Politics, Seat of Power

Human rights activists condemn 2016 budget’s frivolous provisions

-’It’s against common sense’

Criticisms and condemnations, home and abroad have continued to trail the frivolous and bogus provisions in the 2016 budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly. Some argued since the provisions are not only wasteful but anti-masses judging from the experience from former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, some lawyers and human rights activists ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke to on this also lampooned the mind-boggling provisions, calling for their removal to pave way for adequate attention to other aspects of the budget that are productive and beneficial to the country as a whole.

On his reaction, Barrister Mohammed Fawehinmi said, “The budget is still an Appropriation Bill. It has not been passed. Thank God for that. Now, it’s time for the National Assembly to show that they’re there for the interest of the poor masses they claim they represent. That budget must reflect the interest of the masses, not all these frivolous aspect so to speak. I believe we should blame the Minister of Budget and Planning, Udo Udoma for all the bogus and frivolous provisions in the budget. He’s to be questioned by the National Assembly if National Assembly really wants to work. He should be asked how such provisions found their way into the budget.

The buck is on his table not President Buhari, because he has been appointed the minister. If Buhari has not appointed him as Minister for Budget and Planning, we would have had a reason to blame Buhari. Let’s check out. The estimate for education in the budget is about nine percent which fell short of the 25 percent as recommended by the United Nations (UN). Education is one of the areas we need to vote more money for, not all these kitchen, clinic, website that don’t conform with commonsense. All those provisions are rubbish.

They should even be removed to pave way for better provisions in the budget that are beneficial to the masses of this country.

“For instance, we don’t need to import anything if we can equip ourselves technologically. Even, we can build our refineries ourselves without involving any foreign country. That’s if the Minister of Science and Technology does his job very well. We have highly intellectual and human resources that can be harnessed to develop this country. So, we don’t need to be running around, seeking any country’s assistance in any area at all. There’s nothing we had ever imported into this country that we couldn’t repair even with the little education. So, why not concentrate on education and technology, instead of attending to all these senseless provisions. Udo Udoma should be invited by the National Assembly to explain why the inclusion of all these irreverent provisions. It’s exactly the same thing Jonathan did and was criticized heavily. Nigerians can’t tolerate such things anymore.”

In his reaction, Barrister Clem Onwuenwunor opined, “President Buhari needs to be advised in time that his ascendant to power, in spite of all odds, was a mark of Nigeria’s resolve to radically distance themselves from the frivolities of the past, insatiable greed and incompetence. Some items in the 2016 missing but now found budget on unjustifiable allocations to food and maintenance of Aso Rock Villa are frivolous that one wonders whether President Buhari has learnt much from our chequered history. The current economic problems bedeviling the country dictate prudence and fear of God in managing resources and a determined will to avoid corruption in our budgeting. President Buhari will do himself a lot of good to review some of these frivolous items in the budget himself before angry Nigerians descend on the National Assembly with placards to stop these frivolities.”

Corroborating their submissions, Barrister John Itodo also condemned the provisions, adding that they’ve coined out of executive recklessness which should not be allowed to go unabated by the National Assembly.

“Every expense item captured in an Appropriation Bill and passed by the National Assembly as an Act of the National Assembly is no longer a frivolous item but serious as it is assumes that that frivolous item has been consented to by every Nigerian. That is the net effect of an Act of the Parliament in this case of National Assembly.

“You will recall that every Nigerian has at least nine representatives at the National Assembly, three at the Senate and six at the House of Representatives and they are supposed to represent the people and not to rubber stamp perceived executive recklessness, and if they decide to ‘misrepresent’ their own people (constituency) and allow perceived executive recklessness go unabated or unchecked, then the problem is no longer that of the executive but a delinquency on the part of our representatives who failed to ask questions or check executive actions  on behalf of the people they represent in their various constituencies.

“In a situation where the people you put there at the National Assembly to be your eyes, ears, legs and arms derelict in their duties, what do you do? Of course, you recall them.

To me, the National Assembly does not strike like the National Assembly that’s ready to check executive recklessness and properly direct or re-direct the executive to human friendly policies. Having said all these, I am disappointed at some of these expense items of Aso Rock including N89 million for kitchen. It’s appalling, especially for a President we saw in the media with his Vice (shortly after winning the election) taking a humble beverage of N50 sachet Milo and Peak milk. When I saw the story trending, I was impressed and hopeful that at least we now have leaders who will not drain our common wealth just to feed on luxury foods. I guess I now know better by some of the contents of the Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly. But there is still hope. I expect the National Assembly to reject some of the frivolous items or price them down to a more acceptable sphere.

“At a time when the nation’s economy is nose-diving, austerity measures are required and must start from the very top. I don’t blame the President or the engineers of the 2016 budget for including all sorts of provisions that offend common sense but I will (mark the word will because it has not been passed yet) blame the National Assembly if they allow these expense items to go through and become the law. They should never allow it to stand. This is one rare opportunity for the National Assembly to redeem its image and prove to Nigerians that they’re not to rubber stamp executive actions, even those that are glaringly immoral.

Let me quickly add that the juxtaposition of actions of this present administration is not only ridiculous but most uncharitable on the masses who good in the rain, dared insecurity that was prevalent at that time to vote in this government to be constantly reminded of the past. If people were okay with the past, they won’t change from the past.”


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