The Rule of Law Collective said the 2014 is wasteful and extravagant
The Rule of Law Collective, a nongovernmental organization, on Monday, dismissed the 2014 budget as “wasteful, short-sighted and extravagant”, highlighting specific spending anomalies in the federal plan.
The group made its observations in the statement below, made available to PREMIUM TIMES
1. The Rule of Law Collective is a civic platform comprising Nigerians from all walks of life who through debate, discourse and civic action seek to advance public service and accountable governance in Nigeria through the fair, non-discriminatory, and effective application of laws.
2. On December 19, 2014, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance laid the budget proposal for 2014 before the National Assembly on the basis of the authority duly delegated to her by President Goodluck Jonathan pursuant to Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
BUDGETARY STRATEGY & PRIORITIES
3. The budget proposal as presented contemplates estimated aggregate expenditure for the fiscal year in the sum of N4.6 Trillion. This figure comprises various expenditure components including, but not limited to, a recurrent (non-debt) expenditure component in the total sum of N 2.4 Trillion and a capital expenditure component in the total sum of N1.1 Trillion. The balance appears spilt between debt servicing of N.7Trillion and statutory transfer of N.4Trillion.
4. Whilst the Rule of Law Collective has no specific grouse with the total aggregate amount provided for expenditure in the budget, the Rule of Law Collective considers it imprudent and unwise that the total capital component of the budget is a mere 23.7% of aggregate total expenditure whilst the recurrent component of the budget is 76.3% of the aggregate total expenditure. We believe that such a disparity skews the budget towards consumption at the expense of infrastructural investment.
5. Unfortunately, the absence of sufficient prudence or wisdom in the formulation of the budget does not end with the macro level distortion between capital and recurrent expenditure. Further analysis of specific items in the budget reveals that even at the micro level, the formulators and originators of some of the line items in the budget have surrendered the nation’s treasure to the dictates of waste and profligacy.
6. The Rule of Law Collective has identified particularly egregious elements in some of the line items in the budget. For illustrative purposes, selected estimates in the provisions for healthcare are highlighted below:
(A)Construction of a VIP Wing at the State House Clinic: N705 Million
(B) Total Capital Budget for Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital: N328 Million
(C) Total capital budget for University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital: N310 Million
(D) Total Capital Budget for NOMA Children Hospital, Sokoto: N 89 M
(E)Total capital budget for The Institute of Child Health, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City: Nil
It is clear from the foregoing that to the formulators of the budget, the VIP Wing at the State House clinic is superior in terms of cost, priority and efficient allocation of resources to 2 teaching hospitals, a National Children’s Hospital and a Paediatric Research Institute combined. The Rule of Law Collective rejects such a formulation. To spend a disproportionate amount of our national resources on an already suitably kitted and exclusively resourced clinic which serves a tiny fraction of Nigerians at the State House is to say the least unnecessarily wasteful. The waste is more disconcerting if set against the negative reality that the VIPs who ordinarily would use the VIP wing at the clinic tend to or are known to travel abroad for the treatment of the slightest of ailments. We are therefore constrained to question the true motive and rationale behind this item in the budget as well as the rationale for allocating no money at all to the Institute of Child Health in Benin City. How can such a deliberate disregard of our children be justified or explained?
DEFENCE & NATIONAL SECURITY
7. The Rule of Law Collective is of the view that the Nigerian Armed Forces need to be sufficiently motivated and resourced to fulfil their mandate under the constitution. Our service men and women are extensively engaged in providing aid to civil authority and are in a frontline role in the fight against insurgency and terrorism. It is understandable therefore that Nigerians expect the budget for the armed forces to reflect the current reality. Instead, the budget proposal rewards banditry and encourages militancy at the expense of the fighting men and women of the Nigerian military.
Set forth below are comparative figures from various elements of the budget associated with defense and national security:
(A)Stipends and Allowances to 30,000 Niger Delta Militants under the Presidential Amnesty Programme: N23.6 Billion (twenty three billion, six hundred million Naira)
(B)Reintegration of Transformed Ex Militants: N35.4 Billion (Thirty Five Billion, Four Hundred Million Naira)
(C)Total Capital Budget for the Nigerian Army: N4.8 Billion (Four Billion, Eight Hundred Million Naira)
(D) Total Capital Budget for the Ministry of Defence Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force: N34.2 billion (Thirty Four Billion, Two Hundred Million Naira)
(E) Total capital budget for ALL Police formations and commands: N6 Billion (Six Billion Naira)
The Rule of Law Collective finds it incomprehensible that the stipends and allowances for 30,000 militants exceeds by more than double the cost of providing facilities and procuring kit and equipment as well as weapons and ammunition for the Nigerian Army and the Nigeria Police Force combined.
