• Monday, May 27, 2024
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Robbing education and health to fund roads

road reconstruction

The Senate recently approved a slash of N6.2 billion out of funds meant for education and health in the Federal Capital Territory towards funding the N25 billion expansion work on two major roads in the federal capital. The roads are the Kubwa Expressway that links the Federal Capital with Suleja in Niger State and the Airport Road in Abuja.

The report of the Senate Committee on Appropriation recommending the virement of N25.9 billion from the 2009 FCT budget was presented by Senator Iyiola Omisore chairman of the Senate committee on Appropriation.
In recommending the virement proposal, Senator Omisore said it “would reduce the existing pressure on the existing facilities in the main city.” But, out of the N25.7 billion requested, the executive had requested that N4.18 billion be cut from the education budget of the FCT for the year and another N2.1 billion from the health budget be slashed to meet the funding needs of the two road projects. We wonder the justification in chainging priorities.
The Kubwa highway is a very important road because many workers in the federal capital live in Suleja and Kubwa, a satellite town in the FCT. The sheer volume of traffic that passes through that road every morning as workers head to the federal capital causes heavy traffic snarl on the road in the mornings and evenings as workers close from work. The same argument can be made about the Airport Road. It is the only road that links the airport to the rest of Abuja. In recent times, traffic on that road has become very heavy. There is indeed, a compelling need to expand these two roads.
However, in expanding these roads, does the government or the Senate

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need to cut the votes for education and health in the federal capital? The facts on ground and prevailing circumstances make an argument in favour of such a move illogical. Education and health form the core of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Nigeria has not fared very well in this regard even as 2015, the year set aside by the United Nations for the attainment of the goals approaches.
In the last few weeks academic staff of Nigerian universities have been on strike over issues that have to do with funding and the neglect of tertiary education in the country. Workers in the health sector have been on strike as well. This period therefore, calls for sober reflection and senators, as elected representatives of the Nigerian people, should be in the vanguard of championing causes that affect the majority of Nigerians.
A look at the social situation in Nigeria especially as it concerns education and health will show that both sectors need all the money that has been voted for them. With a population of over 140 million, Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. The under-five child population alone is currently over 40 million. Any progress in achieving the MDGs in Nigeria will have a tremendous impact on attainment of the goals on the African continent.
According to the Nigeria 2006 Millennium Development Goals report, the country may reach several targets related to Universal Primary Education, environmental sustainability, combating HIV/AIDS and fostering a global partnership for development. Progress has been made towards eradicating extreme poverty but the pace is too slow to meet the targets.
The percentage of children who sleep under treated mosquito net is unacceptably low, ranging from three percent in the North to eight percent in the South East, according to reports.

Routine immunisation coverage is still very low even though immunisation services have now been integrated into the National Primary Health Care delivery systems to strengthen routine immunisation and enhance sustainability. One-third of all children under-five are either stunted, underweight or wasted. Over 70 percent of eligible children have been receiving vitamin A supplementation and over 80 percent flour, sugar and vegetable oil are fortified with vitamin though according to UNICEF reports, 98 percent of all households in Nigeria now use iodised salt, Nigeria is still far from having a healthy population.
These are some of the issues the Senate should have considered before cutting the budget for education and health in the FCT. The action of the upper legislative chamber in this regard is insensitive, retrogressive and regrettable.