2016 Budget: A Poor Man’s Analysis By Bala Muhammad

Last Tuesday, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) presented his Administration’s 2016 Budget proposal of well over Six Trillion Naira (N6tr) before the National Assembly (NASS), and the nation’s citizens. In Naira terms, the budgeted amount is much higher than last year’s but in dollar terms it is likely to be approximately the same, as the Naira continues to lose chunks of its value by the day – down almost thirty percent from its worth this time last year.

In today’s piece, we analyse the 2016 Budget from a poor man’s perspective by first quoting a snippet from PMB’s Budget Speech and then offering a comment and/or analysis from a Poor Man

(PM). Enjoy:

PMB: “I know the state of our economy is a source of concern for many…By June 2014, oil prices averaged $112 per barrel. But as at today, the price is under $39 per barrel.”

PM: Mr. President, that’s the abracadabra we don’t understand in this country at all. They say there is oil glut on the world market, that there is too much oil available (even if crude). But despite producing oil here, what we have is scarcity, the opposite of glut. And then oil sells for next to nothing on the world market while we Nigerians buy the refined product so expensively, when we find it. No economist, or subsidy-enjoyer, has been able to explain this to us.

PMB: “On the economy, we injected new leadership at the helm of our revenue generating agencies including the FIRS, NNPC, NCC and Customs and implemented the Treasury Single Account (TSA)…with the full implementation of the TSA we expect significant improvements in the collection and remittance of independent revenues…”

PM: Yes, kudos on TSA! We hear you have ‘intercepted’ more than two trillion Naira through it so far, and that but for TSA those monies would have since disappeared down that magic hole of MDA’s ‘contra-entry’. And Sir, that 1% Remita Commission grates so! Have they really returned the loot? Check closely for they are ‘wayo’ people, contra-enterers Made in Harvard! And Sir, pursue those billions from MTN Sir.

PMB: “We intervened to support States to navigate their fiscal challenges by restructuring their commercial bank loans and by providing facilities to enable them to pay salary arrears.”

PM: We congratulate the new governors who came into this unexpected ‘inheritance’ called ‘bailout’. But Sir, you have to look closely to ensure that the funds are being used for what you gave them for. You see, our State Assemblies are mere rubber stamps, as you very well know, so the governors can have any law passed to ensure ‘virement’ of these monies into other uses. Such as, for example, buying new cars which, by the way, your own NASS is already doing, do you know? So any governor that does otherwise with bailout should be bailed-in.

PMB: “We have demonstrated a strong will to fight corruption…We will pursue the recovery of everything that belongs to the people of Nigeria. No matter where it is hidden. No matter how long it will take.”

PM: Thank you Sir for this! The new guy you appointed at EFCC is really up and doing. In fact, his name Magu, if one were to say it twice, it would be tantamount to the whole fight altogether. But one thing you must do, Mr. President, is to reform our anti-corruption laws. For instance, death penalty would do well for any thievery above Five Million Naira. Spiritual or Temporal. And corruption is stealing and should be non-bailable, whatever the condition.

PMB: “We are determined to ensure that our resources are managed prudently and utilized solely for the public good…that resources are aligned with Government’s priorities and allocated efficiently.”

PM: Have you taken your Wardrobe Allowance yet, Sir? We notice that your black kufta is being repeated from Germany to Ghana. If you haven’t taken that allowance, we just want to tell you that NASS members have already collected theirs. We are sure you noticed that when you visited them Tuesday…And, by the way Sir, how many new cars has the Presidency bought yet? Well, just to let you know, NASS is spending billions of Naira to buy new cars. Just so that you know…

PMB: “As an emergency measure, to address the chronic shortage of teachers in public schools across the country, we also will partner with State and Local Governments to recruit, train and deploy 500,000 unemployed graduates and NCE holders. These graduate teachers will be deployed to primary schools, thereby, enhancing the provision of basic education especially in our rural areas.”

PM: Brilliant wallahi! How much is the salary, Sir? And would there be a rural weighting allowance? They are already asking!

PMB: “Furthermore, through the office of the Vice President, we are working with various development partners to design an implementable and transparent conditional cash transfer program for the poorest and most vulnerable.”

