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Editorial

Aligning Budgets To Nigerians’ Needs

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President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2021 federal budget of N13.08 trillion into law on
Thursday, December 31, 2020. Tagged the “Budget of Economic Recovery and Resilience”, it comprises a capital expenditure of N4,125,149,354,222 trillion and recurrent expenditure of N5,641,970,060,680 trillion, statutory transfer of N496,528,471,273 billion, N3.324 trillion for debt servicing, supplementary capital allocation of N1,060,751,051,650 trillion, and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 3.00 per cent.
Budgets globally aim to have a guide on revenue generation and spending to prevent confusion. Every arm, tier, and agency of government formulates its budget for the fiscal year and they are not expected to spend above the approved limits. But oftentimes that is not the case in Nigeria as some agencies expend unapproved monies with impunity.
Following the presidential assent to the 2021 budget, many concerns are expressed as to whether the budget addresses the people’s necessities and how the document can be correctly implemented in line with the existing fiscal and monetary laws.
The executive and legislative arms of government have always produced yearly Appropriation Acts. But successive budgets for several decades have not been implemented satisfactorily. Consequently, administration after administration has been unable to realise the grand objectives of the serial economic plans.
Regrettably, our national budgets are not aligned with the country’s development goals. With the demise of national development planning, budgets are prepared without plan or strategic framework. It is like building a huge edifice without an architectural drawing. That is why government’s promises cannot be actualised because there is no effective budget policy.
It might be necessary, at this juncture, to ask: how far have budgets gone to alleviate some of the endemic problems in Nigeria? We do not just mean the federal budget but all the state budgets put together. Every year, 38 budgets are rolled out including those of the federal government, 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
To what extent have budgets ameliorated the problem of poor electricity, water supply, health care, education, dilapidated roads, unemployment, insecurity, etc? Are Nigerians faring better now compared with last year when the budget was passed? What systematic changes have occurred? What periodic solutions have been provided or on-going? What difference has occurred in the life of an average Nigerian?
This is even more worrisome when the citizens are rarely and inadequately consulted or engaged in budget planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. In most cases, the national and state budgets do not adequately reflect the expectations and aspirations of the citizens.
This situation mainly exists because the budgeting process in Nigeria is faulty. It is split only between the legislative and the executive. The processes are not open and active participation is not encouraged. Most access to information and civic participation at best occurs at the seldom held public hearing stage in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
At the planning stages of our budgets, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and traditional rulers being representatives of the people ought to be enabled or encouraged to communicate their needs and concerns to the government and possibly contribute to the Medium-Term Revenue Framework and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), or even the draft budget.
Citizen participation in budget hearings is significant. It can be done through involvement and advocating for more public hearings on a budget in the National Assembly. These and others are ways to sustain and improve access to information and civic pursuit in the different phases of budget preparations.
The failure of budgets across the country is heart-breaking. That is why pessimists call budgeting in the country annual ritual. That has been the case since 1999 when the present democratic dispensation began and it was thought that the era of military impunity was over. Indeed, our rogue budgets are merely rituals; they seem not to be made to change anything.
And really, how can there be change when on average, every year, 70 per cent of our budgets go for recurrent expenditure while only 30 per cent is for capital expenditure. How can an underdeveloped country like Nigeria develop when only a fraction of the annual budgets is put for capital projects?
Faced with corruption, neither the recurrent budget nor the capital spending achieves its target. The inability of many state governments to pay salaries, pension benefits and other entitlements to workers underscores the failure of recurrent expenditure. Sadly enough, the Federal Government is gradually contracting the disease and is no longer able to pay workers’ salaries promptly.
There seems to be no law that compels governments to account for the previous budget before announcing a new one. As a way out, there is a need for such a law, at all levels, to make public, at the end of each financial year, the performance of the previous year’s budget; what was achieved and what is left, which would form the basis for making a new budget.
Beyond the usual pomp that characterises budget signings in our country, we hope that President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2021 budget, unlike previous appropriations, will operate within standard budget parameters to attain its broad objectives of meeting policy goals and development needs of Nigerians.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Lessons From UK Polls

