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2016 Budget: Need For Thorough Scrutiny

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One feature of a corporate
plan is a series of budgets that translate country, state, local government or company intentions into a series of assignment and provide the money to carry them out. The Oxford Advanced Lerner’s Dictionary defines budget  as the money that is available to a person or an organization and plan of how it will be spent over a period of time. Since a budget extends over a period of time, it represents a flow of assignments rather than a stationary approach, and changes can be made rather quickly, especially if the budgets are reviewed monthly or quarterly.
There are two main types of budgets which include capital and expense. Capital spending is investment, merely a change in the form in which assets are held. The money a government or company spends to carry on its day-to-day activities or business, on the other hand, represents the actual out-of-pocket costs that must be recovered through internally generated revenue or sales during the budget year.
In the government circle, budgets are targeted to capture all the projects and activities proposed for the year, hence we have the capital expenditure, recurrent expenditure and the targeted revenue. In every budget, some scheme of priorities for projects must be adopted and there are some projects that simply have to be undertaken regardless of the economic calculations, since they must be budgeted for if the country should live up to its responsibilities or expectations.
There are projects required to meet the provisions of the law and there are numerous regulations by local, state and federal governments relating to security, defence, employment and employees’ welfare, among others that may necessitate new investment or expenditure. If there is pressure on government to tackle a problem that affects generality of the citizenry, it may have to spend a great deal of money for solution even though the project brings in no return in  the conventional sense. Generally, when a government is compelled to restrategise, it has to incorporate improvements.
The controversy that trailed the 2016 Budget would have been avoided if those who prepared it for the President before presentation to the National Assembly were careful and displayed professionalism in that craft. When President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, on being sworn-in, he told Nigerians that a team of technocrats had been assembled to affect the change philosophy of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
In fact, the circumstances that surrounded the 2016 Budget that was presented to the Senate on Tuesday, December 23, 2015 is a clear indication and manifestation  of incompetency from the Presidency to the Senate. At no time in the history of Nigeria that a documented budget proposal was pronounced missing or withdrawn from the Senate after presentation. A lot of Nigerians were disgusted and disappointed with the intricacies that contrived the budget.
From a 2-week recess, the Senate resumed plenary without the 2016 Budget on the order paper for debate amid heightened curiosity, as to what might have gone wrong. Some senators allged that the budget was nowhere to be found at the National Assembly with other fillers that the budget documents that were laid before the Senate by President Buhari early December 2015 had not been duplicated for distribution to Senators and members of the House of Representatives due to paucity of funds. There was also a wide speculation in some quarters that the documents had been withdrawn or got missing from the Senate. Some lawmakers said they were suspicious that the Presidency might have colluded with the management of NASS to quietly withdraw the documents after detecting some discrepancies in them.
One of them likened it to a kind of national embarrassment. His words, “can you imagine this kind of national embarrassment? Documents that were presented to us with fanfare have been stolen. This is unbelievable as it has not happened since history of Nigeria”. Senators of the PDP accused the Presidency of being behind the theft of the documents, an accusation rejected by APC, who said it was too early to speculate.
On his part, Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki later denied disappearance of the budget but disclosed that copies of a version different from the 2016 Appropriation Bill as originally laid by Buhari had been served to senators by the Special Adviser to President Buhari on NASS Matters, Senator Eta Enang. According to him, it was alteration of the doctoring of the original documents, pointing out that the finding of the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions on investigations surrounding the 2016 Appropriation Bill was that Senator Eta Enang printed copies on the Bill and brought to the Senate was different from the version presented by Mr. President.
A former National Chairman of the APC, and one-time governor of Osun State, Bisi Akande while commenting on the 2016 budget controversy in an interview, lampooned the Senate leadership for what he described as an act of indiscipline. He said that his party was mindful of the consequences of allowing wrong people to be at the helm of affairs which was the reason the party wanted disciplined individuals to lead the Senate.
“Nigeria’s budget is huge document and wonders how such a document could be missing in the Senate”, Akande said, adding “the development is a fallout of indiscipline that brought the current leadership of the Senate into the position and as you know, that was not the choice of our party”.
The Presidency had after presenting the budget discovered that some of the figures proposed were increasingly high through a letter addressed to Bukola Saraki and Dogara of the NASS and House of Representatives respectively. The report revealed that the old budget contained major omissions like absence of allocation for the second Niger Bridge while a large sum was allocated for line items which had now been reviewed.
Following the purported missing of the documents, the Senate President Saraki met with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa.
It is traditional that once the budget is laid, it would be referred to the joint  Committee on Finance and Appropriations for section by section analysis. That the differences spotted by the Senate “do not really affect the substance of the budget to the extent that there is serious breach” is not enough to believe that all is well with the budget, even though the Senate went ahead to deliberate on it.
