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Why Nigeria Might Not Escape Poverty Under Buhari

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“President directs release of N600bn for 2019 Capital Projects”. News Report, October 1, 2019.

By Dele Sobowale

President Buhari had “stated in his 59th independence anniversary speech that he had directed the release of N600bn for capital implementation from the 2019 budget in the next three months.” If Nigerians want to know why poverty will only get worse under Buhari, the report has provided all the information we need. Nigeria is now the poverty capital of the world and will remain in that position because, in the twenty-first century, we are under a leader who is an anachronism to modern economic trends and thoughts.

No honest economist can read what the President proudly announced without at least shaking his head with disbelief or shedding a tear with grief. The most obvious fact that emerges from that statement made by the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Nigeria Plc, is that the 2019 budget has been thrown into the dustbin and will certainly not be implemented. As a corollary to that, after the low growth of the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, in the first two quarters of the year, Nigerians can expect nothing better in the third and fourth quarters of this year. End year growth will once again fall below 2 per cent. And, that means more people will fall below the poverty line.

Buhari, of course did not state that in his address. The President and his “clever” speech writers are specialists in telling half or even one quarter of the story. They throw figures into the public space without explaining them in the hope that most gullible Nigerians will not be able to interpret what they say.

Take the figure N600bn (and there is another figure to be interrogated) which was tossed out as if it represented a great achievement when indeed it was a confession of failure for which Fellow Nigerians will pay dearly. Few Nigerians will recollect that the capital budget for 2019 was N2.7 trillion.

Thus the N600bn ordered released on October 1, was only 22.22 per cent of the total budgeted for the entire year. To the extent that a national budget represents a President’s promise to the people, Buhari had just announced to us that he will fail to deliver 78 per cent of the capital projects he promised this year. And, he did it without apologies to those who were gullible enough to vote for his re-election.

Furthermore, anybody who has ever had cause to complain about deteriorating infrastructure, education, health services etc, now knows why there had been no improvement this year so far, and why there might be none before the year comes to an end. Capital votes are used for all these social services and sad as it is, the Federal Government had not released one kobo this year for capital expenditure.

The N600bn ordered released is the first and last money Ministries, Departments and Agencies can expect this year. That also means a lot of the projects slated for funding in 2019 will not be funded. Roads will remain death traps nationwide and even Teaching hospitals will remain abattoirs. That is the Buhari record for 2019 and he had issued the report himself.

What can Nigerians expect this year from the N600bn ordered released? We can expect very little will result from it. Buhari’s mind-set is still in the military era. He still lives in the world of orders issued to take “immediate effect”. Even his most recent failures to get his instructions obeyed immediately have not taught him any lesson. It is always difficult to teach new tricks to a lot of old people. Some readers would recall how after signing the Minimum Wage Bill into law in May this year, he ordered “immediate implementation”. He was informed that it was impossible for that to happen. In an article titled PRESIDENT GOVS UNIONISM AND HOOLIGANISM, the reasons were explained as follows.

“The Minimum Wage Bill, which they expected will be implemented immediately, will certainly not be. Buhari had built up false hopes by “ordering” immediate implementation while forgetting that he only pays federal workers. Even the FG cannot implement immediately because a lot of work still needs to be done before government workers at all levels can start receiving the new emoluments. It is now beginning to dawn on Labour leaders that they have made promises to the rank and file which cannot now be fulfilled. In their individual and collective lack of knowledge about Public Finance, they have overlooked various organs created by law which must work on the implementation before governments can start paying.”

President Buhari has once again fallen into the same trap by ordering the immediate release of N600bn for capital projects. There is every reason to believe that the statement was more political than presidential. Various organs of government which must work on the President’s instructions before funds can be released don’t work on announcements made to the media. There are procedures to be followed and nothing will happen until the regulations have been followed. Thus, a good portion of the N600bn might not even reach the MDAs before the year ends. Consequently, the impact on this year’s economic growth will be very minimal. The tragedy of all these lies in the fact that there are top level individuals within the All Progressives Congress, APC, who are aware that Buhari is leading us into the ditch, but are unpatriotic enough not to say it.

BUDGET 2020 SHOULD BE DISCARDED

The National Assembly, NASS, now under the control of Executive branch rubber stamps, had expressed the hope that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, and the 2020 Budget will be delivered by end of September. That was before the $9.6bn judgment against Nigeria was handed down in the UK. To the best of my knowledge, the FG did not take that liability into account when preparing the budget. But, the matter is now real. There is every reason to believe that Nigeria will have to pay something next year on account of this scam.

Furthermore, the budget was based on daily crude oil exports which are now clearly unrealistic in light of the quota approved for Nigeria by OPEC. Even a rubber stamp NASS must respect itself and not waste time on a document so defective and which will not be implemented if passed.

RAIL TRANSPORT AS METAPHOR

The bulk transportation of goods and services of every major economy are carried by rail except Nigeria. Hope was rekindled when in 2016, the Federal Minister of Transportation, Mr Amaechi announced that the Buhari administration was embarking on three major rail projects – Lagos to Ibadan, Lagos to Calabar and Kano to Port Harcourt.

The Lagos to Ibadan commuter service was scheduled to be completed in 2017. Till now, it remains uncompleted. There has been deafening silence from Amaechi and the administration on the Lagos-Calabar project. Furthermore, there is no provision in the 2020 budget for it. That sums up the mind-set of the Buhari administration. It promises a lot and delivers nothing. Nobody can point to any major project completed from May 2015 till now – except the Kaduna-Abuja rail line which was 90% completed by the Jonathan administration.

The 2020 Budget and te 59th independence anniversary address of Buhari are so destitute of hope for rapid GDP growth, they would make the Devil weep for Nigeria.

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