Dr. Nnana Egwu was chairman of Awka North Local Government Council during General Ibrahim Babangida’s military cum civilian administration otherwise referred to as “diarchy’. He is an accomplished management consultant and a vocal chieftain of rested Anambra State Elders Forum.He spoke with POLYCARP ONWUBIKO on the federal government’s 2020 budget, advising that the foreign loan component of the budget for the execution of critical infrastructures to position the economy for sustainable growth and development should be transparently managed. He also spoke on misuse of foreign loans and the apparently pervasive and intractable insecurity across the nation.. Excerpts:
HOW would you see the implementation of the federal budget going by the imperative of securing foreign loans for the execution of critical infrastructures necessary to grow the economy that is laboring under the throes of economic down-turn?
The federal government of Nigeria has never had a meaningful budget since after the tenure of Dr. Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Minister of Finance. Nigeria budgets have been muddled over the years starting from the second republic to date. The budgets have always been muddled up; and muddling up in the sense that Nigeria has been raising money for the budget that is important but what do you do with the revenues you have generated?
Nobody has the proper accounts of the incomes of this country particularly the revenue accrued from petroleum resources which form the major sources of revenue, in addition to revenues from customs and immigration for the execution of budgets. At the end of every budget year, they will tell you about incomplete budgetary releases which lead to abandonment or uncompleted projects that litter the country’s landscape. If budgets are faithfully implemented, there would not be stories of budget deficit.
Improper accountability in the nation’s revenues led to unregulated foreign loans for capital projects but which largely frittered away due to massive corruption. During the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala did a great job by using her services in the World Bank and connections in international institutions to renegotiate and cancellation of foreign loans which have been eating deep through servicing of the loans in the nation’s revenues.
But sadly, the successors of the Obasanjo government reverted to unbridled taste for foreign loans with the trappings; and APC-led federal government led by President Buhari apparently believes that it would register profound developmental impact with foreign loans but it is looking awry at the long-term frightful implications which are bound to enslave future generation of Nigerians.
Nigerian leaders need responsible budgeting; you must budget based on your income and ensure accountability and transparency in the execution of the budgets. Okonjo-Iweala’s template would have been used to start responsible budgeting in Nigeria so that the country will not be entangled in foreign debt quagmire. But we are today being saddled with bloating foreign debts to execute critical infrastructures to reposition the economic down-town.
Government is a continuum and it will be proper to draw budgets within the limits of the nation’s revenues instead of enslaving the country to international institutions and countries. The oil subsidy which was said to be a fraud is being continued by this administration, and in this regard, what are Nigerians to believe? Actual budgeting entails balancing your income vis a vis your expenditure. If recurrent expenditure takes a big chunk of the provisions, then the capital component will be negligible hence the continued dearth of critical infrastructures which will constrain the sustainable growth and development of the economy.
How would you advise the federal government on budgetary releases to avoid a situation where at the end of the fiscal year, a negligible percentage is released which cannot translate to meaningful impact on the economy and welfare of the masses?
It will be difficult for the federal government to ensure proper budgetary releases and control of the expenditures. Do you know why? You have budgeted funds which you have seen or realistically expected. Annual budgets have always been bloated and made to impress the masses and secure their credibility but at the end of the fiscal year, frivolous excuses are reeled out with bogus provisions in the coming fiscal year for an Eldorado.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the apparently intractable and pervasive insecurity in the country has no perceptible end. The governors of the south-west geo-political zone had come up with Western Nigeria Security Network [WNSN] popularly known as ‘Operation Amatekun’. The initiative according to them is that security should be all-hands-on-deck affair since the Nigeria Police could not live up to their billings. Do you give them a go-ahead to operationalise the security initiative or do you think that the Attorney General of the Federation was right in declaring it illegal?
The insecurity in Nigeria could be said to be deliberately concocted and organised and the perpetrators being pampered and subtly shielded by the conventional security agencies. Tackling insecurity in the country has not been approached constitutionally as obtained in countries that practice federalism. The funny thing is that government knows the people who cause the insecurity. Remember when some people were saying that they would make the country ungovernable during President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, what did they have in mind? Of course they were psyching some people to go into terrorism. When people started organising political thugs in Bornu State, did the government not know the kingpins and later, it metamorphosed into Boko Haram? It is the consequences that the whole country is suffering today because serious steps were never taken to deal ruthlessly with the perpetrators.
When President Goodluck Jonathan, through General Ihejirika was ferociously fighting Boko Haram and driving them out of the territory they had captured, a section of the country reportedly said that “attack on Boko Haram was attack on the north”. That was creating the impression that it was the north which spurred the religious fundamentalists menace. It was wrongly perceived as ‘northern’ people. The umbrella organisation of Fulani cattle breeders and herders, Miyeti Allah, defied the constitution and law on use of arms and provided the cattle herders with gun [AK 47] without license to supposedly use in protecting their cattle. But they use the guns to kill farmers and villagers who protest the invasion of their farms by the cattle but the police never bordered to arrest them. Going in the undertone of religious persecution and Jihad, the murderous herdsmen have been slaughtering Christians, burning churches, killing and kidnapping ministers of God but with no arrest and prosecution by the law enforcement agencies.
The north-east governors in a bid to help the military in the fight against Boko Haram established Joint Military Task Force [JMTF] but without any known legal backing but the Attorney General did not term it illegal. The core northern states during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration defied the secular provision of the Nigerian Constitution of Nigeria by establishing religious [Sharia] security outfit called “Hisbar”. They infringe on the fundamental human rights of other religious adherents and even armed. There was recent news that the Sharia police had the audacity to arrest a police officer who was sharing drinks with three girls in a restaurant, among other flagrant violation of fundamental human rights of Nigerians who don’t belong to Muslim faith. Thus, going by the examples given, one would find it difficult to rationaliase the stand of the Attorney General against the south-west geopolitical zone security outfit geared towards safeguarding the people from foreign terrorist invaders masquerading as herdsmen since the conventional security feel helpless to save their victims.
There is need for a synergy between the federal government and the federating units to provide maximum security across the length and breath of the country since sustainable economic growth and development hinge on security. South-west governors have the constitutional rights to take measures that would promote the wellbeing of their people since the constitution referred to them as “chief security officers”. If the Attorney General feels that what the governors did was illegal, he should go to court for interpretation of the laws on the establishment of security outfits.