21st June, 2018
SIGNED BUDGET: IT IS A RIP OFF!
President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2018 budget yesterday amidst claims and counter claims of heavy budget padding. A brief comparison of the budget submitted to the National Assembly (NASS) by the president and the one returned to him few days ago shows clear disparities. There are additions and subtractions in some areas.
Examples of increase are the budget of the National Assembly itself which was increased from N125 billion to N139.5 billion. This shows an increase of N14.5 billion. The provisions for statutory transfers were also increased by an aggregate of N73.96 billion. Most of the increases in statutory transfers are for recurrent. This is not in the best interest of Nigeria since the present government is trying to keep down the cost of governance.
MURIC sees signs of deliberate attempt to sabotage FG’s efforts at speeding up developmental projects in critical areas. This is very significant as we approach the 2019 general elections. Good performance in those areas and completion of the projects were being touted as likely to skew votes in the direction of President Buhari while failure to finish them are most likely to ignite anger among the electorate in the affected areas.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes very serious objection to the strong arm tactics, procrastination and lackadaisical attitude of the federal lawmakers particularly on the issue of the 2018 budget which touches all aspects of life of every single Nigerian.
For instance, the take-off grant for the Maritime University in Delta State was cut from N5 billion to N3.4 billion. The most outrageous cut is the provision for the construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport which was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira. This is most certainly going to cause further delay in the completion of this critical project.
Other slashes include, pensions: N5 billion, housing: N8.7 billion, provision of security in Unity Schools: N3 billion, allocation to health by N7.45 billion, allocation to UN building security: from N4 billion to N100m, allocations to 2nd Niger Bridge, Manbila Power project, East-West Road, Lagos-Ibadan Express Road, Bonny-Boddo Road in Rivers State and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail project by a whopping N11.5 billion. The total cuts amount to more than N300 billion.
Nonetheless, about 70 new road projects have been inserted into the budget by the NASS. But the same NASS revealed its intention to dent the image of this administration as it cut the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads to make way for those added by it. Those strategic roads may not be completed on schedule since the NASS has reduced their funds.
2018 budget was deliberately delayed for seven good months to railroad the executive into signing under duress since very little time will be left for scrutinizing. This informed President Buhari’s remark yesterday that he was signing the budget to avoid total economic shutdown. We salute Mr. President for this altruism.
It is very glaring that members of the NASS are proving beyond any reasonable doubt that they are enemies of the people. They are holding the nation to ransom. Nigerians must remember that this same NASS claimed that the budget was lost after receiving it from the executive. This caused a long delay. NASS is frustrating efforts of the Federal Government to provide critical infrastructure.
The fact that the NASS jacked up its own budget by N14.5 billion shows that the members are only out to feather their own nests. Who prepared the NASS budget ab initio? What has changed between the time it was prepared and now? Has the number of the members increased by any significant figure to justify such an increase in their budget?
Wonders will never end. Otherwise where was the deputy senate president, Senator Ike Ekweremadu when the budget for the Terminal Building of Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira? Is he not from Enugu State? Can the Igbo people still say that Buhari does not like them? The wind has blown. We have seen the ruff of the hen.
Where were all the senators from the South South when the budget for the Niger Delta University was being slashed from N5 billion to N3.4 billion? Et tu Senator Ben Bruce, did you also support this dehumanization? No, it cannot be. It must have been done in your absence, perhaps during the recording of one of your famous interventions. Why are our politicians determined to drag the masses on the floor and trample upon them as they lie face-down? What kind of wickedness and insensitivity is this? Who did this to Nigeria?
It is also most paradoxical that the NASS would ever think of slashing the budget for the provision of security in the Unity Schools by N3 billion. It is unthinkable at a time when kidnapping is rife and the same NASS had threatened to impeach Mr. President over insecurity! This must be a huge joke. Chibok and Dapchi must be tales from the moonlight as far as our lawmakers are concerned. It merely exposes the insincerity of Nigerian legislators at the federal level.
These people are playing politics with the lives of Nigerians. Our people are being made to suffer because selfish lawmakers do not want progress to be registered during this Buhari regime. This is politics of pettiness and bitterness. It is ‘bolekaja’ diplomacy. Patriotism has fled from Nigeria’s hallowed chambers. Politicking is set aside in other climes in the interest of the nation. That is why America and Britain are great today. But not in Nigeria. The good man at the top who wants to liberate the people must be rendered useless even if it means citizens have to whistle for their dinner.
Interestingly, while cutting the budget right, left and center, the National Assembly left its own budget untouched but rather added to it. Can you see what we mean? They also introduced thousands of their own projects worth about N578 billion.
It has been cat and mouse game since the inception of this administration. Nigerians themselves have seen the good intention of the executive. NASS is our problem. We are tired of our lawmakers. They expect Buhari to compromise on corruption. They cannot just believe how a former state governor, former chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), former military head of state and now president of Nigeria could have only one building in his home town, just one structure in Abuja, no single foreign account, no private jet, no oil bloc, etc.
These people believe that Buhari must be from another planet. They are green with envy. They do not see the legislature as a partner in progress with the executive. Rather, they have constituted themselves into clogs in the wheel of progress. Here is the crux of the problem and Nigerians must choose between these politicians of fortune and their president whom they elected for the purpose of cleaning the Augean stable.
Nigerians must pray in unison focusing on certain prayer points. We must pray that Almighty God should uplift those Nigerian lawmakers and other politicians who are promoting the welfare of the people and working for the greatness of our nation. We also need to beseech God to remove the hands of selfish lawmakers and other politicians from the destiny of the Nigerian people. God should take power far away from such people so that the poor masses may be set free.
As we round up, we reiterate our conviction that this eighth NASS is the worst in the history of our nation. Its members are working for themselves. It is therefore time for Nigerians to wake up. While we call on Nigerians to pray for freedom from their tormentors, we remind them that prayer without work is lame. We must take our destiny in our hands even as we pray. God will then give us His divine support. The Glorious Qur’an says, “Allah will not change the condition of a people until they themselves decide to change their attitude” (13:11).
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)