All Nigerians are not Equal By Japheth Omojuwa
It may be a New Year but as far as Nigeria’s 2014 budget goes, it is the same old absurdity. If there is anything that stands the 2014 budget proposal out from those of recent years, it is that our budgets are getting better at getting worse. Many New Year resolutions are likely to have been made by Nigerian public officials, easing the burden of poverty on Nigerians is definitely not one of them.
This is not a statement without an empirical background. If the budget is the most important document of a government’s commitment to its people and their well-being, the 2014 budget tells one a lot about where the government’s priorities lie. According to the 2014 budget proposal, the State House will have two animals delivered to it this year for N14.5 million. That’s about N7.25 million for each animal if they come at the same price. At least 80 per cent of Nigerians must understandably be jealous of both animals because 80 per cent of Nigerians don’t have N14.5 million in any form, cash, liquid, in form of animals, properties or whatever. Those animals will come in already richer than most Nigerian citizens. At least one cannot say the government is not committed to animals. All animals may/may not be equal but some animals are definitely more equal than Nigerians. Most Nigerians will never get a chance to look through the windows of Aso Villa, so there will never be a thing about seeing the animals, men and women dine on the same table, let alone see them share a semblance.
While you may never have earned N14.5 million your whole life, two animals will be bought for the entertainment of our President and his friends. The job of a president is a tough one and we must understand that. Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, said that 100 million Nigerians are living in extreme poverty conditions. The Federal Government has understandably faulted that claim. To emphasise the fact that it does not believe such claims, the government rather than look to unburden these Nigerians from the weight of poverty, has instead dedicated more money towards the continued beautification of the seat of power. You cannot say Aso Rock does not need beautifying. How many Nigerians even know what Aso Rock looks like so how will they even know if the President even lives in a poor environment? To ensure that is not ever the case under this administration, N1.5 billion will be used to upgrade the facilities at Aso Rock villa this year. If you don’t know what Aso Rock looks like, you at least know what N1.5 billion sounds like and if that is what will be used to upgrade Aso Rock this year, you must begin to have an understanding of the worth and look of Aso Rock itself.
If the cost of upgrading the facilities gets you remembering the fact that your next house rent is due soon enough, I believe knowing that N8 million will be used to upgrade the zoo at the Villa will get you upbeat about the fact that, if these animals can have their zoo upgraded with N8 million this year, maybe you will one day at least find that amount of money to build your own house. You probably don’t have a car yet or your car is as tattered as the cars of most of the people in government before they got government appointments, don’t be sad about that. N25 million has been dedicated to track the cars in the Presidential fleet. Who wants to go and steal cars in Nigeria’s most guarded Villa? There is a new jet on the way, which will bring the Presidency’s fleet to 11 jets. At that number, if the Federal Government decides to float an airline with those aircraft, they’d immediately be the second biggest airline in Nigeria. Who says we can’t rent jets to African Presidents like Malawi’s Joyce Banda who sold the country’s only presidential jet and about 60 cars? You cannot blame President Joyce Banda for caring about her country’s poor citizens. You cannot exactly say our President does not care either. For instance, the 2014 budget dedicates N76.3 million to the purchase of crested cutlery, flatware and glassware. Whoever says we are no longer the giant of Africa has not been reading up on our 2014 budget.
I will confess to you right away; it was depressing enough to see some line items in the budget, it is even more depressing to remember them all over again just to write this piece. In case your children are wondering whether they will ever see typewriters again, please let them know the Interior Ministry intends to spend N3million on the purchase of typewriters. You would have to agree computers are too mainstream for these ones but do computers even cost up to N3 million? Na wa o. The Ministry of Information will spend N300 million to wash the government’s image in the foreign media during the year. This particular line certainly makes sense considering how much washing the image of our government constantly needs. Something dirty is always going on and the washing needs to meet the rate of the dirtying.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adokie, is not left out of the budget bazaar. His ministry will spend N181.3m on uniforms in 2014. You’d have to expect those uniforms to come with gold, diamond and Emerald studs. N1.8 billion was earmarked to connect Bayelsa State to the national grid but alas! Bayelsa was already connected to the national grid almost a decade ago. This N1.8 billion if passed, will not be misappropriated, it will be swallowed altogether. You cannot say all of these absurdities are not in line with the transformation agenda that has since emphasized the government’s commitment to the promotion of impunity and unheralded corruption. Stella Oduah’s Aviation Ministry expects to spend N208 million to plant flowers and trees in the country’s five major airports. This is marginally less than N255 million for two BMW cars so you cannot say things have not improved. They have improved from cars to trees.
So then what will Nigerians do? These are just a few of the absurdities in what has to be the country’s worst budget in decades. Recurrent expenditure has increased, capital expenditure has reduced. Virtually every dime allocated to the former will get spent, this administration has never reached 40 per cent performance level for capital expenditure since coming on board.
The lawmakers will sit over this budget proposal and you would expect them to do the right thing; remove the weeds from this budget. That’d of course mean reducing the National Assembly’s N150 billion allocation. N469 citizens of the National Assembly get to have a bigger budget than 23 Nigerian states of about 120 million Nigerians. If any political party that means well and wants change has any form of representation in our National Assembly, now will be the time to take a stand for the Nigerian people. If they pass the 2014 budget, as dysfunctional and as anti-ordinary Nigerians as it is, we can safely say, whatever political party we vote for, of the current parties represented in the National Assembly, it will still be the same faecal composition of just another bull. Let’s admit it; we the common people of Nigeria need help! These folk are more equal than us.
– Omojuwa is a political commentator and social media entrepreneur
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