• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Big budget figures failed to impact Nigerians

Big budget figures failed to impact Nigerians

…Citizens list reasons
…Urge Tinubu to change narrative

Since the return to democratic rule in 1999, the National Assembly has continued on the trajectory of increasing the annual budget.

In October 2019, the Nigerian budget hit a double digit figure, for the first time, with a N10.33 trillion, which Muhammadu Buhari proposed as a budget for 2020, and subsequently sent to the National Assembly.

Read also: The 2024 budget passes second reading at Senate

Within the eight-year administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, a total of N94.88 trillion appropriation bill was signed into law, according to a report by the International Centre for Investigative Report (ICIR).

There were also supplementary budgets.

Recently, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu presented a budget of N27.5 trillion for 2024.

As expected, the budget will keep increasing every year, but the irony for many is that the country has little or nothing to show for the huge budgetary allocations since 1999, across all developmental indices and people’s welfare.

With high level of unemployment, bitting inflation and increasing insecurity, the unanswered questions remain; what happened to the acclaimed job creation initiatives, why is the economy still down despite the budgetary provisions to stabilise it and why are bandits, terrorists and kidnappers still in business despite huge budgetary allocations to security through the Ministry of Defence, amid donations from private sector and governments of the world?

Pundits offer reasons for the little or no impact of the budgets over the years on Nigerians.

‘We feel no impact whatsoever’

Reviewing the education sector, Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, said the budgets have not helped the education sector.

“We feel little or no impact of the budgetary allocations to the education sector because the sector is not being prioritised; the funds are not adequate to lift the sector and to create the needed impact,” he said.

According to him, in recent times, it was only Buhari that proposed more money for education, but allocation was still below the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommendation and that has been the reason for the less impact of the budgetary allocations on education.

“In October 2022, the president proposed N1.79 trillion for the education sector, representing about 8.8 percent of the total N20.5 trillion proposal.

“Though the allocations have continued to rise in terms of the percentage of the total budgets, they still fall short of the 15-20 percent recommended by the UNESCO and that is why the budget is not impacting on education all these years,” he said. But Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in Brussels, argued that with 7 or 8 percent of the total budget, the education sector can still breathe if the funds are well utilised.

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“As much as education needs more budgetary allocations, some countries have high standards in their education and still fall short of UNESCO 15-20 recommendations. Most Asian countries are doing well with less funds in their education, it is all about judicious use of the budgetary allocations in any sector of the economy,” Onikoyi said.

Onikoyi, a researcher, further blamed the little impact of the huge budgetary allocations in the lives of Nigerians over the years on corruption and lack of monitoring.

“We have heard of huge lootings by politicians, top government officials, and across the ministries and parastatals, but shelved them aside, forgetting that these are funds meant for development and the welfare of all and they have gone into private pockets. These are from budgetary allocations and these looters walk the streets freely instead of being prosecuted, funds recovered and left to rot in jail,” he lamented.

Charles Ademuluyi, an investment banker with Stanbic IBTC, decried the heavy padding of the budget each year, leaving less funds for the actual job.

“There is no year the Senate will not increase the proposed budget by the president. They keep smuggling in projects that will inflate the total budget. But we as a people are to blame because we hardly ask questions or insist on accountability from these elected representatives. How can some projects keep getting allocations since 1999 and yet nobody ask why. So, we will keep seeing increased budgetary allocations with less impact on lives because we do not care how the taxpayer’s money is lavisciously spent by our Senators and other government officials,” Ademuluyi said.

Citing an instance, Ademuluyi said the power sector has gulped trillions of dollars since Obasanjo’s administration, and huge funds are still being spent today with little impact.

“Many ministers have come and gone in the Ministry of Power and even with the change of name, handover of some aspects to the private sector, little impact is felt. If it is abroad, our past ministers would have been in jail to account for the erratic power supply despite huge allocations to their ministry. There is nobody to bell the cat and not even the EFCC whose leadership is politically influenced,” Ademuluyi concluded.

Sadly, Chjioke Umelahi, a former Abia lawmaker, said greed has been the bane of the less impact of the huge budgetary allocations on Nigerians.

According to him, there is enough funds to work and create impact after the sharing by representatives at the National Assembly and House of Assembly, but the problem is at the project implementation and monitoring levels, which involves the civil servants, who are more corrupt than the politicians.

“It is the project implementation and monitoring level that civil servants will approve uncompleted projects, hardly go on monitoring, collect money to grant approvals and teach politicians how to loot. Has there been any looting of public funds that did not involve the civil servants.

“The law should be strengthened enough to recover looted funds, confisticate properties, jail corrupt people, and most importantly, curb corruption.

“It is from this standpoint that budgetary allocations will count because they will be well utilised by those in charge, knowing that the law will be hard on them and that the citizens will demand accountability for every Kobo spent,” Umelahi said.

In view of the New York lawmaker who was sacked this week on corruption charges, Umelahi said that appropriate punishment is still the best way to curb corruption, which is the bane of less performing budgetary allocations over the years.

Read also: Senate passes N57bn Police Trust Fund budget

We have witnessed budget padding running into billions, there are many official elements in the budget that are not supposed to be there and when the funds get to the ministries, sharing and settlement begin, so how do you expect impact. Nobody has called for the probe of the financial recklessness of the immediate past administration and we are proposing another huge budget even with the lean resources and no question will ever be asked,” Umelahi said.