strike to protest meager wages.
“It is by the grace of God that I can eat. It is hard,” said Nduka Omeje, a trader in Apo resettlement in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja.
Labor unions struggled to get the government to raise the minimum wage for civil servants from a monthly $67 a month. The 2019 pay increase came after workers staged protests.
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