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The Budget 2014 proposal - Nigerian Tribune

By The Citizen
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The 2014 budget proposal was presented late.  Its content has attracted the ire of Nigerians. This is chiefly because of the questionable items to which significant public revenue has been allocated. Not a few Nigerians have been disappointed with the priorities of government. In some cases, the provisions appear as mere ploys to steal public funds, especially on items that are clearly fictitious or useless for any meaningful public-spirited purpose.

With regard to issues that reflect poor government priorities, Nigerians have complained about the allocation made for an 11th jet for the presidential fleet, the zoo in Aso Rock and foreign trips. In the proposed budget, the government has allocated significant money for running generating sets in Aso Rock, a pointer to the fact that the Federal Government does not envisage improvement in electricity supply. It has budgeted N1.6bn for a new jet, N34.5m for two animals for the zoo, N2.4bn for foreign and local trips, N362m for meals and refreshment, and N834m for fuelling generators in the Presidency and related agencies. Furthermore, the Federal Government has proposed about N30 million on fuelling aircraft and boats owned by Nigerian embassies abroad, and another N872.46 million on generator fuel costs in its foreign missions across the world.  Against the backdrop that most of these embassies and commissions do not own aircraft and boats, and many embassies are in countries with steady supply of electricity, these are frivolous allocations.  Were these provisions made to siphon public funds?

In general, the Presidency has proposed to spend N3.7 trillion of the N4.6 trillion budget on recurrent expenditure.  This is 72.71 per cent of the budget. This allocation is informed by a desire to minister to the pleasure and debauchery of public officials at the expense of the common good. Indeed, the government has always announced that it is committed to transforming Nigeria, reforming public administration, cutting recurrent expenditure and building infrastructure. Has the Federal Government shown its commitment to these ideals with the allocations in the budget? With these allocations, government has refused to put the country's money where its mouth is. We view these allocations as largely frivolous and wasteful. They are certainly not pointers to any transformation. They show that those in government have no regard for improving the living conditions of Nigerians.

Today, Nigerians suffer the burden of energy scarcity.  Electricity supply is scandalous. The hospitals are in bad shape, with 'wealthy' government officials flying abroad for medical check-up and attention. The public schools are an embarrassment. From primary schools to universities, confidence in public education continues to nosedive. The roads are still death traps in the main. Given these needs, it is alarming that the government is so oblivious or insensitive to objective adverse social conditions crying for attention.

As it is now, the responsibility for righting the wrongs of the executive lies with the National Assembly.  As the legislators deliberate on the proposals, we call on them to be mindful of public interest, in particular the need to reduce poverty and advance infrastructure. They should revise the budget in such a manner that the ratio of capital to recurrent expenditure is significantly improved. All frivolous spending must be eliminated. We hope that reason, patriotism, compassion and empathy for the poor conditions of the majority of Nigerians will inform their actions.

We call on civil society organisations, well-meaning leaders of the professions and other empowered stakeholders to do whatever they lawfully can to prevail on the legislature.  They must also begin to show practical interest in governance.  The budget process must not be left to politicians and public officials alone. At every level, Nigerians must raise their voices to demand better prioritisation, strong oversight and efficient use of public revenue for service delivery.