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Time to halt further borrowing

W hile addressing the House of Representatives Committee on Finance recently, the Minister for Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed announced that the Federal Government (FG) would borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets. Mrs Ahmed explained that the sale of national assets and additional borrowing were aimed at aiding the FG to finance the 2023 Budget deficit.

In her own address to the same House Committee, the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Mrs Patience Oniha confirmed that Nigeria’s debt profile stood at N41.60 trillion. She attributed the country’s debt profile to lack of revenue and approval of the yearly budget with a deficit by the National Assembly which upped the country’s debt stock. New Telegraph is taken aback at the enthusiasm of the current administration to constantly be on a cocktail of borrowing despite the fact that the country has a huge debt profile. This practice would continue to subject Nigeria to economic contraction of profound proportions.

It is a shame that the current administration from the outset clearly showed a lack of prerequisite readiness and managerial acumen and preparation for governance at the highest level. If it is not blaming the immediate past administration and other previous governments for inactions and miscalculations for which it should be held accountable, it is blaming the country’s revenue shortfall or the fluctuations in the price of crude oil in the international market, or on the economic challenges induced by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

We wish to point out unequivocally that the present trend cannot help the country and should not be supported for its institutionalised retrogression. How can a nation proudly be flaunting the credential of a habitual borrower? She borrows to carry out recurrent governmental activities like payment of salaries of workers of some of its MDAs let alone the execution of capital projects such as the construction of standard gauge rail lines to selected areas in the country and to the Republic of Niger? For the seven years of this administration, there has been an absence of a realistic re-alignment of national priorities, with all manners of projects being authorised as if money is inexhaustible.

It is a sheer waste of exhaustible resources to commit enormous financial and material resources into the establishment of three distinct universities for the Nigerian Army, Air Force and the Navy. Even if some members of the politi-cal and military classes of Nigeria were manipulating the FG into approving the universities in their geopolitical zones so as to be regarded as achievers who have delivered the dividends of democracy for their people, President Muhammad Buhari ought to have declined to do so on the ground that the FG’s limited resources cannot accommodate such.

It is a duplication of institutions and waste of the meagre resources to have the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, and the Nigerian Army, Air Force and Navy universities. The NDA was established in February, 1964 to cater for the training needs of the three arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces – namely the Army, Air Force and the Navy. New Telegraph recalls that the National Universities Commission (NUC) had since licensed NDA to also operate as a university to run academic programmes at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees. One stone has been used to kill two birds with the NDA, Kaduna serving as a high-profile military institution for the military, while functioning as an NUC-licensed university.

Another major waste of meagre services was shown in the construction of the University of Transportation by the FG in President Buhari’s hometown of Daura in Katsina State. We are aware that FG has established Medical and Health Sciences Universities in different parts of the country when some existing universities have Colleges of Medicine longing for funds in some temples of learning.

Additional colleges of education and polytechnic have also been established by the FG all in a bid to deliver the dividends of democracy for anticipated electoral support. More worrisome though, is that bills aimed at setting-up additional colleges of education, polytechnics and universities are making progress at the National Assembly. New Telegraph urges the FG to purge itself of frivolous spending. It should put an end to the establishment of additional institutions of higher learning. It is wrong for it to opt for a budget deficit hoping to make up through borrowing. Nigeria’s annual budget should, at all times, be made at par with the country’s earnings.

This should be possible through the weaning of wasteful expenditure by the Executive Branch of government; while the National Assembly can also play its part by reducing its own overhead to the barest minimum. Even state governments, their Assemblies and even local government councils should imbibe the concept of prudent spending which will go a long way in reducing wasteful expenditures.

 

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