THE former PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar on Thursday criticised the Nigerian government’s decision to cut down the 2020 budget by only o.6 per cent which he describes as “grossly insufficient”.
Nigeria cannot afford luxuries during austerity, Atiku has said.
In a series of tweets, the former vice president expressed his dismay that despite the crash in the price of oil, and the inability of Nigeria to expand her revenue base through the non-oil sector, the FG has only considered slashing its budget by a mere 0.6 per cent, which represents a reduction of only ₦71 billion.
He added that the decision by the FG is grossly insufficient and betrays the fact that the nation has lost touch with the current realities in the global political economy.
For the avoidance of doubt, Atiku referenced when the budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, which he stated was predicated on a projection that the nation would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel.
This he said is no longer the case today, adding that both the country’s production and the price of oil have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that Nigeria has unsold vessels, and its income has tanked by more than 50 per cent.
He stressed that Nigeria cannot be the only nation by bucking the trend as it not justifiable for a reduction in expenditure of just 0.6 per cent.
Atiku cited example of a country like Saudi Arabia with a much stronger production capacity than Nigeria and with a larger global market share, as well as a foreign reserve that is 12 times of Nigeria but has slashed her budget by almost 30 per cent.
“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,” Atiku tweeted.
The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure, and a 0.6 per cent reduction is no reduction, it is only window dressing, Atiku said.
He, therefore, urged the federal government to put Nigerians first in its decisions.
“My counsel to @NigeriaGov is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth,” Atiku added.
He recommended that the federal government should realistically slash the budget.
Atiku also added that billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the president and vice president should be reduced. The ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly should also go.
The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature should be downsized. The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the president, his vice, and other political office holders must be abandoned, he tweeted.
However, he added that the salaries of civil servants should be left alone, while the salaries of political appointees must be reduced.
He further advised that 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet should be sold.
In his opinion, any budget slash that is less than 25 per cent will not be in the interest of Nigeria.
Adding 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.”
The former vice president said these are the types of sacrifices that Nigeria needs in a time of crisis and “not empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.”