Thursday, December 31, 2009

The 2010 budget of stimulus or deceit?

Nigeria’s 2010 appropriation bill of N4.079 trillion was tagged ‘Budget of Fiscal Stimulus.’ What a misnomer! Since the budget was presented to National Assembly on November 24, 2009 the media has kept faith analysing and reporting the budget defence sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives committees with various Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs). I have followed these analyses keenly and I should say Nigeria is doomed with the current political leadership of the country.
Over the years, budget in trillions of Naira have been passed without much to show in terms of human capital or infrastructural development. In a country with more than 70 per cent of the populace living below poverty line, we have a government that has voted N7.066 billion to build an earthly paradise for her Vice President. In the news report on the Federal Executive Council meeting of December 23, 2009, Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Senator Adamu Aliero justified the need to have a permanent residence for the Vice President but left out why Yar’Adua administration is just realising the need to build a befitting residence for its Number 2 citizen as well as the rationale behind the huge contract sum. To my own mind, the amount involved in this building project is mind-boggling and tantamount to sheer waste or misapplication of the nation’s resources.
I think there is more to this building contract than meet the eyes. Where were all the previous Second-in-Commands under the former military Heads of State such as Augustus Ahiomu, Ebitu Ukiwe, Oladipo Diya and Mike Akhigbe living while they were No. 2 citizen in Abuja? If these previous deputies had official residence in Abuja, what happened to the building? Or could it be that there was no original provision for Vice President’s accommodation in Abuja’s master-plan? Why did the Yar’Adua administration wait till the third year of his administration, the eve of another general election as well as when there is global economic recession and fall in oil revenue to build house for the Vice President? Am of the opinion that even at today’s inflationary rate, if there will be any urgent need to build an official residence for the Vice-President, N1 billion will be too much let alone seven. In whatever way this project is viewed it is out of tune with current economic realities.
Other heart-rending revelations from the 2010 budget include the proposition to spend $210 million, which is about N31.5 billion to purchase 4 New Presidential Aircrafts, although only N23.4 billion is provided for it in the budget. Two of the aircrafts are to be delivered in 2010 while the remaining two are expected in 2011 and 2012. It was reported also that N250 million has been earmarked to fight termites in State House; N542.4 million budgeted to purchase and fuel power generating plants as well as the N450 million set aside for maintenance of vehicles by the presidency in 2010 despite the monetisation policy of the government.
At the National Assembly, the legislature will spend a total of N127.782 billion. The breakdown shows that the legislature will have N118.782 billion as recurrent expenditure and N9 billion for capital projects. Of the amount, N30.9 billion is voted for Senators and House of Representatives sitting allowances while furnishing and renovation of residences of the Senate President and the Deputy Senate President will need N250 million. The Senate is said to be planning to buy guest houses for its principal officers at the cost of N750 million. For fuelling and lubricants of vehicles and generators, the House budgeted N460 million, while the Senate set aside N286 million. Also in 2010, the Senate proposed to spend N600 million for budget activities; N3.7 billion for office materials, books, periodicals, printing and uniforms; N1 billion for public hearings; N9 billion for ‘programmed activities’; N957 million for maintenance of vehicles and other equipment; N355 million for office equipment; and N80 million for utilities. The House budgeted N3.7 billion for office materials, books, periodicals, printing and uniforms; N1.4 billion for maintenance of vehicles, generators and other equipment; N500 million for partitioning of offices; and N385 million for three new generators. Can we in good conscience say these are national priorities considering that a whooping N1.09 trillion of the budget is expected deficit?
If the presidency and the NASS could vote these huge figures for their personal aggrandisement in this austere time while millions of graduates of our tertiary institutions roam the street aimlessly in search of non-existing white and blue collar jobs, does this not portray our political leaders as self-serving? Any wonder there is high rate of armed robbery and kidnappings in the country? To drive home the pitiable situation of Nigerian masses, on December 22, 2009, Kapital FM, Abuja hosted widows to a Christmas fete; the estimation of the organisers was that about 1,000 widows will turn up. They were wrong, over 10,000 widows showed up putting the planners in a quandary on what to do. In the footage of the sad story showed on NTA on December 24, many of these widows were seen scrambling for grains. It is in the midst of this nationwide misery that a handful of people in corridors of power decided to enjoy on our behalf. If this status quo is maintained, neither the seven point agenda nor Vision 20:2020 will be achieved.