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The United Kingdom’s general election of July 4 marks a turning point in the nation’s political land-
scape. It highlights the resilience of its democratic traditions. The peaceful transition of power from Rishi Sunak to Keir Starmer reflects the strength of Britain’s political institutions and the electorate’s ability to effect change.
Moreover, the landslide victory of the Labour Party signifies a potential shift in the country’s ideological trajectory, prompting a reevaluation of its political, economic, and social future. As the nation navigates this pivotal moment, the smoothness of this transition serves as a testament to the stability and adaptability of Britain’s democratic infrastructure.
One of the most striking aspects of the new cabinet is the representation of women, with 11 out of 19 cabinet members being female. This stands in contrast to the situation in Nigeria, where women are severely underrepresented in government, particularly in the Northern states where female participation in politics is almost non-existent. The success of these women in the British political arena serves as a quintessential example for Nigeria, where patriarchy still holds sway and gender equality in politics remains a distant dream.
Eight Nigerian-Britons emerged victorious in the parliamentary elections, garnering adulation from Nigerians both at home and abroad. Their success highlights the importance of merit-based selection in politics, as each Member of Parliament (MP) won their seat on the basis of their personal qualifications and achievements. Unlike in Nigeria, where political appointments are often influenced by money, party leaders, and other extraneous factors, the British system values the power of the voter and respects the rights of every citizen to participate in the democratic process.
The diverse backgrounds and professional expertise of the Nigerian-British MPs further underscore the importance of competence and performance in politics. These individuals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, have earned their seats through hard work and dedication, rather than through political connections or nepotism. Their success should serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian political system, where the average age of politicians is over 60 and where professional qualifications are often overshadowed by tribal and religious affiliations.
A veteran politician and one of the leading Nigerian-British MPs, Kemi Badenoch, exemplifies the success that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Despite the challenges faced by her party in the recent election, Badenoch was re-elected on the basis of her qualifications and track record in office. Her appointment as Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade is a testament to her capabilities and leadership skills.
The current political climate in Nigeria stands in sharp contrast to the achievements of Nigerian-British professionals in the political sphere. Through their perseverance, commitment, and professional knowledge, Taiwo Owatemi, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor, Bayo Alaba, Josh Babarinde, Florence Eshalomi, Helen Grant, and Kemi Badenoch have all been elected to the legislature. This is in contradistinction to the state of affairs in Nigeria, where many politicians are viewed as “professional politicians” who lack distinguishable credentials or sources of income.
Nigeria’s electoral system is radically different from that of Britain, where candidates accept the results of the poll without filing lawsuits. Britain’s electoral procedure is also transparent and effective. But in Nigeria, courts are routinely called upon to resolve electoral disputes since elections are frequently tainted by violence, corruption, and legal problems. Nigeria’s electoral process is not credible due to the absence of intra-party democracy and the involvement of cronies and godfathers.
While the political achievements of the elected Nigerians are commendable, they also serve as a sobering reminder of the weaknesses in our democratic system. After all, competence and performance ought to be the main determinants of electoral success, not religious and tribal affinities as they frequently are in Nigeria. The achievements of these Nigerian-Britons should compel a reassessment of Nigeria’s political environment, highlighting the necessity of a more efficient and responsible democratic system.
Unfortunately, the high rate of litigation in Nigeria’s elections threatens the country’s democratic process, creating tension and uncertainty from pre-election disputes to post-election challenges. This undermines voter choices and trust in the electoral system, raising concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Electoral reforms promoting transparency, accountability, and timely dispute resolution outside the courts are needed to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Our nation’s democracy is at a critical point and must evolve to survive. We need to shift away from costly campaigns and prioritise electoral integrity by safeguarding voter rights and promoting transparency. By addressing key national issues, Nigerian politics can become more sustainable and effective. These reforms are essential for our nation to progress towards a more inclusive and representative government.
Nigeria and other countries grappling with democratic government ought to take note of the Nigerian-British MPs’ accomplishments. Political leaders must be held responsible for their acts, and citizenship entails both rights and obligations. To be a really democratic society, where the power of the vote is honoured and protected, a society should be based on competence, performance, and transparency. Then and only then, regardless of origin or background, can we aspire to create a brighter future for every citizen.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

Continue Reading

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