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BUREAUCRACY STILL SWALLOWS LARGEST CHUNK OF 2012 BUDGET

By NBF News
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Nigerians may have little to celebrate in the 2012 Appropriation unfurled yesterday by President Goodluck Jonathan as government bureaucracy will still guzzle a large chunk of the N4.749 trillion budget.

From the budget presented to the joint session of the National Assembly yesterday by President Jonathan, recurrent expenditure, which is the amount that would be spent on salaries and emoluments, travels and tours and allowances of the Federal Government employees, National Assembly members and the presidency would gulp N2.472 trillion, about 72 per cent of the total budget while capital expenditure received only N1.32 trillion.

Even though, President Jonathan has made a firm commitment to bring down the recurrent expenditure continuously to account for 33 per cent of total budget by 2015, but the way it is presently skewed means that only about 2 per cent Nigerians who happened to be in government employment are feeding fat on the collective patrimony.

It would be recalled that Professor Itse Sagay, a renowned scholar of law, recently accused Nigerian lawmakers at the lower and upper chambers of the National Assembly of insensitivity by receiving the highest pay in the world.

According to him, a senator in Nigeria earns N240 million (about $1.7 million) in salaries and allowances and a member of the House of Representatives earns 204 million naira (about $1.45) per annum. There are 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives. He went on to explain that an American Senator earns $174,000 while a UK parliamentarian earns about $64,000 per annum. Going by the above analysis, a Nigeria Senator earns almost ten times the salary of his US counterpart and more than twenty times the salary of a UK parliamentarian. ?He also said that in 2009, the federal legislators received a total of N102.8 billion, comprising N11 billion as salaries and N90.96 billion as non-taxable allowances. He wondered how justified it is for a Nigerian lawmaker to earn more than the president of the United States of America which is undoubtedly the largest and richest economy in the world.

President Barack Obama, earns $400,000 per annum; $1.3 million lesser than the salary of a Nigerian senator. He said that the British Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, earns just $190,000 a year which is more than $1.5 million less than a Nigerian senator's salaries. Professor Sagay also said that the Senate President is on a special monthly salary of N88.33 million, while his deputy is on N50 million; N1.24 billion is paid as quarterly allowances to the 10 principal officers of the Senate, while other principal officers earn N78 million every three months. The situation has gone so bad that more than 70 per cent of national income now goes into paying salaries and allowances of political office holders who form less than one per cent of the Nigerian population.

Sagay's analysis was Corroborated by the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who accused the National Assembly of consuming 25 per cent of the Federal Government's overhead expenditure.

He explained that 'as a country, we cannot continue to spend our money on recurrent and overheads if we want to develop.'

He stated that N136.25 billion total overhead of the National Assembly is 25.41 per cent of  Federal Government's total overhead of N536.26 billion.

The Finance Minister, Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, also joined the fray when she wondered how the nation could invest in capital projects if it spends all its money on recurrent expenditures. While appearing before the Senate last July to be grilled by the lawmakers on what she would do as a minister as part of the process of approving President Jonathan's cabinet nominees.

She said: 'I am really worried about the issue of making sure our budget is not eaten up by recurrent expenditure. How can we invest in capital if we're spending all our money on recurrent expenditures. Can we run a budget that is not negative? Absolutely. We can do it, we have done it. We have been able in the past.'

But with the 72 per cent of the budget committed to recurrent expenditure, there is fear that the 2012 Appropriation would run into a serious deficit.'

although the President has promised to cut the deficit to 2.77 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) next year from 2.96 per cent in the 2011 budget