On Thursday, October 7, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari presented a N16.39 trillion Appropriation Bill to the joint sitting of the National Assembly in Abuja.
It was heart-warming to see education displacing the usually over-rated sectors such as works and housing; as well as transportation to attract the record highest allocation of N1.29 trillion which amounts to 7.9 per cent of the total estimate.
Health moved up slightly with an allocation of N820.2 billion translating to five per cent of the value of the Appropriation Bill. Our appreciation goes to President Buhari and his Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the generous allocations to education and health.
We also thank the entire people of Nigeria, including the relevant professional bodies and trade unions, for their years of committed struggle culminating into the upward review of the budgetary allocations to these two very crucial sectors.
However, New Telegraph is worried over the proposed removal of subsidies on electricity and petrol. What are the safeguards against extensive profiteering some Nigerian service-providers and their foreign collaborators under the guise of market forces?
Equally worrisome is the fact that the Appropriation Bill has a deficit of N6.26 trillion thereby representing a 3.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which would be financed through local and foreign borrowings. Worse still, Nigeria’s largest expenditure items are personnel cost, capital expenditure and debt servicing which make up 85 per cent of the 2022 Appropriation Bill.
The setting aside of the 85 percent of Nigeria’s Appropriation Bill for debt servicing, personnel cost and capital projects is rather injurious.
Much as borrowing for capital projects may sound logical, it is untenable logically speaking for a country to be on a cocktail of borrowing for the simple reason that she has to invest in the construction of public infrastructure.
Why is it that Nigeria appears to lack the capacity to generate some of the needed funds for the construction of public infrastructure?
Also, why does she lack the ability to process some of her natural minerals like bitumen, which is a critical component needed in the construction industry, and which is in commercial quantities in Edo, Kano, Ondo, Ogun among other states. Due to the failure to process bitumen for domestic use some capital projects have been executed at an amazingly high cost.
We feel surprised that personnel cost is allowed to constitute part of the country’s largest expenditure items, which constitute 85 per cent of the 2022 Appropriation Bill. The avoidable huge personnel cost goes a long way in bringing immense pressure to the public till to the detriment of the wider populace.
The upward review of the allocation to education and health points to a paradigm shift suggesting that education and health are beginning to be accorded their places as extra-ordinary sectors, which activate and sustain others through supply of ideas and human capital.
What this means is that sectors such as education and health should always rank highest in the country’s prioritisation and should constantly receive the greatest dose of financial intervention in the Appropriation Bill.
However, despite the fact that the education and health segments attracted higher budgetary allocations than other sectors, the amount allotted to them is unlikely to help deliver vibrant education and health sectors to the country.
The extraordinary status of both sectors appears not to have fully been internalized given the fact that they still ended up being subordinated to defence and security. New Telegraph wishes to underscore the point that vibrant education and health sectors are likely to help a country find solutions to her shortcomings in all spheres of human endeavour including defence and security.
As Nigerians look forward to the early passage of the Appropriation Bill and a sustenance of the January to December budgeting cycle, New Telegraph enjoins the National Assembly and the Executive Branch of Government to subject themselves to the will of the people who wish to see a reasonable reduction in debt servicing, personnel cost and in the cost of projects.
Professional bodies, trade unions and other Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) should bring pressure to bear on the Executive Branch of government and the National Assembly to fully expand and diversify the economy in order to generate increased revenue that will help reduce the country’s huge debt profile.
Such pressure should be sustained on the Executive Arm of government and the National Assembly to help bring about a reduction in the number of political office-holders.
All political officeholders including the President should be limited to having only few relevant aides while the Revenue Mobilization Fiscal and Allocation Commission (RMFAC) should be made to refrain from fixing the personnel enrolments of political office holders.
Instead, the National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission (NISWC) should henceforth be made to take up the responsibility of harmonising the salaries and allowances of political office-holders and civil servants duly backed up with accompanying productivity evaluation.
New Telegraph is optimistic that by time of the 2023 Appropriation Bill, the education and health sectors should still likely emerge with the highest sectoral allocation ahead of the age-long favourites of defence and security and that 85 per cent of the Appropriation Bill would no longer be devoted to debt servicing, personnel cost and capital projects as the debt profile plummets.
The actualisation of such yearnings in the 2023 Appropriation Bill will be sign posted through the 2022 Appropriation Bill.
Declining price of crude oil in the international market, recession and the coronavirus (COVID-19) are no longer tenable excuses and consequently should no longer be put forward as such.