PM: Ma sha Allah! It has arrived. This is what we have been waiting for. We hope the Vice President would go over to Brazil pronto and bring in the Bolsa Familia which is what this intervention aims to adopt. And for that planned N180 billion monthly expenditure to give 30 million primary pupils a litre of milk every morning, we suggest milking cows be tethered near each school. Kawai!

PMB: “Deficit…GDP…Borrowing…”

PM: We really don’t understand those terminologies Sir, but they do sound a bit like World Bank- and IMF-speak, the same you fought thirty years ago. But as we trust you so much so that we wholeheartedly trusted you with our votes, we believe you understand what you are saying. Carry on!

PMB: “The current fuel scarcity with long queues at petrol stations all over the country causing social dislocation is very unfortunate. Government profoundly apologizes to Nigerians for this prolonged hardship and misery. It is as a result of market speculators…”

PM: Awww! Mr. President, that’s nice. You just said sorry? OK, we now understand why there is no fuel. And we forgive. And forget. But then, Sir, when is it ending?

PMB: “…critical sectors such as Works, Power and Housing – N433.4 billion; Transport – N202.0 billion; Special Intervention Programs – N200.0 billion; Defence – N134.6 billion…”

PM: So Fashola is going with N433 billion! Kai! And Amaechi N202 billion! Wai! And the Defence budget, we hope it’s NOT going to the NSA’s Office. Oh! There is a new NSA in place!

PMB: “Indeed, the future looks bright…”

PM: Perhaps from the Villa, Sir. There are still blackouts, and pocket-outs (as many salaries are paid on the 40th of the month).

PMB: “I am aware of the problems many Nigerians currently have in accessing foreign exchange for their various purposes…We are carefully assessing our exchange rate regime keeping in mind our willingness to attract foreign investors but at the same time, managing and controlling inflation to level that will not harm the average Nigerians…”

PM: Mr. President, you must have read “Man arrested at airport with 870 ATM cards”. There is now an army of Nigerian Professional ATM Withdrawers in the UK, the US, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and other places sleeping by the ATM machines to withdraw the daily allowed limits. Stop them today! Why wait for the New Year?

PMB: “I know many people will say ‘I have heard this before’…

PM: Now that you’ve said it, Mr. President, it is true we have heard it all before. But the others who said it were politicians and you, Mr. President, are a, ehm, ehm…

PMB: “We will not betray the trust reposed in us…We will welcome and be responsive to your feedback and criticisms…We are here to serve…”

PM: And we are here to vote, Mr. President! Carry on!

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Corruption Is The Cause Of Poverty, Poor Policies, and Waste In Nigeria — President Buhari

Apart  from barefaced theft of public funds, corruption has also been cited as the main reason for poor policy choices, the prevalence of poverty in the midst of plenty and waste of resources in the country, according to President Muhammadu Buhari in his Goodwill message to the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Nigeria earlier today in Port Harcourt.

In a message delivered on his behalf by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, the President declared that  “corruption in our country is so endemic that it constitutes a parallel system. It is the primary reason for poor policy choices, waste and of course bare- faced theft of public resources.”

While further clarifying his administration’s commitment to the war against corruption, the President said “our fight against corruption is not just a moral battle for virtue and righteousness in our land, it is a fight for the soul and substance of our nation.”

Giving an insight into the way corruption destroys the nation, the President told the Second Plenary of the Conference that “it is the main reason why a potentially prosperous country struggles to feed itself and provide jobs for millions.”

In the same way the President posited that “the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the infant, maternal mortality statistics, the hundreds of thousands of annual deaths from preventable diseases are traceable to the greed and corruption of a few. This is why we must see it as an existential threat, if we don’t kill it, it will kill us.”

On security, the President disclosed that “we are on course to militarily rout Boko Haram, and make them incapable of taking and holding territory, ” adding that suicide bombings in some parts of the North East are the desperate acts of the terrorists to create a sense that they are still in play.

He assured that “with vigilance and good local intelligence we will make those cowardly acts practically impossible.”

Briefing the conference on the economy, the President disclosed that “we must change the paradigm of thinking about our economy and the ultimate good of the majority. While we create an enabling environment for free enterprise, we must reason, plan and budget  with the understanding that almost 2/3 of our people are extremely poor, and must be helped first to survive and then to fully participate in the economy of the nation.”