RE-CONSTRUCTION OF NORTH-EASTERN NIGERIA
More worrisome is that the cost of reintegrating ex-Niger Delta militants exceeds the combined capital expenditure of the three service arms of the Nigerian Armed Forces. It is entirely unconscionable that whilst multilateral donors are deploying significant resources to address malnutrition, food shortage and capacity building in the North East geopolitical zone of the country, the formulators of our budget have provided a paltry N2 Billion to rebuild the North East where damage to property and lives remains inestimable.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY BUDGETS
8. The Rule of Law Collective further views with utmost concern the allocations made to certain public institutions, departments and committees. As in the previous examples above, the overriding theme of these allocations is the absence of sufficient logic or deep thought in the budgeting process. Again, by way of illustration we have picked a few line items below:
(A) National Assembly:
(i) 150,000,000,000 (One Hundred and Fifty Billion Naira); and
(ii) 100,000,000,000 (One Hundred Billion Naira) for Constituency Projects.
(B) Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF):
(i) Capital Budget for the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (on a stand-alone basis and excluding agencies under supervision): N6.3 Billion (Six Billion, Three Hundred Million) of which N2.1 Billion Naira is allocated to the rehabilitation and repair of the SGF’s new office building.
(ii) Monetized (cash) Benefit to Gen Oladipo Diya: N200 million.
(C)Presidential Committee on Rehabilitation of Barracks:
N1.8 billion (One Billion Eight Hundred Million Naira).
(D)Repair and Rehabilitation of Barracks for the Presidential Air Fleet personnel: N706 Million
(E)Capital Expenditure for the Presidential Air Fleet: N3.2 billion (Three Billion Two Hundred Million Naira)
(F)Foreign and Local Trips by the President and Vice President: N2.4 billion (Two Billion Four Hundred Million Naira).
(G)Total sum of provisions for wildlife and horses at the Presidential Villa: N53 Million.
The Rule of Law Collective finds it unjustifiable that the Presidential Air Fleet budget is approximately half of the budget for the entire Nigerian Air Force; we find it objectionable that the budget to rehabilitate barracks for personnel of the presidential air fleet is more than a third of the cost of rehabilitating all military barracks in the country and we find it reprehensible that over N53 Million of taxpayers’ money would be spent on keeping horses and wildlife at the Presidential Villa.
A country like Nigeria with its negative developmental indices cannot fritter away resources that are best conserved for national development. It is an affront to the sensibilities of the teeming poor in our country when a budget that smacks of profligacy and utter waste is tabled before the National Assembly to be passed into law in their name.
It is no longer in contention that low human capacity development and the lack of opportunities for young Nigerians under the age of 25 are major factors in the rise of terrorism, ethno sectarian killings, kidnapping and other violent ills that confront our frayed society.
This budget and the 1,820 pages in which it was written, in all likelihood, will go down in history as one of the worst budgets ever proposed. It represents a complete detachment from reality. It is a shame that this budget proposal was tabled under the watch of Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. So much more was expected of her and it is disappointing that she has let this budget proposal proceed under her hand. The ultimate responsibility, though, must lie with President Goodluck Jonathan.
CAPTURE OF NATIONAL BUDGET BY ‘VIPs’
The Rule of Law Collective is deeply concerned that the National Assembly which ought to protect the interest of the larger Nigerian public appears to have become a witting or unwitting party to this bizarre budgetary bazaar. Nigerians will be hard pressed to see the justification behind the allocation of N250 Billion to the affairs of the National Assembly comprised of 109 Senators and 360 Representatives. On a per capita basis the cost of maintaining and servicing each member of the National Assembly stands in excess of N530 Million per member. This is beyond the pale in a country where one out of five children born today will die before their 5th birthday.
The Government has a responsibility to the people of Nigeria to promote the common good of all its citizens, especially the poor, the unemployed, its men and women in uniform as well as its children. A fair budget should seek to eliminate reckless fiscal planning and wasteful spending. Such a budget must adequately address education and healthcare for all citizens and address the short term and long term concerns around our national security. Regrettably, the 2014 budget proposal does not meet these threshold requirements.
We call on the National Assembly to thoroughly scrutinize the 2014 budgetary proposals and make appropriate adjustments before passing same into the 2014 Appropriation Act. Anything less will smack of condonation and collusion with an executive branch that, if based on this budget, is determined to lead Nigeria nowhere.
In this regard,
1. Sectoral allocation must reflect a focus on developmental expenditure – health, education, beneficial and forward looking infrastructure like economically critical roads and railways, enhancing power supply as well as agriculture and rural development;
2. The capital component of the budget must be increased to no less than 70% in line with the Finance Minister’s earlier commitment:
3. We hereby reject all white elephant projects, including but not limited to the new presidential jet & associated barracks, state house clinic expansion, rehabilitation of the office of the Secretary to the Federal Government to pick only a few.
4. When compared with the N12 billion budget for the State House (President, VP and their Staff) and N33 billion full budget for the Presidency, the lack of appreciation and regard for the critical role of the judiciary in national development is manifest in the meagre and inadequate sum of N68 billion Naira) budgeted as statutory transfer to the Judiciary for ALL costs (salaries, overhead, court maintenance etc).
The Rule of Law Collective thus rejects the 2014 budget in its comprehensive entirety.
Dated this 20th Day of January 2014