Some of us must have seen this news report…..
“Rats invade Nigeria Budget document and smuggle items Health minister says” – BBC
Prior to this BBC headline, I had seen the caption on some social media platforms, but I was quick to dismiss it taking it as one of those bants opposition agents throw to score cheap points against the government. Sadly, it turned out I was wrong and the minister actually made that statement while defending his budget before lawmakers in the National Assembly. The minister observed discrepancies in his budget and was trying to point out that some elements inserted some dubious lines to his budget. Perhaps with Lassa fever still making some headlines, he opted for the ‘rats’ which was not a bad choice of word. It turned out that the minister further denied the Federal Ministry of Health budget in the possession of the lawmakers insisting that he will send his own copy to the lawmakers. This later was the case with a couple of ministers with regards to the 2016 Budget which had some lines duplicated in the name of typographical errors. An independent judicial body The Investment Securities Tribunal (IST) had presented the same copy of its 2015 budget word for word, figure for figure as its 2016 budget. This is a picture of the national embarrassment the 2016 budget fiasco has created.
It is an embarrassment we experiencing this when our economy is far from fine. You don’t need to be told that our creditors won’t take us serious. Not to forget, our request for about $2.5 & $1 billion loan from the World Bank and African Development Bank respectively, this is still pending the approval of the boards of both financial institutions. When crediting a nation, you will definitely need to know its fiscal plan viz-a-viz budget and a country where a minister rejects a budget said to be his, raises concerns to creditors. We seriously need Change!
It is also quite sad that this happened under the watch of a president who is popularly known for his anti-corruption stance on issues. It goes a long way to tell us that utterances and body language alone doesn’t really do the job and thorough oversight duties are needed to successfully fight corruption.
The Presidency has been quick to finger some corrupt civil servants or budget cabals who padded the 2016 Budget with malicious lines. But this is short of the presidency accepting responsibility for this national embarrassment. The presidency needs to be reminded that it is no more in the opposition and as such, the saying that “To whom much is given, much is expected” needs to be judiciously utilized. There is a need for a quick follow-up action to the finger-pointing which would involve meting out appropriate punishment to the perpetrator irrespective of their party inclinations.
It will also be worthy to note that the snail speed used in appointing cabinet ministers contributed to this budget fiasco as ministers were appointed November 2015 and the Budget was to be presented in December 2015. Hence the price for the time used to shop for ‘righteous’ ministers is a faulty budget. I wish there won’t be a price for a faulty budget, but for my wish to come to pass, the budget should be withdrawn, Nigerians should get an apology from the presidency and the budget cabals prosecuted according to the law.
Lastly, the president must be very proactive in dealing with national issues as those who are corrupt will go to any length to make him look like a joker before the eyes of the electorate. The good news is that the president still has friends. The bad news is that these friends won’t be with him for long if this ugly trend continues.