Consequently, he continued, “we must create a safety nets for the very poor and vulnerable while ensuring that social spending is also a direct investment in the economy. We must invest substantially in relevant education, teacher training , and vocational and entrepeneurial traning.”

The President who had attended the First Plenary of this year’s Conference in February as the presidential candidate of the APC, expressed a sense of  honour  at the invitation, and delivered to the Conference, “warm felicitations on behalf of the Government and people of our great nation Nigeria.”

He praised the Catholic Bishops noting that he has “always been impressed with the social consciousness exhibited by the Catholic Bishop’s Conference.”

The President praised the Bishops’ Conference that their  “bold critical interventions at various crucial moments in our national journey have helped to caution, admonish and ultimately stabilize the polity. This is as it should be. This nation belongs to us all, leaders in every sector owe it to this generation to contribute in building a good society.”

He concluded by asking for daily prayers while promising that “for us elected into government we have since set about the daunting tasks before us, with vigour and commitment in the full assurance that by the grace of God our country will become safe, secure, prosperous and virtuous.”

In his speech, the President of the Conference, Most Revd Igantius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos commended the Buhari administration’s commitment to the fight against corruption and praised the formation of a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption.

According to him, “the president is dead right that if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill us.” He also prayed that God will give th citizens of Nigeria a new heart.

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The Problem With El-Rufai, Fashola’s Demolitions, Attitude To The Poor By Peregrino Brimah

Barely had the new Kaduna State governor occupied his seat when he banished begging in the state. The deed was painted as a reaction to a terror attack, but it was apparent the terror attack was an immediately available convenient excuse to achieve his aforethought agenda to end the “irritating” habit. The bomber was not a pretend-beggar.

Within two months of being in office, the governor next began the aggressive demolition of illegal residences in an entire Alhudahuda community.

In similar reaction to hawkers, beggars and illegal land occupiers, governor Fashola of Lagos is remembered for his demolitions and clamp down on begging. Numerous communities in Lagos were demolished during his eight years, rendering the occupants homeless in an instant. And whoever was found homeless, who could have been made homeless by the very demolitions, was rounded up, kept in “concentration camps” and deported to any state of the Lagos government’s choice. At least 3000 Nigerians were deported through his tenure. I described these dumpings, typically on roadsides at outskirts of states in an earlier article.

While the principle of the demolition of illegal structures is legal, the problem is the reality of the States and nation. Is it fair for El-Rufai to give notice and demolish in just two months? Can he argue that notice was given by previous administrations he himself accuses of being hopeless, unresponsible and unreliable and as such, the occupants should have expected this sudden inconvenience?

There are some fundamental blunders and potential crimes in the cases of both governors and they are borne of the same stock. Let’s present it simply:

You must never demolish homes where there is no social welfare.

You must never banish begging where there is no social welfare.

You must never deport Nigerians irregardless of social welfare availability. (section 41(1) of the 1999 constitution). When you ban begging, assuming/after there is housing for the poor and welfare, then you can arrest and jail the beggars who violate, but you still cannot deport them around Nigeria.

The actions of both governors are borne from the same cloth– elitism.

El-Rufai is the epitome of the Elite. I have for long been as anxious and worried about him as I have been excited. He is the archetype of elitism just like Fashola is or became. These men represent the definition of the elite. They are “pure blood.” They detest destitution. They believe every man must be affluent or is less than a person. Their reaction to poverty is instantaneous, harsh and uncompassionate. I do not care that Nigeria’s billions have been looted and the nation has been run into the ground by friends of mine, leaving you no opportunity for gainful employment. I do not care that if you do not beg from tonight, you will starve and may die. I do not care that this country has only fed and built for the rich; that we developed Abuja to be as good as any developed city, re-paving the roads every year, while leaving the rest of the nation to rot. All I want is for you to get out of this property this minute and to get your filthy selves off my streets.

This is the Fashola/El-Rufai mantra. This is the decretum behind their policies and state actions.

So you see, while it is beautiful and beautifying to rid Lagos and Kaduna of destitutes, the prerequisites for such decree must be set in place first.

Before Fashola bans Okada, he should build a thorough Lagos metro transport system to enable Lagosians get around without each person depending on a car and as such not only leading to traffic deadlock but environmental pollution. Build the metro system first before you build Eko Atlantic haven for the wealthy; then you can ban Okada and the transport-time will not increase as a hardship for Lagosians.

