The former Vice President of Nigeria, Alh. Atiku Abubakar has said the country cannot afford luxuries during an austerity, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari led-administration to sell nine of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.
He said that N27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly should be cancelled, stressing also that the massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature downsized.
While reacting to the crash in global oil prices and government decision to reduce 2020 budget, the former vice president in a statement on Thursday said, “It is to my consternation that despite the crash in the price of oil, and the inability of Nigeria to expand our revenue base through the nonoil sector, the Federal Government has only seen fit to slash our budget by a mere 0.6per cent, from N10.594 trillion to N10.523 trillion. This represents a reduction of only N71 billion.
”Putting politics aside, this is grossly insufficient and betrays the fact we have lost touch with the current realities in the global political economy.
“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 corona virus pandemic, to the extent that we have unsold vessels, and our income has tanked by more than 50 per cent.
Given that this is the case, how can anyone justify a reduction in expenditure of just 0.6 per cent? We cannot be the only nation bucking the trend?”
He explained that Saudi Arabia, a nation with a much stronger production capacity than Nigeria and with a larger global market share, as well as foreign reserves that is 12 times ours, has slashed budget by almost 30per cent. Ditto for other oil economies.
He said Nigeria cannot make up for the loss of expected revenue by taking out more loans and issuing out more bonds.
“Debt will be the death of our economy and bonds will put our people in bondage,” he explained.
He suggested that, “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 N27 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 jettisoned. 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.”
According to him, any budget slash that is less than 25per cent is not be in the interest of Nigeria, stating that 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.
In times of austerity, no nation, not the least a mono product economy, such as ours, should be living in luxury at a leadership level, “the former vice president advocates.
Nigeria has had to revise its 2020 budget after crude oil, its main source of forex earnings, took a hit on the back of reduced demand as a result of lockdowns imposed across the world to control the spread of the coronavirus.