Politics 2016 Budget: [OPINION] Blunders Upon Blunders Upon Blunders - Femi Aribisala

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Femi Aribisala takes a deep analysis into the 2016 budget of 'change' as presented to the National Assembly by the Presdient, Moahmmadu Buhari.

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When the incredible issue of a missing/counterfeited 2016 budget arose some weeks ago, I was expecting to hear from the APC that Goodluck Jonathan was to blame. Surprisingly, that did not happen. Instead, blame was traded between the presidency and the national assembly, seemingly forgetting that both organs of government are now controlled by the same APC.

The stock-in-trade of this government is to blame Goodluck Jonathan for everything. If there is petrol shortage: Jonathan is to blame. If there are power cuts, Jonathan is to blame. If there Boko Haram killings, Jonathan is to blame.

This government has apparently not yet heard the aphorism that: “the buck stops with the president.” Nine months down the road from his inauguration, the president continues to pass the buck to Goodluck Jonathan. Then came the defining issue of the 2016 budget.

419 budget

Mr. President did not just send the budget to the National Assembly, he presented it himself with great fanfare and bells and whistles. This was supposed to be his signature proposal. With seven months squandered ostensibly trying to get a cabinet of saints and angels who turned out to be the same old same old, many with corruption allegations hanging over their heads; the budget was expected to provide redemption for the government.

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It would provide a bold new start to the government’s much-heralded “change” with a N6 trillion “zero-based” proposal that would defy Nigeria’s austere economic circumstances, and put us firmly on the launch-pad to economic recovery and diversification.

This makes it all the more perplexing that the 2016 budget has turned out to be the biggest blunder of this government in a catalogue of blunders that has now come to define it. I am still waiting for those who voted for APC to admit they blundered royally. In their blunder, they have given us a government that keeps going from one blunder to another.

Denying the budget

We did not need Olisa Metuh, the opposition spokesman conveniently padlocked by the EFCC, to expose the blunders in the 2016 budget proposals. Different government spokesmen have competed to distance themselves from it as much as possible. Charles Dafe, Director of Information, Ministry of National Planning, blamed the blunders in the budget on the government’s insufficient knowledge of the zero-based budgeting. Who is to be held responsible for this ignorance? Surprisingly, Dafe forgot to mention Goodluck Jonathan.

Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Heath, also forgot to blame Goodluck Jonathan. Instead, he maintained: “rats invaded Nigeria Budget documents and smuggled in foreign items.” You may well ask who was supposed to buy rat poison. Did Goodluck Jonathan forget to hand it over on his departure?

Lai Mohammed, the past-master at blaming Goodluck Jonathan for everything, could not blame Jonathan for once. The man who promised to hold 365 carnivals in 365 days in 2016, and was awarded a budget allocation bigger than the Ministry of Agriculture, openly disowned the government’s “budget of change.” Apparently, someone had gone ahead to change a number of the items in it; much in the spirit of the APC’s highfalutin change mantra. Among them, the N5 million proposed for buying computers for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and the Film and Video Censors Board mysteriously became N398 million.

The Ministry of Education was also unable to scapegoat Goodluck Jonathan. Instead, a fictitious N10 billion that showed up in its figures was attributed to a “typographical error.” That just might qualify as one of the most expensive typos in the history of Nigeria. But how can N10 billion be a typo when it should not even be there at all? Was it N1 billion they were trying to put that mistakenly became N10 billion? Or was it N10 million? What difference does it make when no one can even tell us what the money is meant for?

Outright fraud

How come a significant amount of these so-called errors have to do with the presidency itself? What error accounts for the N3.8 billion allocated for capital projects at the State House Clinic meant for the president, vice-president and their families alone; compared to the N2.6 billion allocated for all the 17 government teaching hospitals nationwide. How come the amount budgeted for feeding the president is more than sufficient to feed entire villages for years?

There is really no point in itemising the bogus anomalies in the budget because they are just too many. But a few examples should exemplify just how ludicrous they are. In the president’s so-called budget for change, N259 million is allocated for buying tyres, batteries, fuses and other whatnots for the cars in the presidency. N27 million is allocated for buying c-caution signs, fire-extinguishers and towing-ropes.

Spurious sums in excess of N100 billion are included repetitively. Bogus costing of N53.7 million is repeated 52 times; while those amounting to N37.8 million appear over 369 times. In some cases, the purchase of the same vehicles, computers and furniture are replicated 24 times to the tune of N46 billion. N795 million is set aside just to update the website of one ministry, putting to shame the amount alleged to have been used for Babatunde Fashola’s infamous website while he was governor of Lagos State.

In short, Buhari took five months to choose ministers. He had eight months to prepare a budget. Nevertheless, he ended up by presenting one of the most bogus and fraudulent budgets Nigerians have ever seen. That is the change we can surely do without.


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