In this write-up, business correspondent LINUS OOTA critically examines the allocation to the library of the Vice President Prof Yomi Osinbanjo and what federal polytechnics got in 2016 budget.
When President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2016 budget to the National Assembly, hope of many Nigerians were raised as it was believed that the document would provide the tonic needed to put the ailing economy to the right track. Called ‘budget of change’, expectation was that at most it should cut the wastage of government resources and ensure fiscal discipline.
However, the controversy trailing the budget indicates that the country may not get what was bargained. One of the dusts the budget raised was that the amount allocated for the library of the Vice President, Prof Yomi Osibanjo, was more than what libraries of all the federal polytechnics got put together.
According to the document, the library of the vice President Prof Osinbajo will gulp a staggering sum of N4, 906,822 on books, which is more than the total allocations of 11 polytechnics out of the 22 federal polytechnics we have in Nigeria. The total allocation for books for the 11 federal polytechnics, was a mere N3,832,038.
According to the document, among all government-owned educational institutions across all levels, only two got more allocations for books than what was proposed for the Vice President. The institutions are Federal University of Technology, Owerri, N6,886,157; and the National Open University of Nigeria, N6,466,895.
The need for this huge book allocation for the vice president’s office is even more baffling considering the fact that last year; the library of the Vice President got a budgetary allocation in excess of N7, 525,135 for the same purpose which gives impression that the office maybe venturing in the sale of books to make money for the government.
Before the presentation of the budget, president Buhari had analyze the economic challenges that confronted the country due to the fall in oil prices with a vowed that the budget would cut waste from government spending and its funds would only be used for public good.
“We are determined to ensure that our resources are managed prudently and utilized solely for the public good,” said President Buhari. “To set the proper tone, one of our early decisions was the adoption of a zero based budgeting approach, which ensures that resources are aligned with government’s priorities and allocated efficiently.”
Our correspondent gathered that the proposed budget, which has passed second reading at both chambers of the national assembly, reveals it is a collection of fraudulent and frivolous allocations, many of which are clearly meant to support the opulent lifestyle of public officials.
Although a top source in the Presidency accused senior civil servants, whom he described as “budget mafia”, of sneaking frivolous items into the budget, it is however curious that some of the most outrageous proposals in the budget were found under line items for the State House.
But speaking in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, recently on the budget, President Buhari explained that the unauthorised alterations of the 2016 national budget has completely changed the document from the one he presented to the National Assembly.
While condemning the distortion of the budget proposals by what he called “entrenched interests,” the president stated that throughout the periods he had served the country in the past, he had never heard about budget padding.
President Buhari, therefore, vowed that all those involved in the padding of the 2016 budget would face the most severe punishment.
He said: “The culprits will not go unpunished. I have been a military governor, petroleum minister, military Head of State and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund. Never had I heard the words “budget padding”.
Buhari acknowledged that the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, did a great job with his team. According to the president, Udoma became almost half his size during the time, working night and day to get the budget ready.
The president said it was disappointing and embarrassing that some people padded the budget. “Our Minister of Budget and National Planning did a great job with his team. The Minister became almost half his size during the time, working night and day to get the budget ready, only for some people to pad it.
“What he gave us was not what was finally being debated. It is very embarrassing and disappointing. We will not allow those who did it to go unpunished”, the president vowed.
Reacting to the mounting criticism of some controversial allocation in the 2016 Appropriation Bill currently being debated by the National Assembly, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that criticism is the only way the Muhammadu Buhari administration will achieve the change promised Nigerian.
He said copies of the budget were at the National Assembly and the website of the budget office and Nigerians who are interested can read it with a view of making observations.
In the statement, Mr. Shehu admitted that the budget may contain some imperfection and that the government is open to corrections from Nigerian.
“We are not by any stretch of imagination suggesting that the draft budget is beyond comments or reproach. Nor do we wish to dwell on this simply to make a point.
“To do that will drive away good citizens from pointing out needed corrections and, ultimately defeating the change mantra of the administration,” he said.
“The budget is a Nigerian budget and citizens reserve the right to examine its content and provide their own perspectives. “As the draft goes through the approval process, this and many other aspects will continue to generate interest, criticism, commendation and sometimes condemnation in discussions in the parliament, the media and the court of public opinion. We believe that the process of “change” will be affected by, and stands to gain from these debates especially where there is good faith on all sides.
“Government has no reason whatsoever to mislead the citizens on the budget and on all other matters for whatever reason,” he added.
Also speaking, House of Representatives member representing Bakura/Maradun Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, Hon. Yahaya Chado Gora described the 2016 annual budget as a very important financial document even as he says President Muhammadu Buhari will deliver on the budget.
He commended President Buhari for bringing in the budget of accountability, change and progress for Nigeria which has never been experienced before in the country, saying the 2016 budget is meant to move the country forward. Gora said having gone through the budget properly, discovered that Mr President gave a good priority to education and agriculture. He was of the view that without education there won’t be progress in the country. “What Nigeria need most is good education from primary to the university level, education is the key to success.
The Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) have urged the federal government to increase the funding of educational and allied institutions to 26 per cent as recommended by UNESCO.
The union made the appeal at the end of its 6th Quadrennial Delegates Conference in Abuja on Tuesday. “We appeal to the federal and state governments to increase their funding of educational and allied institutions to conform to the 26 per cent recommended by UNESCO.”