As the country battles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nigerian economy, former vice president of Nigeria, Atiku Abubakar, has advised the Nigerian government to cut the billions budgeted for luxury feeding and travelling for the presidency, to save cost.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page on Thursday, Abubakar said that Nigeria’s inability to expand her non-oil sector revenue following the crash in the oil price implies that the country has lost touch with the realities that come with the pandemic.
On the Federal Government’s slash of its budget by N71 billion at 0.6 per cent from N10.594 trillion to N10.523 trillion, Abubakar describes it as “grossly insufficient.”
The 73-year-old politician said:
For the avoidance of doubt, when this budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a projection that our nation would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel.
Today that is no longer the case. Both our production, and the price of oil have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that we have unsold vessels, and our income has tanked by more than 50 per cent.
How can anyone justify a reduction in expenditure of just 0.6 per cent from ₦10.594 trillion to ₦ 10.523 trillion. This represents a reduction of only ₦71 billion. We cannot be the only nation bucking the trend.
Following the global crash in crude oil due to the effect of the coronavirus pandemic, Nigeria’s crude oil currently sells below its budgetary benchmark at $30,
Instead of slashing the salaries of civil servants, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 election, said that the massive budgets to run both the presidency and the legislature “has to be downsized.”
To save costs, however, he also said that the ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly should be scrapped, while the salaries of political appointees should be reduced and a number of the jets in the presidential air fleet should be sold.
The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure. And a 0.6% reduction is no reduction. It is only window dressing.
My counsel to the Federal Government of Nigeria is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth.
Realistically slash the budget. Every pork barrel has to go. The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced.
The ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go. The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized.
The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be abandoned. Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.
Any budget slash that is less than 25 per cent will not be in the interest of Nigeria. And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare. We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people.
These are the types of sacrifices that we need in a time of crisis. We do not need empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.