Nigeria Prioritizes Constituency Projects Over Health Sector, Raising Concerns About National Priorities

Nigeria has directed more funding towards constituency projects, aimed at specific empowerment programs, than towards the health sector, raising concerns about national priorities as many Nigerians grapple with a healthcare system in need of improvement.

Approximately N732.5 billion has been allocated for empowerment projects in the 2024 Federal Government Capital and Constituency Projects, surpassing the N646.5 billion allocated to health projects. Tracka, BudgIT’s platform that allows citizens to track and provide feedback on public projects in their communities, revealed this in an official statement released on Monday.

Budget Allocation Concerns

Despite Nigeria ranking among countries with the worst health outcomes, exemplified by the second-highest child mortality rate globally in 2023, the 2024 budget allocations suggest the government’s priorities lie elsewhere, neglecting the critical health sector. Tracka reported that the 2024 federal government has 4,440 empowerment projects.

Empowerment projects, initially limited to constituency projects, have gradually seeped into capital projects through insertions by the National Assembly. For example, the National Assembly inserted 7,447 projects valued at N2.24 trillion in the 2024 budget. Tracka identifies this as a problematic trend, considering the nation’s significant infrastructure gap and budget deficits.

Gabriel Okeowo, BudgIT’s country director, expressed concern over this development, stating: “The implications of assigning projects to agencies outside of their mandate are that it undermines monitoring, evaluation, and the sustainability of these projects. These agencies lack the expertise and personnel to ensure quality service delivery for these projects, leading to under-delivery and a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money and scarce resources.”

Misallocation of Funds

Further analysis by Tracka showed that over 2,558 projects worth N624 billion were allocated to agencies outside their mandate. The nature of empowerment projects makes them vague and challenging to track. They are also used as a funnel to transfer public resources to party loyalists, resulting in the misuse of public funds.

For instance, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) was allocated N5 billion for the procurement and distribution of official vehicles to selected traditional rulers in the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria. Similarly, the Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) was allocated N2.32 billion to construct a 3.5km road from Methodist Church Ibu to the Eri River.

Calls for Reform

Analysts have long argued that developing countries like Nigeria should spend more on critical healthcare projects desperately needed in a country where a significant infrastructure deficit has undermined economic growth and tormented businesses. Olamide Brown, founder of HealthCap, a healthtech and fintech venture capital firm, told Businessday that the government can make the healthcare sector more attractive and viable by providing similar backing to what the banking sector receives. This includes establishing an organization like the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to handle potential missteps and prevent healthcare institutions from collapsing.

Tracka urged anti-graft agencies to probe these anomalies in the 2024 budget to forestall diversion, misappropriation, and embezzlement. It also called on elected representatives and ministries, departments, and agencies to provide timely updates to the public and ensure the quality implementation of these projects to ensure Nigerians derive maximum benefit from public funds.

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