The preparation of the 2016 Appropriation Bill was a litmus test of the Presidency’s efficiency, but the controversy that trailed it on presentation to the Senate shows that no thorough work was done. The criticisms and revelations that followed or emerged in the process and the carelessness of the NASS management in securing the original copy laid before the Senators by President Buhari amply signify that the budget is not perfect. Before the controversies that beclouded the budget, there had been some hard knocks on it in some quarters.
One of such criticisms came from a renowned Nigerian Economist, Professor Pat Utomi, who described the 2016 national budget as ‘a joke’. President Buhari had presented a budget estimate of N6.08 trillion before a joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 22, 2015. Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, Professor Utomi said, “Putting it in a very awkward position, I consider the budget process a joke”. He said the issue was not about making luxurious budget but argued that the major deterrent was always implementation”.
Utomi emphasized, “we somehow do not have the discipline of the budget process, we go through budget as public relations exercises because they are supposed to be done and decision makers go ahead to do whatever they want to do” . Proffering solutions to the problem of budget implementation in the country, he said “the goal is to achieve an execution premium, but if those who are responsible for the budget really had no plan whatsoever to follow it, then, you are wasting your time”. “I think what has happened to us is that we got to a point of disconnect between the leadership elite, the political class, the bureaucratic elite and development aspirants of the Nigerian people. The major reason the budget is not working in Nigeria is leadership”, Utomi said.
Indeed, there is low energy in the leadership of this country as they are not leading in the right direction. The country is dealing with a huge financing gap, no doubt, and we cannot pretend that all is well, but if we do, then, “we will run into an economic spiral”.
Also bemoaning the 2016 budget, the PDP said, “By all standards, the budget, the first major economic policy outing of this present government, is completely unrealistic and duplicitously embellished with impractical predictions, a development that confirms fears by economy watchers and investors that this administration is obviously ill-equipped for governance”. The PDP, therefore, advised President Buhari to once again involve experienced and well-tested hands in the management of the economy, and budgeting processes.
A very important type of budget to which countries across the globe are giving increased attention these days is the cash flow budget. A country may estimate a certain amount over the period of a year and find itself in difficulty, even if the estimate is accurate. Money seldom flows in evenly. In the meantime, Nigeria needs money to finance projects and provide the welfare needs of the people and not a bogus budget that is not realizable and implementable. Comparison of performance against budget is one of the best methods of determining whether or not the country is spending more or less than it had planned to, and tracing the reasons for overages and underages or deficit and making any necessary corrections.
Budgets are an excellent tool for both planning and control, although they have their shortcomings. Thus, the budget is usually based on historical trends which may not continue as it may be influenced by what the leadership of the country or state would like to happen or do. Naturally, the leaders are interested in larger money and hopefully budget on the basis that this will materialize, even  though the chances of their doing so are not very great. So, the 2016 budget in its final form must be carefully scrutinized and watched to achieve the best result and proper implementation.

 

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

Shedie Okpara

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What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?

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As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met.  So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House

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The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.

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Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria

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In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines  more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations  to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network  (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim,  according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan,  explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is  also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area –  career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him,  it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in  workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun  Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank  will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
 According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch  of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency,  points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should  have courage and confidence in taking risks within  organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer,  Standard  Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
 She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
 For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but  about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
 Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian  women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population –  mainly women –  economically unviable.
 A First Bank customer,  Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN –  benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
 “If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to  enhance gender parity.


By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.

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