Budget Of Change Or Shear Incompetence

By Bernard Doro
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Around the 22nd December 2015, president Muhammadu Buhari in an elaborate occasion during a joint session of the National Assembly presented for the fiscal year 2016, a budget proposal of N6.08 trillion. The budget proposal allocated about 1.8 trillion for capital budget - a significant increase compared to previous budgets.

The fact that the president presented the budget in person deviated from the norm in the twilight of the Jonathan's presidency where it was done by proxy through the Finance Minister. This to me underscores the importance he attached to the entire process. The gesture got the president lots of acclamations from enthusiasts. Events surrounding the budget of recent have given cause for concern.

The importance of budgeting in achieving policy goals in any public administration desire no mention. I'm sure the president has very intelligent people around him that are aware of the fact that his first budget must be such that bear his signature - a statement of intent to actualise his dream of a new and 'changed' Nigeria.

He must have known that Nigerians of 2016 extraction would beam searchlights on his budget to decipher how it would better their lives. Indeed President Buhari captured the mood correctly when he said during his speech to the National Assembly that he was aware Nigerians were losing confidence in the government. He then promised that the 2016 budget would address their problems, saying “We are here to serve Nigeria and indeed Nigerians will get the services they have longed for".

It was not long after the budget presentation and to the surprise of many Nigerians that the media was awash with news of 'missing' or 'stolen' budget from the custody of the National Assembly bureaucrats. It was later to be clarified by the Nigerian senate that an aide of the president had substituted the original budget presented by the president with another copy - the National Assembly had two variants of the budget when they resumed plenary after the Christmas holidays. The presidency as face mending exercise wrote the senate to retrieve, amend and represented the budget proposal. Sound like a movie right? That is reality of governance in this clime. This huge national embarrassment was explained away blaming fifth columnists.

Curiously, since the National Assembly started work on the budget estimates, it's been a case of 'theatre of the absurd'. To say that this budget of change is more of

the same is an understatement. A major Nigerian based online media outlet has since exposed the budget as serving the interest of the elites and not the masses as promised by the president. The presidential clinic has a capital allocation more than all the university teaching hospitals in the country combined - even though this teaching hospitals serve millions of Nigerians. What is upsetting is the fact the president would still seek medical treatment abroad. The presidency has since offered a lame excuse to support this outrageous fraud on the Nigerian people.

Cases of padding of the budget by different MDAs abound. The Vice President has allocation for books which is more than eleven federal colleges of education combined. During legislative committee hearings, a strange N10billion was found in the Ministry of Education budget. The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole disowned his ministry's budget blaming 'rats' for altering their proposal. Consequently, the National Assembly have decided to stay action on the budget till further notice. The executive has acknowledged that the budget contained erroneous allocation.

Some diehard supporters of the Buhari administration would argue that eight months is not enough to make reasonable assessment of a presidency. Really. Eight months for this sham budget? How could the Buhari administration have gotten this fundamental aspect of actualising its promises to Nigerians so wrong. Was the President prepared for leadership of 21st century Nigeria when he took over. Your guess is as good as mine. Did president Buhari read the budget before presentation or not?

Lest we forget in a hurry, the man at the helm of affairs of the country has been interested in this job since 2003. Surely, he must have been prepared for the herculean task of leading a complex entity called Nigerian since then.

This is not a budget of change as promised but a display of incompetence of seismic proportions.

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