The Shenanigans in Budget 2020 

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PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI PRESENTS HIS 2020 NATIONAL BUDGET TO A JOINT SESSION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE

Ring True  

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521

Aggregate revenue available to fund the phony 2020 federal budget is projected at N8.155 trillion. N2.45 trillion of this expected revenue will be used for debt servicing in 2020. This is almost 30 per cent of target revenue. It is just one of the numerous shenanigans contained in our dear country’s budget 2020. Nigeria’s revenue to debt ratio is evidently horrendous. No country can attain development with this kind of arrangement.

The N2.45 trillion set aside for debt servicing is more than the N2.14 trillion for the entire capital expenditure in the budget, yet, the country is sinking deeper into debt. The last four years have been awful. It is so sad to note that the nation’s total public debt rose by N3.32 trillion in one year (June 2018 to June 2019) to N25.7 trillion as at the end of June 2019. The federal government owes N20.42 trillion of the debt, while the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory have a total debt portfolio of N5.28 trillion. The amount set aside for debt servicing by all levels of government will continue to rise annually.

The federal government admits that it is having challenges servicing its huge debt; yet, it is talking about taking another $3 billion loan from the World Bank, saying the money would be used to finance the power sector. This is a big contradiction.

As expected, debt servicing and recurrent expenditure crowded capital expenditure in budget 2020 of the federal government. Of the N10.33 trillion budget for next year, recurrent (non-debt) spending is expected to total N4.88 trillion. Personnel cost alone will gulp over N3 trillion. Capital expenditure, as a percentage of the N10.33 trillion budget is just about 24 per cent. The capital allocations are laughable. In a country brought to its knees by Boko Haram, defence will get a paltry N99.87 billion as capital vote. So, how will the military acquire modern equipment to tackle the terrorists?

In this same budget where so many sectors got paltry allocations, the National Assembly was awarded an atrocious N125 billion. Each senator will continue to smile home with N14.2 million monthly. Those in the House of Representatives will each continue with N9.1 million monthly. This is happening in a country where millions go to bed without meals and wake up not sure of breakfast.

The amount set aside for petrol subsidy is dreadful. This government now dubiously calls it under-recovery. In budget 2020, petrol subsidy will gulp N450 billion. This is more than the capital allocations of three ministries put together – Ministry of Education (N162.74 billion); Ministry of Power (N127.67 billion) and Ministry of Transport (N123.07 billion). What a country!

Our money-guzzling Presidential Air Fleet (PAF) will gulp over N7 billion – precisely N7,297,022,065 – amid outcry by traumatised Nigerians about the high cost of maintaining the 10 aircraft in the fleet. The additional things this time are mandatory upgrade and installation of live television on one of the aircraft at N792 million while N50 million would be expended on compliance with mandatory upgrade and installation of internet service on another one. The avowals by President Buhari to cut the cost of maintaining the fleet by reducing the number of aircraft remains empty promises.

The huge amount budgeted for the purchase and maintenance of power generators in the 2020 budget mocks the persistent statement by the government that power supply had improved in the country. The truth they are running away from is that Ministries, Departments and Agencies still rely largely on power generators in their offices. This is why the federal government plans to spend N9.05 billion on the purchase, maintenance and fuelling of power generators in Aso Rock Villa and the MDAs. Generators may gulp as high as N20 billion in 2020 by the time budgets details of Departments and Agencies not included in the federal budget emerge.

Back to the issue of binge borrowing by the Buhari government, the warning on Wednesday by the IMF to Nigeria and other countries about mounting debt to China is apropos. IMF stressed that the non-Paris Club creditors create some instability or some vulnerabilities.  The bulk of the foreign loans obtained by the Buhari government are from China. Those managing our economy must spend quality time reading the IMF caution.

The words of wisdom of Patricia Scotland, Secretary-General of Commonwealth on binge borrowing would also be useful to the managers of Nigeria’s economy. She stated: “In a country where fiscal regulation is weak, debt may be accumulated in ways that are not transparent, and very seriously to the detriment of its citizens… With interest rates at historically low levels, borrowing becomes an attractive proposition yet heightens the concomitant risk of debt ballooning to levels which are unsustainable over the longer term. This situation raises the possibility that countries which have ‘borrowed their way out of trouble’ following a setback will eventually face very severe debt distress.”

