House of Reps Reject Plans To Buy Presidential Yacht

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President Bola Tinubu.

Abuja, Nigeria – Mediaage NG News – Nigeria’s House of Representatives on Thursday rejected the government’s plan to buy a presidential yacht for $6m (£5m), instead moved the allocated sum to the student loan budget, doubling its allocation, Abubakar Bichi, a senior lawmaker said.

There has been a public outcry as Nigerians criticised the plan as a waste of money on luxuries during an economic hardship.

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President Bola Tinubu assumed office in May with a promise to cut waste, and ease financial difficulties suffered by the people.

But he triggered public displeasure after tabling a supplementary budget to 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.

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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.

Activist Omoyele Sowore accused the government of spending on luxuries while it “maintains the miseries of the Nigerian populace”.

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.

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