FG’s misplaced spending priorities – Vanguard
It has been widely held that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will force even obstinate and change-resistant entities like Nigeria to jettison their wasteful governance templates and embrace policies that will impact directly on the ordinary people.
When the country was forced to lock down its people to protect them from the pandemic, an effective implementation of the measure could not be sustained for long. Extreme poverty and hunger on the side of the masses and limited ability to support them by the government forced the latter to start loosening grip rather too prematurely. The consequence was the early onset of community transmissions of the virus.
The Federal Government was expected to adjust to our realities by frontally removing Nigeria from its import-dependent mode. In its borrowings and allocation of resources, it was expected to invest heavily in education, health, agriculture and infrastructure: activities that impact directly on the people. The reallocation of resources to these social sectors will upgrade our human capacity, boost food security and productivity, create jobs and enhance our general development.
Nigeria has been forced to upgrade our capacity to fight the current and future epidemics through the increase of the testing labs and isolation/care facilities throughout the country. President Muhammadu Buhari is making visible and commendable efforts to increase investment in the agricultural sector by pulling in 774,000 youths into farming within the next few months.
But Buhari has demonstrated shocking contempt towards Education and critical areas in the Health sector. In a bid to resize the 2020 budget to accommodate the expected shortfalls in revenue, the President authorised the slashing of N50.76bn from the N691bn allocated to Education. The N44.4bn allocated to primary healthcare centres was reduced to N25.5bn.
He also cut N26.5bn from the N427bn provided for Health and subtracted N51.1bn from the N111.7bn earlier committed to the Universal Basic Education. These allocations had fallen far below the United Nations benchmarks which are necessary to raise the quality of the human population of countries. Rather than push more resources to these areas the Federal Government chose to abnegate them.
To make matters worse, President Buhari approved N27bn ($71.5m) out of the controversial N37bn provided for the renovation of the National Assembly Complex. Nigerians had queried this humongous amount bearing in mind that the Complex was completed in February 1999 at the cost of N7bn ($35.18m). Apart from the outrageous cost, we strongly query the wisdom and patriotism in accommodating the renovation in our supposed COVID-19 response 2020 budget.
We call on the Federal Government to restore the funds allocated to Education and Health and suspend the National Assembly renovation. We must tailor our post-COVID-19 governance lifestyle to smaller, more cost-effective and smarter government and push more resources to raise the standards of living.