Nigeria’s Budget: A Gin of Hope

Sit in the Nigerian Bar and take a bottle labeled HOPE.  If one is an addict of the HOPE gin, brewed since 1960, one should be broken in despair roaming listlessly around the edges of the gutter.  All the indices seemed right that can make the nation a great one. Is it a young and energetic workforce, a weather of bliss, a soil rich in nutrients and hydrocarbons, a peaceful neighborhood or the aquatic splendor that opens its trade to the sea?

But we know leadership (and possibly I am getting convinced about the docility of followership) is the bane of the Nigerian crisis. A patchwork of 250 tribes will obviously be a noisy marketplace where all intentions are weighed and unfortunately, Nigeria at its clasp of history has not found the right leader with a mind of steel and a caring heart to bring order and progress into the Nigerian space. For how long shall we drunk in hope? That our young people will be employed, our nation shall be secure, power will be available, agriculture will thrive, refineries will work and new ones built, schools will be world class, and roads will be safe and hospitals will work?

Being familiar with government key financial data by working on the Nigerian Budget, it might be time to quit putting hope in Nigerian federal government.  How do we hope in a developing nation who expenditure for infrastructure is less than salaries for five ministries? One will be drunk to believe that a nation that spends more on ex-militants than national education infrastructure understands the times of the future? N18bn out of N86bn meant for power industry was released in June 2011 yet all salaries and personnel expenses for that period were spent above budget? We need to be sure we are not looking for hope in crumbling places if as at June 2011, only N128bn has been spent on capital expenditure but we have over N1.2trn used for salaries and overhead.  How does the Nigerian legislator earn over N42m Naira per quarter and will possibly earn over N700m in a four year term in a nation that badly needs funds for real infrastructure?

I am not initiating a mass sack but what is the service quality delivery level of the Defence, Intelligence  and Police Ministries with over N600bn as its cost of personnel expenses.  How do we get funds to build the necessary infrastructure to make us competitive or do we keep ballooning our debt profile? What about the petroleum subsidy when NNPC dips its hand into the Federation Account and takes the share of the oil cartel? What of the uncompleted projects which Okonjo Iweala has valued at N8.4trn?

So let us not get drunk with hope that there is a grand plan somewhere by this government to solve our multiple worries because in this atmosphere of thriving corruption and a budget ballooned with salaries, where is the development fund? The PIB bill that is crucial to government revenue is still a pun  tossed in the hands of several interests. We need a change in Nigeria’s fiscal structure because with the state of Nigeria’s finances, to revel in hope or put trust in the stagecraft called government makes a spirit weary. Hope of the great Nigeria lurks somewhere else – possibly the spirit of enterprise in the private Nigerian that thrives in the thick and thin of the Nigerian space?

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