Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 budget: Outrage over allocations for zoo, new jet


President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo.
There was outrage on Sunday over some allocations to the Presidency as well as ministries, departments and agencies  of the Federal Government  in the 2014 budget.
 The anger was expressed by the Arewa Consultative Forum, the  Northern Elders Forum and the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre and the Anti-Corruption Network and activists.
They  condemned  the allocations for the Villa Zoo  and  the amount budgeted for President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice-President Namadi Sambo’s local and foreign trips.
According to them, the allocations are not only wasteful, they boldly signpost government’s    insensitivity  to the plight of Nigerians.
The groups were reacting to media reports that the Presidency had budgeted N1.6bn for a new jet;  N34.5m for two animals  for the Villa Zoo; N2.4bn for  Jonathan and Sambo’s foreign and local trips; N362m for meals and refreshment and N834m for fuelling generators in  the Presidency and the  MDAs.
 Condemning the allocations,  the ACF said  Nigerians must insist on service delivery.
 It  cautioned the government against frivolous expenses in 2014, saying  the nation’s education and  health sectors as well as the labour market, needed urgent intervention.
The  forum’s Publicity Secretary,  Mr. Anthony Sani,  in an SMS  to one of our correspondents said,  “Nigerians  need to insist on how much the implementation of  the budget will affect specific socio-economic indices like poverty rate, infant and maternal mortality, life expectancy, enrolment in schools, literacy rate, unemployment, or education  which have  misery indices.”
 To the   NEF,   the 2014 budget tells a sad story about the situation Nigeria has found itself today.
In  a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, its  spokesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, said it was sad that those in government were more concerned about their personal comfort than they were  about the suffering  of ordinary Nigerians.
According to him, every aspect of the budget shows how inconsiderate government could be.
He said a close look at the budget revealed  that those in government had  no regards for improving the living conditions of Nigerians. This, he said, was exemplified by their resolve to spend   public funds on frivolities.
Abdullahi said, “If you take the N2bn that is supposed to be the empowerment initiative for the entire North-East zone where this insurgency is greatest, it is about the same amount of money that is being wasted on an aircraft.
“And the aircraft is just part of the overall cost of the official travelling of the Executive branch of government which amounts to about N7bn.
“Yet, we have a situation where 70 per cent of the country does not enjoy more than 10hours of electricity supply and  virtually 70 per cent of the country does not see clean, safe drinking water from their taps.
“You can’t see Nigerians receiving free medical treatment or even at reasonable prices.As  an oil producing country, we are paying the exact amount of money   being paid in other non-oil producing countries.”
He faulted the N7bn  voted for the National Dialogue and the votes for travel by government officials to the detriment of education and health care delivery.
Also,  the Executive Director of CISLAC, Awual Musa,  said there was no justification for most of the proposals contained in the 2014 budget.
He described  the proposals  for the purchase of another presidential aircraft, the payment of 30,000 militants and the budget for the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation as scandalous.
Musa said, “There is another sub-head for the payment of another 30, 000 militants.
“The budget for the office of the SGF  is more than the budget for Health, Education and   water.
“They are privatising power, and they are pushing a lot of money into power when privatisation should bring in more money for government. This budget is a budget to legitimise  the stealing of public funds by this government and its cronies.”
He  urged the National Assembly to do the right thing by removing “these irresponsible proposals.”
On its  part, the ACN linked the allocations to preparations for the 2015 general elections.
Its  Executive Secretary and a former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye,     urged Nigerians to resist “this deliberate wickedness from insensitive and callous leaders.”
Melaye,  in a telephone interview with  one of correspondents  said, “This (the budget) is outrageously calamitous.
“I have always said the Jonathan administration is the most corrupt in the history of  Nigeria.
“The simple elucidation to this is a wicked intention to steal, and loot our common patrimony toward 2015 elections.
“Where is the President going to  that he will spend over N2bn ? Is he the supervisor of the world?
“What are they eating in the Villa that will cost that much? Are they eating Gucci rice, Louis Vuitton beans, and Prada bread or Polo eba?”
He noted that the  proposals  could not  be justified in the face of the growing level of hunger, lack and want  in the country.
A  legal practitioner, Mr. Bamidele Aturu, said he was not surprised that so much money  was  being wasted on frivolities.
He said, “It shows clearly that budgeting is not in the interest of the masses of  our country.. The only way to stop the reckless use of our resources is to ensure that our people drive politics and they won’t drive politics if they allow politicians to continue  to deceive them. I am opposed to the recklessness  and we have to find a more holistic way out.”
A  Second Republic Member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed,  described    the  provisions in the 2014 budget as scandalous.
Mohammed said the budget showed government’s   disrespect for the ordinary Nigerian.
He said, “I find it absolutely scandalous that any government should ignore its basic structural services for example, education, health, social welfare, and agriculture which constitutes 65 per cent of the national economy.
“About 70 per cent of our citizens are living below the poverty line, yet this administration has chosen to embark on this kind of reckless expenditure pattern.
“I wonder why a Nigerian President should have 10 aircraft in his fleet and still go to purchase another one for over N1bn.”

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