While you can never or rather, should never deport Nigerians according to the provisions of our constitution (section 41(1) of the 1999), before you can banish street begging, establish a welfare system and homes and feeding stipends (Food stamps) for the poor, then you can ban them from begging.

Likewise, before you demolish illegal structures, provide public housing as America did since the early 90’s. This is the way of God, this is the way of logic, this is the way of peace, security and progress. The El-Rufai/Fashola way, with the chronic institutionalized disadvantagement leads to suffering, terror and death.

I believe both men are Muslims. In Islamic records, the banishing of alcohol followed a stage-wise process. First Muslims were told to decrease their consumption, then it was banned. This is the way of the prophets. The great leaders of old will not go to bed if any of their constituents was hungry. Things have so changed now… and this is why we have MEND and Boko Haram in Nigeria. It is the protection of the rich and deprivement of the poor that has brought the Wrath of God on Nigeria.

The sudden demolitions in Kaduna have only one outcome as did the deportation of beggars by Fashola. These lead to deaths. Already El-Rufai has three deaths on his hands. According to DailyTrust, three Nigerians have already died as a consequence; “Ali Yayo, a resident of the community behind Alhudahuda, whose house was demolished, was said to have suddenly slumped and died. “There were also Sani Anle and Murtalele who also died after their houses were demolished. At least, seven residents of the area are receiving treatment at various hospitals in Zaria. One of them is Abubakar Mai Sirfani.”

We should not look for a day of reckoning when a blind, crippled or other destitute, an old man, woman or child will ask what they did that the governors denied them an existence or dumped them on the side of the road.

While Nigerians celebrate change, it is advised these governors and men with great ideas are reasonable and conscious of economics and management of/for the poor. If they feel they have wronged Nigerians, they should make atonement. Otherwise a class war will be inevitable in Nigeria.

Praying their indulgence, I [for ENDS] write for the poor.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; http://ENDS.ng [Every Nigerian Do Something] Email: drbrimah@ends.ng Twitter: @EveryNigerian

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Make Regional Integration Your Fourth Objective, EU Tells Buhari… Says Nigeria Is Rich, But Nigerians Are Poor

The European Union (EU) on Saturday urged the President-elect, retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to add regional objective as the fourth of the three objectives he said his government will focus on during the cause of his campaign.
The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr Michel Arrion, made the call at the Europe Day 2015 in Abuja.

The EU envoy reminded Buhari of his promises before and after his election to pursue three priority objectives.

He said the first objective set by the President-elect was “to swiftly end the insurgency in the North East and restore peace and stability.

According to him, the second is to eradicate corruption, while the third is to put policies in place to put Nigeria’s economy on a proper footing.

He said that these goals set for the incoming government match closely the European Union’s vision for the country.

“Let me add a fourth objective that is very important for the European Union: regional integration,” he said.

Arrion said the EU strongly believed that peace and stability, as well as the economic development of Nigeria were achievable.

According to him, they will be better achieved within the framework of a closer and deeper co-operation of Nigeria with its neighbours in West and Central Africa.

“It is in that global context that the partnership between Nigeria and the EU is taking place.

“I am delighted to state that Nigeria and EU do share very strong relations of mutual trust and partnership.

“And I am very happy to confirm the excellent quality of our local political and policy dialogue between the 21 European Ambassadors and High Commissioner and the Government of Nigeria.”

He asked Buhari to ensure that Nigerians enjoyed the democracy dividends.

Arrion explained that democracy meant nothing to the common man except it led to the improvement in their standards of living.“But democracy only makes meaning to the common man to the extent that it delivers good governance, creates opportunities and improves the quality of living.

“Nigeria is rich, but Nigerians are poor. The incoming administration will have a lot to do in this regard.

“It must ensure that Nigeria’s massive population is galvanised into a formidable productive force that will generate wealth that is equally or rather equitably shared among all citizens,” he said.

According to Arrion, as the new government comes on stream, the world will want to see a Nigeria with the basic freedoms that distinguish democratic societies.

“The government must ensure that the basic freedoms including economic rights and welfare are not the exclusive preserve of a privileged few.

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