(By Victor Emejuiwe)
“On the perception of the word “transformation”, the perceiver conceives the mental notion of complete change into something with improved condition or appearance. Understandably, the transformation agenda is a four-year plan with only two years gone, but there are no signs that the life time of the agenda would bring about the needed change expected for the citizens. The signs for a true transformation start with a committed fight against corruption. Corruption is the bottleneck against any positive agenda. It must also follow with the enforcement of the rule of law on every citizen.”
THE constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as contained in Section 14 (b) clearly states that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. Also Section 16 (a) and (b) of the same constitution provides that; the state shall harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity for an efficient, dynamic and self – reliant economy. It states further, the state shall see to it that the national economy is run in such a manner as to ensure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.
The foregoing provisions are definitive of the objective of governance; it also implies that the citizens have a right to demand for nothing less than what is provided for them in the constitution. The social and economic right of citizens as contained in the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a signatory, provides for the right to education, housing, right to adequate standard of living, right to social security and right to health. The Federal Government is meant to inculcate all of these provisions in its yearly budget through a macro economic planning framework.
The legal instrument for planning is the Medium Term Expenditure Frame work (MTEF) and the budget; the medium term expenditure frame work is the planning document of the state also known as the macro-economic framework that sets out the macro-economic projections of the government for the next three financial years. It also sets out the underlying assumptions for meeting those projections (See FRA Section 11). The budget should, therefore, be prepared based on the MTEF and by implication the contents of the budget should reflect the macro-economic plan contained in the MTEF. The use of MTEF in budget preparation gives clear guidelines on what the priorities of the state are, and it makes it easy for citizens to know the policy direction of the government.
The Yar’Adua eight- point agenda was contained in the MTEF of 2009-2011, but the current administration set up its own macro-economic development plan of 2011-2015 known as the transformation agenda. The transformation agenda has the following key thematic areas: governance, human capital development, infrastructure and real sector. The key thematic areas are summation of priority sectorial issues, including agriculture, manufacturing, oil and gas, trade and investment, culture and tourism, education, health, youth and women development, power, transport, water, security, public service reforms, anti-corruption, as well as foreign and economic diplomacy.
Obviously, the entire proposal listed in the transformation agenda is germane to the welfare and happiness of the citizens, but unfortunately they are minimally represented in the budget. The budget implemented so far from 2011 and 2012 does not provide the much-needed impacts expected from the transformation agenda. The amounts appropriated for key sectors that should reflect the government’s commitment to transform the economy are mostly low. Also the line items listed against those appropriations are similar to what had been done in the past. Most of those line items are repeated items with unjustifiable sums attached to them. The budget of the transformation agenda has a problem of underutilisation of funds by the MDA’s. This could be as a result of lack of capacities in some MDA’s or the practice of not cash-backing the funds released to MDA’s.
Some of the problems highlighted above are responsible for the failure of the transformation agenda in the past two years. The midterm report does not show any departure from our past budget performance, the worsened poverty and increased unemployment are evidence to back this position.
On the perception of the word “transformation”, the perceiver conceives the mental notion of complete change into something with improved condition or appearance. Understandably, the transformation agenda is a four-year plan with only two years gone, but there are no signs that the life time of the agenda would bring about the needed change expected for the citizens. The signs for a true transformation start with a committed fight against corruption. Corruption is the bottleneck against any positive agenda. It must also follow with the enforcement of the rule of law on every citizen.
The quality of budget also reflects the level of commitment the government has towards the citizens. In this regard, the capital budget must be higher than recurrent. This implies that the government must reduce waste in the system. The capital budget must also be implemented to the full. This scenario has not been the case of the current transformation agenda. Corruption is still in vogue; there are no links with what the government proposes to do and what it provides in the budget. M Capital budgets are still under-utilised, etc. There is definitely no way we can continue in this direction and expect to see a different result. To back this position, a review of the midterm report on health, housing and education against its allocations in the budgets of 2011 and 2012 show why the citizens do not feel the impact of the transformation agenda.
The midterm report reveals, in the health sector, for example, that the government launched a programme to save one million lives and between 2011 and 2012 over 433,650 lives have been saved through multiple interventions in malaria control, nutrition, routine immunisation and essential commodities. This effort was possible with the aid of International development partners and in collaboration with Federal MDA’s. The government also claims it is improving tertiary health care, and as such, it has rehabilitated and equipped the Federal tertiary hospitals, (the number was not stated). It also reports that, two additional hospitals (Obafemi Awolowo University Hospital, Ile-Ife and the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin, have been upgraded and completed, while the Nnamdi Azikwe University Teaching Hospital and the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital are at advanced stages of completion. The Federal Government also claims to have refurbished 1,500 primary healthcare facilities and supplied them with the essentials to increase delivery in skilled- birth.
