In fact, I believe that a public budget is the most important tool that citizens can use to gauge the seriousness of purpose of their government because it shows it cares about, its philosophies and its weaknesses.
I have always believed in a government’s unique opportunity to change a critical mass of lives. One can argue that it is the only organ that can do so when it works closely with all its stakeholders in building strong institutions that carry out its duties. Development has no chance without the government and nowhere else in the world is this as clear as it is in Nigeria.
As a young adult living in the Diaspora, I struggled with how I could make my life useful to the continent that so nurtured me, and the only thing that made sense was to somehow dedicate my working life to driving ‘small’ changes in our institutions so that they can deliver better lives for the Nigerian people. I believe that this cannot be done without some sort of reawakening in the Nigerian people, and a renewal of their commitment to the indispensable responsibilities of the governed.
A public budget allows the governed to hold its representatives accountable and it allows them to register their pleasures (and displeasures) with it. In fact, I believe that it is the most important tool that citizens can use to gauge the seriousness of purpose of their government because it shows it cares about, its philosophies and its weaknesses. Budgets tell you who gets what and how much and how this matters to the bottom-line goal of the country. There weeks ago, the 2013 budget was presented to the Nigeria National Assembly by the country’s president. This budget can be found in a very accessible format HERE. I urge everyone to take a look at it and make your judgment on how well this budget matches your own goals for the nation.
The 2013 budget in its totality showed the level of decay and incompetence in almost all the institutions in the country, including the presidency. Government institutions began their descent into bloated decay and uselessness a very long time ago and the 2013 budget naturally keeps up the tradition chicanery that masquerades as public policy. It has good parts. The budget focused on the education, agriculture, and women’s empowerment sectors. While, this is progressive, the very many duplications of duties, the well funded government institutions with laughable mandates, and the unfair dominance of personnel salaries to the detriment of all other governmental duties makes it a huge disappointment.
The 2013 budget shows just how bloated the Nigerian civil service has gotten. A poignant example is the allocation for the police in the budget. It was allocated for in three different institutions; the N22 Billion Police Reform Fund, Ministry of Police Affairs with a proposed N9 billion budget, and the Police Service Commission with its N3 billion budget. Security is certainly important especially in a country so racked with constant death and trauma but there are so many other ways of making a nation secure that investing so much in one method, seems devious. There is the Ministry of Sports, which gets a completely different allocation from the Sports Development line item; allocated N3 billion. There are so many instances of duplications that one wonders if anyone bothered at all to read the document in the president’s office. Further, the health sector was allocated about N280 billion and of this, N217 billion has been earmarked for just personnel cost, to the detriment of all the other things that the government must procure to create agile, responsive, and functioning health delivery service. There are agencies whose mandates are not entirely clear but with considerable allocations. Such as the N100 billion budget line for special interventions, N15 billion for Job Creation, and the Federal Character Commission with a N3 billion allocation. There is a fund for New Nigerian Newspapers Liability, and a Ministry of Special Duties getting N500 million.
In the end, the budget was disappointing, however, there is hope in the fact that it is not final. The National Assembly is yet to approve this budget and it is imperative that we find our voice before the time of approval to finally say enough is enough, because it is.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.