THE OBSCENE BUDGET FOR STATE HOUSE
Nigeria’s cost of running big government has become prohibitively and obscenely huge so much so that the country has become a case study for political science students interested in developing original theses (thesis) or academic projects on how not to run a government.
Precisely because of the groundswell of public opinion that the country spends so much to maintain the largely unproductive government officials at the expense of the tax payers that late last year, President Goodluck Jonathan set up a team of retired and active Statesmen, bureaucrats and technocrats headed by retired Military General Theophilus Danjuma to look at the possibility of how the huge waste of public funds in running the political arm of the federal government can be radically reduced.
General Danjuma and his group of ‘wise men’ quickly commenced consultations across the country and spent several months to compile a well considered report wherein it recommended the reduction of the number of government departments, ministries and agencies as a way of reducing the prohibitive cost of governance.
Nigerians from all walks of life applauded General Theophilus Danjuma and his team of patriots for making such landmark recommendations even as they appealed to the federal government to implement the report to avoid it being kept to gather dust in the presidency as with several other reports in the past.
President Jonathan then promised Nigerians that his administration will surely implement the far reaching recommendations of the high powered committee headed then by the erstwhile minister of Defence General Theophilus Danjuma.
April 2011 election has come and gone but the President has done two things which clearly tell Nigerians that he has started implementing the General Danjuma’s recommendations in breach. He appointed over three dozen ministers and upped the 2011 State House budget to become an all time record as the highest and most obscene budget of the State House in the last decade.
Ini Ekott of Next newspapers did a brilliant analysis published in the August 6th 2011 online edition of the newspaper and observed that President Jonathan currently superintends over some of the nation’s highest relative budget raises in 2011, with the running cost of his first constituency- the state House-reaching a new high.
He reported in that story published in the NEXT newspaper that more than a decade since the return of democracy-save for a year under the Olusegun Obasanjo administration – budget variations for the seat of government have oscillated between 20 percent and 30 percent. It usually includes footing bills ranging from the maintenance of presidential aircraft, to keeping a safari park.
From the highest at N26.48 billion in 2005 under Mr. Obasanjo, the total annual cost of the State House slumped to N10.52 billion in 2009 and rose slightly to N12.78 billion in 2010, according to an analysis of federal budget outlays since 2000.
For this year, the State House is spending N20.01 billion, a 56.53 percent rise from that of 2010, and the highest amount since 2005.
In detailed budgets, the State House, somewhat like a parastatal under the presidency, had N19.52 billion in 2006; N14.95 billion for 2007; N15.62 billion for 2008; N10.52 billion for 2009; N12.78 billion for 2010 and N20.01 billion for 2011.
Ironically the current administration is set to spend this huge budget at a time that poverty among ordinary Nigerians has become worst in history and unemployment has reached an all time high.
Only last weekend when President Goodluck Jonathan visited his village, the villagers demanded answers to the reason why the newly established Federal University in Otueke, Bayelsa State is yet to take off and the visitor to this would – be Federal University told the people that paucity of funds was responsible for the delay in the commencement of academic activities in the Institution of higher learning.
Before the last presidential election, President Jonathan promised to start work in the second Niger Bridge to save the dilapidated old Niger Bridge from imminent collapse but till date nothing has been heard from the Presidency regarding that strategic bridge which is the only connecting route between South East Nigeria with the South West. There have been different reports of vibrations being heard by motorists plying over the old Niger Bridge and no practical thing has been started by the Federal government to assure the people that President Jonathan will keep to his sacred promise to build a new second Niger Bridge.
Why then will the Presidency spend so much maintaining officials and other visitors to the State House even when the education and road infrastructure have collapsed across the country?
Is it the intention of the President that the social and economic infrastructure in other parts of Nigeria especially the South East should collapse, for Nigerians to be impoverished and may be line up with their plates to receive food assistance from the obscenely funded State House kitchen in Abuja?
It is not the remotest intention of this columnist to argue that the first family be starved but the law of equity demands that the collapsing socio-economic infrastructure across Nigeria be fixed to rescue Nigerians from the consequences of a failed state which Nigeria may become if radical measures are not implemented to reactivate the failed educational, health and road infrastructure.
The Federal government is under legal and moral obligation to fix back the collapsed infrastructure. Take for instance the issue of transportation which is a fundamental human right enshrined in the constitution by virtue of the provision that stipulates right to freedom of movement, this human right of Nigerians are abused because of lack of good road infrastructure. The Rail transport has collapsed under the weight of monumental corruption by top officials of the Nigeria Railways over the years. Air transport is also out of reach of common citizens because of the obscene fares charged by these shylock private airline operators.
A scholarly write up titled; “Benefits of public Investment in the Nation’s Road Infrastructure”, written by the Australian Automobile Association said road infrastructure is critical to the fulfillment of fundamental human rights of right to movement and right to dignity of the human person.
The piece by the Australian Automobile Association written in May 2003 stated thus; “The dominance of the road network in economic usage is not difficult to understand. Roads are ubiquitous, providing virtually total connectivity of countless origins and destinations and offering wide and flexible choices for many users. The road system also acts as distributor of feeder roads and access streets providing access to all other modes. Roads are open access and multipurpose….”
Emmanuel Onwubiko Heads the Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria.