Saturday, 08 June 2024 04:56

The profligacy and insensitivity of building a N21bn VP’s residence amid economic hardship

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The commissioning of a N21 billion official residence for the vice president, Kashim Shettima, by President Bola Tinubu is a glaring example of government insensitivity and profligacy in the face of widespread economic hardship. At a time when the nation is grappling with a staggering poverty rate and soaring inflation, the decision to allocate such a colossal sum to an opulent project is both tone-deaf and irresponsible.

According to the World Bank, Nigeria's poverty rate has surged to 46% in 2023, translating to 104 million citizens living in poverty. Compounding this dire situation, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the country's inflation rate climbed to 33.69% in April 2024, exacerbating the cost of living crisis for countless Nigerians. Against this backdrop, the government's expenditure on a luxurious residence for the vice president is indefensible.

The timing of this project could not be more ill-conceived. Workers across the nation are locked in a contentious negotiation with the government over a new national minimum wage. The government's offer of N60,000, while a 100% increase from the current N30,000, has been deemed insufficient by unions, leading to a 48-hour shutdown of economic activities by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). The contrast between the government's frugality in addressing workers' demands and its extravagance in funding the vice president's residence is stark and disheartening.

The justification provided by FCT Minister Nyesom Wike, citing the project’s history and revised budget, fails to mitigate the discontent. The initial cost of N7 billion in 2010 ballooned to N21 billion by 2024, reflecting a gross mismanagement of resources over 14 years. Wike’s assertion that completing the project symbolises "renewed hope" rings hollow when millions of Nigerians struggle to afford basic necessities.

Tinubu’s remarks, delivered by Vice President Shettima, about the administration’s commitment to completing inherited projects and avoiding waste are overshadowed by the reality of the economic hardship facing the nation. While it is true that abandoning projects can be wasteful, prioritising such a lavish expenditure amidst a severe economic crisis is a misallocation of public funds. The argument that the residence is a symbol of respect for the office and its occupant overlooks the pressing need for policies and actions that directly alleviate the suffering of ordinary Nigerians.

The government’s focus should be on pragmatic and impactful measures that address the urgent needs of the populace. Investing in critical infrastructure, healthcare, education, and social welfare programmes would be far more beneficial and morally defensible than completing a luxurious residence for the vice president. Demonstrating genuine respect for the office entails making decisions that reflect an understanding of and empathy for the hardships faced by the citizens.

In conclusion, the commissioning of the N21 billion vice president's residence is a poignant reminder of the disconnect between the ruling elite and the Nigerian populace. It underscores the urgent need for a shift in priorities towards equitable and responsible governance that prioritises the welfare of all citizens over opulent expenditures. The government must realign its actions with the economic realities of the country and strive to earn the trust and respect of its people through prudent and compassionate stewardship.

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