In the midst of Nigeria’s recent #EndSARS protests, a graphic circulating on social media compared the national budget for healthcare and education to the cost of maintaining the national assembly.
It claims that the healthcare budget is N46 billion and education budget N48 billion are both incorrect – the real figures are far higher.
The claim that the legislator’s budget is N125 million is understated – it’s actually N3 billion more – as is the claim that there are 465 federal legislators. There are 469.
Nigeria saw major protests over police brutality and weak governance in October 2020, with young people demanding reforms.
During and after the #EndSARS protests, which attracted international attention, several claims about the country’s development circulated on social media.
One of the most widely shared claims compared national spending on health and education to the budget for lawmakers.
“Nigeria's healthcare budget is N46 billion for 200 million people. Nigeria's education budget is N48 billion for 200 million people. Nigeria's legislator's budget is N125 billion for 465 people. The politician vs the people,” it read.
We checked if the available evidence backed up these figures.
No reference period is given for this and the other claims. As of 1 July 2020, the UN estimated Nigeria’s population at 206.3 million.
To fact-check this claim, we first looked at the 2021 budget proposals president Muhammadu Buhari presented to the national assembly on 8 October 2020, while the protests were underway.
In this budget, the federal government proposed to allocate N380.21 billion to healthcare, or about eight times the N46 billion given in the graphic.
We also looked at the current budget. The allocation to health was initially N441 billion, before being pared down to N414.46 billion due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy.
Data from our promise tracker tool shows budgetary allocations to health from 2017 to 2019 were at least N300 billion.
Healthcare consistently underfunded
Healthcare is underfunded in Nigeria, with its share of the budget usually less than 5%, Prof Kayode Osungbade, who teaches health policy and management at the University of Ibadan, told Africa Check.
Healthcare gets just 2.9% of the total budget proposed for 2021. Our promise tracker reveals that its budget has not breached 5% since 2015.
This is despite the 2001 Abuja Declaration in which African countries set a target to spend at least 15% of their annual budget on health, Osungbade said.
“Budgeting so little for health means there would be poor infrastructure, inadequate supplies and low-quality healthcare delivery.”
The 2020 budget initially allocated N686.8 billion to education, before revising this to N473.05 billion.
The government allocated N541 billion to education in 2018 and N462 billion in 2019, our promise tracker shows.
For 2021, the government has proposed an allocation of N545.1 billion.
Nathaniel Abraham, a professor of educational management at the University of Port Harcourt, said it was a sign of inadequate funding that the education budget was being compared with the cost of the national assembly.
He cited poor funding and low staff morale as some of the challenges facing public learning institutions in Nigeria.
More funding would help “rebuild our schools, train teachers, provide equipment and learning material, and build skilled manpower for the future of this country”, Abraham told Africa Check.
The government has proposed N128 billion for the national assembly in 2021.
This is unchanged from the figure the assembly approved in December 2019. Lawmakers declined to pass the N125 billion budget Buhari initially proposed.
Due to the pandemic the executive also proposed to cut the assembly’s budget to N115.2 billion but this was also not approved.
The N125 billion claim is N3 billion short of what was eventually approved.
Some lawmakers have argued that reducing the national assembly budget would not make a difference to the economy.
But a leaner federal parliament would have a significant effect, according to Abubakar Abdullahi, a professor of development economy and policy at the Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto.
Given poverty levels in Nigeria, “N128 billion makes a huge difference,” he told Africa Check.
“A minimum wage of about N30,000 a month is yet to be fully implemented; that is N1,000 a day. Do you know how many minimum wages are in N128 billion?”
Abdullahi said that in a situation where most of the population had low purchasing power, more public funds would help strengthen the country’s productive sectors, “which includes education and healthcare”.
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The graphic suggests that 465 federal legislators make up Nigeria’s national assembly.
The country has a two-chamber legislature;: the senate and house of representatives. The senate has 109 seats, comprising three senatorial districts for each of Nigeria’s 36 states and one for the federal capital.
The house has 360 members. While the number of federal constituencies varies from one state to another, 358 members represent federal constituencies in 36 states while two represent Abuja.
Altogether, there are 469 federal legislators, not 465.