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Opinions of Thursday, 14 October 2021

Columnist: Kayode Ajulo

Thoughts on Buhari’s 2022 budget

President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

It was not unexpected that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), mentioned in his budget presentation that defence and security would be strengthened given the multi-faceted security challenges bedevilling the country.

The grim statistics with respect to the humongous scale of insecurity have necessitated, and made desirable, a complete overhaul of our entire defence and security architecture.

It is therefore high time we repositioned and strengthened our defence system in order to restore peace and tranquility in our land.

I honestly find the President’s speech relative to this point most soothing. It is time to invest more in the security of the people as this is a fundamental duty conferred on the government by virtue of Section 14(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended.

Going forward, my considered view is that government in pursuance of the above must ensure that adequate funding is properly channelled into the acquisition of military hardware to make for greater firepower to crush the unrepentant enemies of the state.

I must strongly warn further that such funds must be thoroughly monitored so as not to end up in the private pockets of men of sleazy and larcenous characters to the detriment of the Nigerian people.

Again, on this point, I want to strongly counsel that the welfare of members of the armed forces as well as their sister agencies must significantly improve to reflect the huge sacrifice they are paying to keep the nation as one indissoluble entity.

With these actions in view coupled with the right political will, I have no doubt that we shall surely see a decimation and decapitation of the hydra-headed monster of insecurity currently assailing this great nation.

On the issue of borrowing out of recession, in my humble view, borrowing must be targeted towards capital expenditure and not recurrent expenditure, the fact that we are proposing a debt servicing of N3.61 trillion for next year is not fiscally encouraging and sound. Debt servicing is not a sustainable economic strategy and the nation’s policymakers should explore diplomatic avenues for a possible cancellation of part of our external debts.

We should seek ways of cutting back on our debt accumulation; by way of allegory, for instance, it doesn’t make any economic sense to purchase a car by obtaining a bank loan while still having to borrow to fuel the car.

I want to believe that the President meant well by that statement, however, it must be noted not all the MDAs are revenue-generating entities as contemplated by the constitution and the laws establishing them. Some are purely regulatory entities in the economy. Therefore, the desirable is that statutorily empowered revenue generating agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigeria Immigration Service, the Nigerian Ports Authority, Federal Inland Revenue Service, the newly unbundled Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation etc. should do more in terms of their profits and revenue generation by ensuring that financial leakages occasioned by corruption and similar tendencies are adequately addressed.

President Buhari has presented N164 trillion as the budget proposal, with $58 per barrel as oil benchmark, while the budget is projected to stimulate GDP growth by 42 per cent and the inflation rate is put at 13 per cent.

It is elementary economics that human wants are generally insatiable, the same is perhaps true for a nation. The obvious reality is there may never be enough financial resources to adequately turn Nigeria into an El Dorado. However, Nigeria has the financial strength to address some of the basic needs of its citizens.

The budget is certainly not enough given the deficits identified in the economy, but with some fiscal prudence and management, the impact of this instant budget should at least be felt by all and sundry most especially the common man.