Beyond the padding of 2016 Budget

BudgetCorruption, for which the President Muhammadu Buhari professes a deep hatred, flew out of the box he placed in Nigerian colours before a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 as evidence of the padding of the budget. So did insensitivity, duplicity, greed, inefficiency, lack of vision, misplaced priorities, anti-people tendencies, etc. Nigerians have been aghast, wondering how they came to court such a misfortune.
And why would even the president’s most ardent supporters demure to defend him after the mind-boggling details of proposed expenditures in the budget came to light? Could it be because, like his critics, they were equally shocked by the glaring indefensibility of the document and some of the expenses it proposes, like payment of rent for Aso Rock, the President’s official residence?

And why would even the president’s most ardent supporters demure to defend him after the mind-boggling details of proposed expenditures in the budget came to light? Could it be because, like his critics, they were equally shocked by the glaring indefensibility of the document and some of the expenses it proposes, like payment of rent for Aso Rock, the President’s official residence?

In the wake of the budget scandal, the President has reacted predictably by sacking some public servants, including what would amount to the country’s chief budget officer, and vowing to punish those responsible for padding the budget. This is understandable for a leader at whose desk the buck is meant to stop, who therefore has the ultimate prerogative to sack those considered to be complicit in such matters or who through errors of omission embarrassed the President and his government by encouraging him to present such an outrageous budget to the Nigerian people through the National Assembly.

Yet it must be noted that if President Buhari has a boss interested in doing things properly and who insists on holding their subordinates accountable for their own errors, it would have been hard for him to escape sack in the aftermath of the budget scandal; for failing to carry out the necessary scrutiny that would have pre-emptively identified and removed those contents that have sparked public outrage against his administration and made our nation an object of ridicule to the wider world.

But to be fair to President Buhari, I believe he fell victim of his trust; that he was let down by people he believed he could delegate the responsibility of preparing a credible budget for him, but who instead saw an opportunity to use him as a fall guy to advance their venal interests as expressed in the budget, at the nation’s expense.

However, this paints a worrisome picture of a President who may not be in charge after all, and who must fight hard to ward off the influence of the sinister forces that surround him, threatening to take him hostage and manipulate him like a glorified puppet; and who must realise that his success depends on how soon and successfully he can snatch his independence from such forces and keep it.

It also hints at a President who needs the support of every patriotic Nigerian to succeed, given that we would all have been victims of the fraud had the budget been passed in its original form, without the changes we expect to be made in response to our collective outrage.

Of course weeding out public servants of doubtful loyalty and integrity can be a way forward. But the result can be counterproductive unless they are replaced with competent people who also have integrity. For the President must recognise that, in such dire conditions in which Nigeria finds itself, competence must be judged superior to loyalty in choosing people for national service, provided disloyalty cannot rightly be adduced against such people.

But what perhaps makes the 2016 budget most disagreeable is its anti-people orientation. Suffice it to cite two of its contents to buttress this charge. One is the proposal to spend N4,906,822.00 for books for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s office, whereas the lesser sum of  N3,832,038.00 was proposed for books for eleven out of twenty-two federal polytechnics in the country. Also, the budget allocates N3.8 billion for the State House Medical Centre and a lesser N2, 666,853,303.00 for building hospitals nationwide.

So the people, represented by the polytechnic students, get less allocation for books for their education than the office of one leader, the Vice President. This anti-people orientation of the budget is also evident in its proposal to spend more on one clinic for the State House than for building hospitals for use by the generality of the Nigerian people.

The proposed allocation for books for the Vice President’s office is particularly curious because he is already a professor, and the demands of his office are not likely to allow him time to read the volume of books one expects to be purchased with such a humongous sum, whereas reading books is essential to the education of the students who get a lesser allocation. This is an indication of misplacement of priority that also makes the budget anti-future, for the students represent the future.

Now, with such budgetary proposals, is it still a mystery that Nigerian education and public health system are notorious for poor performance?

Oke, a public affairs commentator, lives in Abuja.
email: ikeogu.oke@gmail.com



1 Comment
  • Eyes Justice

    “Now, with such budgetary proposals, is it still a mystery that Nigerian
    education and public health system are notorious for poor performance?“
    Anh? Just wait until our current Ministers for Ignorance, sorry Education, are through with the consumption of their overdose of power aphrodisiac and then unleash their overload of libidinous trash on our already over-starved academic community. Opportunism has just become our educational grand-norm. Its a case of short-changing the change.

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