Senators: Nigerian govt, ‘directionless, lacks proper planning’

Nigerian senate chambers where senators attend plenary
Nigerian senate chambers

Senators on Tuesday complained of poor national planning in Nigeria.

While they praised other African nations like Rwanda for proper national planning, the lawmakers complained of wastage in Nigeria’s annual budget.

This was sequel to a motion on ‘the need to establish a visionary budget-driven national planning framework for Nigeria’ sponsored by Stella Oduah (PDP, Anambra North).

This comes at a time when individuals and civic groups have accused the government and lawmakers of budget padding.

Many have complained of skewed allocations to different Ministries, Departments and Agencies – which many believe, is an avenue for the lawmakers to siphon money.

In the past years, save for this year, the executive has complained about the legislature increasing the proposed annual budget with suspicious allocations.

The lawmakers, as usual, inflated the 2020 budget this year, but President Muhammadu Buhari did not complain before signing the budget. He even commended their ‘hardwork’.

This newspaper reported how the budget was padded with N264 billion as well the top agencies the lawmakers could use to siphon money.

Debate

Leading the debate, Ms Oduah noted that in the last 20 years, Nigeria has developed several national development plans aimed at creating wealth, employment as well as alleviating poverty “yet it is evident that these plans have fallen short of achieving the vision of becoming one of the top 20 largest economy in the world.”

Despite an incremental growth in the nation’s nominal Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Income, Nigeria has experienced little or no change to their socio-economical status, she said.

“Without a visionary budget-driven national development plan, growth strategies and the respective development, MDAs will continue to fall short of achieving their goals and projects will have little or no purpose,” she said.

‘Nigeria directionless’

Lawmakers took turns to contribute to the motion. This is even as they all lamented lack of direction and national planning for the annual budget of the country.

READ ALSO: AfDB launches $500 million project to boost agriculture in Nigeria – Official

In his contribution, Matthew Urhoghide said Nigeria does not tie its national planning to the budget and there are irrelevant line items in it. This is as he commended the performance of Rwanda to that regard – a country he said “just came out of civil war.”

“If you look at the wastages in our budget,every year…for inconsequential and invisible line items. Put all the amounts together, you will find out that it is as though we don’t even know what to do with the money, when so many things are crying for attention.

“Nigeria to tell you that we are directionless when it comes to planning, is secretive to so many international treaties and conventions in the area of health.

“When we say universal health coverage, 15 per cent annual budget should go to health, we are not honouring it. Even the Act of the National Assembly over our own health Act, we are not honouring it. Look at education. We talk of education every year. If it is part of our planning, why are we not putting the money there?”

He referred to the Fiscal Responsibility Act for 2007, which he said, “tells a country what national planning is and what to do when budget comes”.

“That same Act says the minister of finance has to draw a timetable and this Senate has to use it, through its committee on finance, to monitor the progress in our budget every quarter,” he explained.

“Since I came to this Senate in 2015, I have never seen that happen. You can see that the whole thing is just directionless. It is not how much you have that can decide the development you can elicit. You sew your cloth according to your cloth.

“We have been talking about the issue of power in this country. You cannot find anybody that proves power that is uninterrupted. The issue of roads, you can never have money to build our roads that we will say ‘yes, we have solved that problem.’ The little we have, how are we applying it? Is it along with our national plan? No.”

The lawmaker said blaming it on political parties is ‘an excuse’.

On his part, Elisha Abbo (PDP, Adamawa) said Nigeria’s budgeting process “has been very scandalous” and “not assessment-based.”

He complained about how heads of agencies “from a state”, prepare budget for constituents of another state – not knowing the needs of the people.

“Somebody from your village working in a ministry in Abuja, will sit down in his office and do a budget that will be implemented in my village without asking the people of my village (what) they want. But you sit in your office in Abuja – from the Niger-Delta and do budget for somebody in the North-east in Adamawa State. I think that is irresponsible to say the least.

“I have always believed in bottom to top approach in governance and there’s no way we can reflect that than in the allocation of our resources through the development. We are practicing a representative government, meaning that I have 57 wards where I came from and the people that elected me are expecting me to attract development to those wards and I want to tell you that about 9000 wards in Nigeria, have no face of government and we are talking about alleviating poverty.”

Mr Abbo further decried increasing rate of unemployment and insecurity across the country despite budgetary allocations and then called for funding for research.

“We are talking about defeating Boko Haram and today, our Air Force cannot even get spare part to put in a broken down helicopter. It takes them 14 months to order spare parts for the helicopter to fight Boko Haram. Why can’t we think about building our own helicopter? We can do it,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, who presided over plenary, said the country is not bereft of ideas.

He, however, disagreed with senators who said the nation lacks ‘resources’. He aligned himself with those who said it had to do with lack of political will.

The lawmakers, thereafter, resolved to hold a round-table with the leadership of ministries of finance, national planning and others “to come up with robust recommendations to the Senate to establish a forward looking national planning and budgeting processes.”


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