According to the reports obtained from the Budget Office website, capital budget for health in both 2011 and 2012 has a total allocation of N116.36 billon but only N69.3 billion was utilised. Looking at the prevailing health needs of Nigerians, a capital budget of N69.3 billion is too meager to satisfy these needs in two years. Nevertheless, the projects conducted from this report are too minute to justify the high value expended for it. A recent report prepared by the NOI poll on May 2013 reveals that about 79 per cent of Nigerians lack access to good health care.
It goes further to state that five out of every 10 Nigerians rely on private hospitals; and that the poor health care facilities and even lack of these are factors responsible for high rate of infant mortality experienced in the country. The projects claimed to have been done under the midterm report are fundamental, but they are not far reaching, health care and medical service have to be made accessible and affordable for every Nigerian in government hospitals. A national health insurance policy should have been mainstreamed for every Nigerian with a low premium.
In Housing, the transformation agenda rightly recognises that the provision of accessible and affordable housing is a strategic national imperative that can guarantee the well- being and productivity of the citizenry. It also admits that Nigeria currently has a housing deficit of about 23 million houses that should be met by 2020. In the last two years, the transformation agenda claims it had provided over 468 prototype housing, 1,754 housing units, is constructing 255 housing units, has completed a total of 1,756 through the FHA and has provided 4,934 mortgages through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN). The agenda goes on to claim that it has provided 7,510 housing units through Estate Development Loans, created 3,787 service plots of land and issued 2,131 C of O’s.
From this report, it is obvious that not much was achieved in the area of housing. The distribution in the foregoing does not in any way fit into the Mass Housing needs of 70 per cent of Nigerians. The trend of allocation and provision of housing has always favoured real estate entrepreneurs who sell them to networth individuals. For mortgaging system of housing, it is only those with sustainable jobs that benefit from it. Under the universal declaration of Human Rights as ratified by the Economic Social and Cultural Right, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right, and in line with the provision of Section 16 (d) of the 1999 Constitution, every Nigerian should be given a suitable and adequate shelter irrespective of his economic status. This means that the market woman, mechanic, driver and every other person classified under the informal group, should have access to affordable houses built by the government.
To reflect the lack of commitment to housing, reports from the budget office shows that in 2011 and 2012 capital budget, a total of N74.2 billion was allocated for housing and only N43.8 billion was utilised. This amount is considerably low to satisfy the housing needs of Nigerians, whereas in 2010, N7 billion was appropriated for the construction of the Vice-President’s lodge and in 2012 and 2013 budget, allocation for the maintenance of facilities in the villa was N4.7 billion. Nigeria has embarked on gigantic projects such as the construction of the National Stadium in Abuja for N300 billion, such an amount would have been able to construct over 300 million low cost houses at N1million each in government-owned lands across the country.
Looking at Education, the universal declaration of human rights and Section 18 of the 1999 Constitution provides for equal and adequate education at all level; caption (a), (c) and (d) of that same section also provide for, free, compulsory and universal primary education, free university education; and free adult literacy programme. The Transformation Agenda report says the government has constructed 124 Alma Jiri schools, special girls school in 13 states of the federation, established 12 new universities, disbursed N36 billion to states in 2012 through the Universal Basic Education, disbursed N76.7 billion to tertiary institutions, disbursed N24 billion to 12 tertiary institutions, refurbished equipment in 51 federal and states polytechnics, refurbished 352 science and technical laboratories in the 104 Federal Unity Colleges, provided 62 ICT centres and 40 sets of mathematical kits, distributed a total of 19.67 million instructional materials in for core subjects of English language, mathematics, basic science and technology and social science. It has provided 4,144 assorted library materials to schools across the country, and has awarded 101 Presidential Special Scholarships for Innovation and Development (PRESSIS) to beneficiaries in top 25 universities across the world.
Although this achievement looks impressive especially when it is coming under the spate of two years, but there seems to be a huge contradiction with what the government claims to have disbursed and what was provided in the budget of those financial years. The budgetary allocation was N117 billion with a total utilisation of N55 billion. Pray, how did the government disburse N76.7 billion to TETFUND for the provision of infrastructure and related facility and N24 billion to 12 tertiary institutions to enhance developments in the institution? This doesn’t reflect the true picture of the report and the total capital budget provided for those years. It can only happen if the government did expenditure without appropriation.
In conclusion, the government cannot claim to be transforming the country when this is not reflected in its budget. The budget must contain detailed plans and programmes that are appropriated for, in the right amount. This must also reflect all through in the macro-economic plan of the state. I have earlier indicated those signs that show if the government is serious in its transformation agenda, and that must be a priority for the transformation agenda to sail through.
The citizens must realise that it is the responsibility of the government to deliver service to them; they should, therefore, demand for their right and hold the government accountable.
• Emejuiwe is a procurement specialist, Center for Social Justice, Abuja.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”