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.”