Boko Haram and the Need to Encourage Ndume 

The war against Boko Haram will swiftly come to an end the day this government and the managers of the war say the truth and face the truth. The biggest drawback to the war remains the heaps of lies around it by the government and the war commanders. This is why we need to encourage a man like the Chairman, Senate Committee on Army, Ali Ndume. This man, a key stakeholder representing Borno South, has decided to join the league of few Nigerians saying the truth about the sagging war against Boko Haram. “The war is won, but Boko Haram needs to be defeated. They don’t only attack civilians, but the military as well,” remarked Ndume on Tuesday. He wants the world to know that Boko Haram is far from being defeated. Daily, they wreak havoc across Borno State in particular and the North-east in general. This is the truth many are running away from. Ndume can no longer run away from the truth because his people are being massacred by the terrorists.

Ndume’s committee visited Maiduguri for assessment and came back revealing, based on official information, that 847 Nigerian soldiers killed by the Boko Haram terrorists in the last six years were buried in the military cemetery located in Maiduguri. He said the figure did not include other soldiers killed by the insurgents and buried in other military cemeteries located in other parts of the North-east geopolitical zone. “For the record, we saw in the cemetery, I think we lost over 847 soldiers – by their record here – and that is in that cemetery alone,” said Ndume. This is another expose the cliques managing the war are not comfortable with.

Ndume did not manufacture the figures. He has no reason to do so at his level. He did not generate them. He gave out precisely what the managers of the military cemetery gave him. I learnt that the officer that chose to be honest by giving out the truthful information is already being “peppered.”

So sad that families of many of these heroes buried all over the North-east are yet to get the entitlements of their loved ones that laid down their lives for us to live. I heard President Buhari on Wednesday directing the military authorities to immediately begin the payment of all entitlements of soldiers killed by Boko Haram in the North-east.

While launching the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day Celebration Emblem and Appeal Fund in Abuja, Buhari added: “These very sad occurrences create deep wounds to loved ones. It is, therefore, our duty to ensure that the loss of these bread winners does not relegate the spouses and dependents to a life of want and deprivation. Government will do all in its powers to look after the bereaved.

“Service leaders must take urgent steps to settle the entitlements of these affected citizens, as well as the welfare packages designed for their dependents. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that the families of our fallen heroes do not suffer the loss of their loved ones and, at the same time, be deprived of their due benefits.”

What a shame. Our President has just realised this anomaly. Families of many of these gallant soldiers have been pauperised because of government’s failure to settle their entitlements. We must continue to honour our gallant soldiers, living and departed. 

Quit Notice for Mamman Daura and Family 

Mamman Daura and some members of his immediate family are holed up in an apartment called “House 8” in the Aso Rock Villa. He is neither an appointee nor member of President Buhari’s nuclear family. However, he was specially invited by the President to come and live in the Villa. Daura also believes he has every reason to live in the Villa with his family. Aside from being the President’s nephew, Daura has one of his sons and also his son-in-law as aides of the President. This man is the power behind the throne. Call him the head of the cabal running Nigeria and you would be right. So, he lives in the Villa and enjoys public funds. The powerful Daura has been eating from taxpayers’ money for over four years. Nigeria is evidently an interesting country.

Before Daura was moved to “House 8”, he was living much closer to Buhari in the “Glass house” in the Villa. He was forced to move a bit far away because of the need to house the then injured son of the President close to his mother. Now, retaining Daura in the Villa has become a big issue because one of his daughters (Fatima) dragged the President’s wife, Aisha Buhari in the mud over the movement to “House 8”. The video of the ‘fight’ circulated by Fatima was mischievous. The interview she further granted was ludicrous. For me, Daura and his girls have to leave the Villa. Aside from unfairly enjoying public fund, they have become a pest. The only honourable thing left for them to do is to quit the Villa regardless of whether President Buhari wants them to stay or not. Daura can continue running his show even from his village because he has his men all over the Presidency. In this battle with the Dauras, I stand with Aisha Buhari.

Ode to Our Fallen Heroes

After Ali Ndume’s expose, I was moved to adopt and adapt a poem from the book, “A Collection of Soldier’s Poems” for our gallant soldiers killed in the North-east thus:

To all our soldiers past and present, God Bless you all.

Glory to the Nigerian flag, long may she wave.

So many soldiers have been covered with her when they’ve gone to their grave.

Soldiers will stand and fight all night to keep us from harm, while some of us sit at home and refuse to lift an arm. 

Some sit around and complain all day how wrong this war must be while soldiers push that aside to continue to fight for you and me.

Some sit around and complain about the food they are going to eat while soldiers work straight through, hungry and weary on their feet.

While you sit around and complain about what you have or where you live, remember what a soldier somewhere is about to give up for you. 

Soldiers stand tall, proud and ready for fight. We must stand strong behind them through their hard and arduous plight.

A soldier is the reason our land is home of the free.

A soldier is the one that is brave protecting you and me.

If you are a soldier, I am saying this to you….. thank God for every soldier.

Thank God for what you do!