2014 Budget: Group Tasks National Assembly On Inclusive GrowthNews Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
By Eric Ojo
Piqued by the perennial failure in budget implementation in Nigeria, Citizens Wealth Platform (CWP), a coalition of non-governmental and faith-based organizations, professional associations and other groups in the country, has urged the National Assembly to urgently approve the 2014 budget by reworking it to truly create jobs and engender inclusive growth.
The 2014 budget is tagged a budget of Job Creation and Inclusive Growth. Against this background, Nigerians are looking forward to seeing how the budget will translate into one that pragmatically seeks job creation and inclusive growth in the country.
The group lamented that the country has had budgets of Consolidation, Growth, Hope and others christened with different nomenclatures in the past but nothing changed after they were implemented. The CWP also noted that majority of Nigerians have suffered enough and therefore do not need to be pushed further, lest they rebel, adding that the Federal Government should do the needful and prioritise expenditure in the face of scarce resources.
The coalition said budget preparation has been reduced to filling of templates used in previous years and the same requests are made repeatedly every year, adding that creativity is lacking and available resources have not been mobilized to achieve an adequate standard of living for the people.
“It has become a yearly ritual for budgets to be proposed by the executive, approved by the legislature and implementation to proceed in a haphazard manner. We seek to find the link between the proposals for expenditure, the policies and governmental action and the tag of job creation and inclusive growth.
“We are still searching and will report to Nigerians when we find the links. Poverty is deepening, inequality is the order of the day, unemployment is growing and spreading for the majority of the populace in a country which the constitution declares to be founded on the principles of Freedom, Equity and Justice, the group said at a media conference in Abuja on Tuesday.
It further observed that the capital votes for the 2014 fiscal year is abysmally low at a paltry 23.70 per cent of overall expenditure which, according to them, is embedded in a lot of administrative capital.
“Every year, we utilize less than 60 per cent of the approved capital vote while we claim that we desire wealth creation and poverty reduction. Priorities are not based on any national plan emanating from a popular scale of preference but the individual preferences of occupants of political offices”, the group further lamented.
On the proposed N1.52 billion initial deposit for the acquisition of an additional Aircraft in the Presidential Fleet, the group equally urged the National Assembly to meticulously scrutinize and approve a more reasonable budget estimates for the State House, adding that the amount for the proposed new Aircraft should be saved since it is not needed now.
The group added that there is no rationale whatsoever for the capital project that has no direct link with the lives of Nigerians, such as the Presidential Air Fleet to be appropriated a total budget of N7.971 billion with N3.287 billion as capital in the first place.
“It is unjustifiable that the budget of the Presidential Air Fleet is larger than the capital budget of the Nigerian Air Force. We find it objectionable that the budget to rehabilitate barracks for personnel of the Presidential Fleet amounting to N706 million is almost equivalent to the cost of rehabilitating Nigeria Army barracks as proposed in the budget of the Nigeria Army (N774,013,730). It is unjust in a time like this in our history”, the group stressed.
On the way forward for road and other infrastructure development in Nigeria, they harped on the need for the National Assembly to consider and pass the Federal Road Bill into law, adding that the lawmakers should also enter into discussions with the executive for the raising of the specific Road Fund Bonds to finance specific and identifiable road projects with good feasibility, using tolling and other revenue streams to repay the bonds.
“Instead of empty slogans on Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) to supplement available resources, finance and bring back to life our comatose infrastructure sector”, they further suggested.
The CWP equally called for an embargo on the award of new infrastructure projects by the Federal Ministry of Works, adding that there should be a moratorium on new projects and a prioritization of on-going projects so as to achieve meaningful result with available funding.
The group further recommended that the National Assembly should demand evidence of results achieved with previous funding before approving new allocations for the numerous capital projects.
In a related development, another platform of NGOs in the country, known as the Say No Campaign–Nigeria, has urged the Senate Committee on Finance currently probing the allegations of unremitted funds by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to thoroughly investigate the issues before it and establish the true state of affairs and make practical recommendations.
The group also stressed the need to ensure a follow-up of the Senate and the entire National Assembly on the implementation of recommendations of the Committee, adding that appropriate support should be galvanized for the speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) in order to achieve sustainable reforms in the nation’s oil and gas sector.
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