As Nigerians continue the search for a way out of the crisis in the economy as a result of negative impact of falling global crude oil prices, Nigerians want the Presidency and the National Assembly to lead by example and eliminate waste by drastically cutting down on their annual budgetary allocations.
In the 2015 budget, the Presidency has an allocation of over N26.66 billion, while the National Assembly keeps its usual N150 billion.
Though each has given indications to cut the allocations by a maximum of 25 per cent, Nigerians want further cuts to reflect the seriousness of their commitment to the series of austerity measures unveiled by government in the wake of the falling crude oil prices in August, 2014.
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said in Abuja on Thursday that in view of the difficult economic situation the country has found itself, government and the lawmakers must lead Nigerians to eliminate waste in budgetary allocations if the economy is to recover speedily.
“We are living in very hard and difficult times (when) the economic and social fabrics of Nigeria are under pressure, namely declining crude oil prices, reduced demand for our major export commodity, continued export of petroleum and import of refined products and continued bashing of the Naira, which has been devalued twice in the last four months,” Mr. Onyekpere said.
He was speaking at the presentation of the “Review of the 2015 Federal Budget Proposals” and “Recommendations on the 2015 Federal Budget Estimates” published by Citizen Wealth Platform in conjunction with the group.
He said in spite of these pressures, there were still all manners of frivolities, wasteful and unclear expenditures prevalent in the country’s annual budget, which calls for relevant fiscal authorities to weed out and reassign to other pressing areas.
Mr. Onyekpere said about N395.7 billion could be saved from the 2015 budget if government review allocations to various ministries, departments and agencies to eliminate areas of wastage.
He urged the lawmakers to, in the spirit of the austerity measures and their legislative oath of office, comb through the various proposed allocations in the budget and identify more wastes and monies that could be saved.
Allocations that could easily be reviewed, he pointed out, include provisions for food and catering, welfare packages, stationaries and computer consumables as well as magazines and newspapers.
Also, he wants the provision for kerosene subsidy to abolished, as most Nigerians for which the policy was introduced hardly buys the commodity at the stipulated retail price of N50.
He reiterated the demand for the removal of the service-wide votes, which is being used as a slush fund that allows the duplication of expenses by some agencies .
Besides, he faulted government’s continued funding of ‘Special Intervention Projects under the millennium development goal programmes and the presidential Amnesty Programme.
While calling for the revision of the structure of the country’s budgeting process, Mr. Onyekpere said budget should be anchored on long term and high level policy documents like Vision 20-2020, rather than temporary concepts like the Transformation Agenda of the present administration.
On ways to properly manage the value of the national currency against major international currencies, the activist proposed the direct allocation of foreign exchange earned from oil revenue to the three tiers of government in a secure form rather than printing fresh money.