‘I can retain neither respect nor affection for a Government which has been moving from wrong to wrong in order to defend its immorality’ —Mahatma Gandhi
How market? That is the question I will ask members of the Nigerian Parliament if am to meet with them today! For the Executive; How customers? Our economy has been exchanging stocks between these dealers and traders. The people are excluded in this previously Monopsony (One Buyer Economy) that has been expanded to include their collaborators and thereby qualified to be called an Oligopoly. Our revenue is their capital, our tax money, their equity! Every Wednesday is their Central Market day. The market place is the Federal Executive Council meeting venue. There, contracts that often end up on papers they are written are serially awarded. Rather than been an avenue for pro-people policy debate and taking development decisions, it has assumed the notoriety of contract award gathering, where the White Elephant called budget is decapitated; and friends and allies are invited to come with their spoons, forks and knives. Rice and Soup Very Plenty! That is the ‘transformation agenda’ our budget, their ritual is servicing!
The Minister of Aviation, Stelah Oduah’s experiment with the current year’s budget of buying cars that were not budgeted for is an affirmation of the latter option of this thesis. The panel set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate criminal violation of appropriation act without deference to existing statutory agencies like Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC and allied agencies is an example of calamity that has befallen the Rule of Law! By that singular wrong move, no matter the motivation, the President buried the twin- linkage to liberty and decent society;-Equality before the Law and Supremacy of Law. Impunity continues! This is the motto of this government. Unspoken; but loud in Nigeria! The Ministers know it, they live it. The Legislators know it, they live it, even though they hypocritically condemn it! It is now the passion of civil servants in Ministries, Departments and Agencies. The Judiciary now listen more to the executive’s body language than the language of Law. In recent cases, it seems all the Judiciary bothered to tell the executive is ‘do the needful’, and the case is won.
More mystifying are the people, the ordinary people who are short – term and long-term victims of the unconscionable practises. They have in addition to their excruciating poverty laid upon themselves the burden to fight for their oppressors. On face book, twitter and on the streets, the oppressed and the semi – literate ‘Shakespeare’ through their shallow thoughts, masturbated by ethnicity, religion and political partisanship continue to defend the oppressors of brethren, who are irredeemably frozen in the ice of indifference to their despicable plights. Everyone seems to be participating blindly ignorantly in a counter-revolution that is furthering their own wretchedness, whether of mental reasoning or those of socio – economic competence. It is hardly any wonder we do not collectively have standard of decency as a people. Our scale for defence of iniquities is ethnic, religious or political leanings.
Over 2 trillion Naira mismanaged through corrupt practises in the Oil subsidy regime in 2011 Budget has stopped shocking Nigerians. The current year’s so- claimed subsidy of almost a trillion Naira on kerosene that has ghost beneficiaries do no longer shake the conscience of the ordinary Nigerians.
Barely a month ago the Federal Government frowned at the practise of the states using consultants to collect tax. Two weeks later, the same Federal Government concluded the arrangement to use INTERNATIONAL CONSULTANT to collect taxes from the non-oil sector, expected to rake in additional 75 billion Naira in 2014. This economics of rentals being pushed by the so called World Bank’s Expert is pure deceit and a smart way of continuing the creation of leakages in our economy through repatriations of consultancy and other fees, a ‘legitimate’ way of stealing. The regime will add to the cost of production, make locally produced goods used by poor people more expensive and invariably increase the cost of living; leaving the poor, poorer; and the promoters of the regime richer. This local earning with foreign content is the startling error and misfit now battering our economy.
Budget juxtaposes revenue and expenditure of government together with the hope that resources will be aggressively mobilized and judiciously used to meet plan, goals and objectives that define the very ends of governance, welfare and security of citizens. It is an historical fact that budgeting in Nigeria have become mere ritual exercises to substitute citizens’ hope with mirage. The budget in Nigeria is yet to be seen as a crucial development driver and more so that most Nigerians end each year poorer than they started it. Both the spirit behind budgeting and the zeal for implementing a budget in Nigeria are products of impurity motivated by unending tactic of deceptive leadership. This assertion derives its fear from indisputable historical budgetary failure, especially in recent times.
While at a glance one is tempted to believe that faithful implementation of a budget across all sectors will assure better welfare to the people, it can be argued that at all times our budget seems to be deficient both in definition and allocation as it relates to people’s welfare and security in Nigeria. The concept of ‘National Security’ to which Billions of Naira is always allocated does not translate to the security of the nation and welfare of her hapless citizens. It eventually becomes the security of MR. President, few under his immediate presidential umbrella, the ministers, the Governors and even the Legislators, whose leadership at the National level has identified the people that elected them as a risk factor, by classifying their current residence as unsafe because it is contiguous with the neighbourhood of the poor. This is the recent justification for expending tax payers’ money on need accommodation for the fat cats! It an anathema to have such for ‘National Security’ while the budget for NEMA, a national emergency coordinator and other allied civil relief agencies are running with meagre allocation.
A country that is always helpless in times of even pedestrian emergencies often precipitated by man made and natural causes has by the choice of this in-discretionary budgetary allocation has held a large number of her poor population to hostage. How could these agencies carry out appropriate Emergency Response during disasters. Allocation to the FRSC, a key agency in the prevention of and response to emergencies on roads is always paltry too. Large percentage is for personnel. More than thirty percent of deaths in Nigeria are caused by accidents on the road, yet the agency commissioned to prevent and mitigate road accidents can barely function beyond salary payments.
Also, despite massive unemployment in Nigeria, the rogues’ ritual does not see the need for provision of a clear strategy for engaging this hydra-headed problem. There is no conscious plan and budget to reduce the unemployment rate in Nigeria. Almost one million Nigerian youths graduate from tertiary institutions every year.
The number will be higher for the next budget year and less than ten percent of that population is likely to be engaged. What happens to the remaining 90 percent? Surely, most of them would move to crime and crisis markets to be recruited as perpetrators and active participants. Although, it can be argued that if the sectoral allocation to education, health, agriculture among others are properly managed, it would impact on welfare and security of the people, the bottom line would however be determined by the final beneficiaries. For instance, an agricultural policy that prioritizes elitist-emergency farmers whose orientation are toward foreign markets over and above peasant farmers that services local demand and market would continue to produce a food unsecured country and people. Hence, the impact of the budget on the welfare of people and their security would not only be determined by the amount budgeted but also who gets what –the needy or the greedy? Education will not become functional as long as contractors continue to get 70 percent of the budget while the teachers, the most important resource in education and their hapless pupils are left to struggle with the remaining 30 percent. Budget will continue to be mere ritual and figurative ventures in Nigeria as long as it continues to oil the wheel of the wayward at the expense of genuine development.
Without improving the condition of the needy, the greedy, who are abundant in our governance space will continue to endanger the security of the nation, and foolishly too, their own security. Nigerians must begin to see beyond the ethnic, religious and political boxing rings into which they have been thrown by the powerful mediocre, to fight themselves to the finish while the looting of the rogues continue. They must focus on their infirmities which the ruling rogues have afflicted them with; and then fight back! Budgets that do not put food on the table of the poor should not put peace in the mind of the ruling rogues!
Gbenro Olajuyigbe is the Human Security Manager for ActionAid Nigeria. He is based in Abuja.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters