2020: How Nigeria’s Economy And Security Situation Moved From Bad To Worse As Buhari Signs The 2021 Budget Into Law

By Stephen Ubanna

 A few hours from now, Nigerians and people from other parts of the world would enter into 2021. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had lamented that the Asia country of China , popular, COVID 19, HAD worsened the world economy , particular, Nigeria. This may have informed why the former President has urged Nigerians to work hard  and pray for the success of the country .

The former Nigerian President  who lamented  the insecurity and poor  economic state o of the country , noted that 2020, had been a challenging year , but the bad decisions of those running the affairs of the country  had left the country in the current bad situation  of worsening insecurity and the economy moving from bad to worse. ‘’Nigerians does not have to be poor’’, he had said.

Former President Obasanjo Blames Current State Of The Economy And To Bad Decisions

  Aware that the Nigerian Economy over is not what the people had expected it to be by the promises of the ruling Al Progressive Congress, APC,  government, first in 2015 and now,  may have informed why  President President Muhammadu Buhari  has changed approach in running the economy  in 2021. This is evident in the signing of the 2021  Fiscal budget a few hours to  the end of 2020.

 As a prelude to reviving the damaged economy  and  tackling the insecurity in the country,  the Katsina state born Nigerian President  on Thursday, December 31, 2020,  signed the N133.5 trillion  budget and the Finance bill into Law  three days after it was transmitted  to him by the National Assembly. The Nigerian President had presented  the proposed  2021 budget to  the Ahmad Lawan and Femi Gbajabiamila led National Assembly on October 8, 2020. 

The Lawmakers in approving  the 2021 budget  on December 21, 2020,  had raised budgetary estimate by N505 billion, thus bringing the total budgetary estimate for the 2021 Fiscal year to N 13.588 trn. An elated Nigerian President had said that the budget signing  ‘’is to ensure  a January to December  budget Calendar.

Tagged a’’ budget of economic recovery and resilience’’, the Nigerian President who could not hide his feelings  disclosed that it is critical for   a legacy  of his administration  in enhancing the security, economic growth and implementing  the health and emergency  measures to Counter the spread of the Asian country of  China  emerged coronavirus, popular COVID 19, and the United Kingdom , UK,  New COVID 19.

In signing the multi-trillion naira 2021  budget,  he had assured Nigerians  that ‘’it will address  the challenges  caused by the Pandemic  on the economic, resulting in recession. Perhaps to ensure that the government  is not starved of funds to execute projects outlined in the budget that would facilitate  taking the economy out of the woods and improving the security situation of the country, the Nigerian President has sent   a warning message to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Nigerian Customs Service, Nigerian Inland Revenue Service, NIRS, and other revenue  generating agencies to remit early to the Federation Account to avoid sanctions.

 Recall that the 2019, Appropriation bill of N8.92 trillion was signed into Law on May 27 , While that of  the N10.8 trillion,  2020, budget  was signed into Law  last July. The dislocation of the economy and heightened insecurity in the country was said to have started in 2016, with the signing of the year’s N6.06 trillion budget in May, thus leaving the economy cash strapped. The trend continued in subsequent years. The situation was so back as the Force was underfunded and there was no money to buy modern equipment for the military prosecuting the anti-terrorist war in the north east states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. It was not surprising that the government had to resort to borrowing to cover the shortfall in revenue generation.    

The worry of many was that  the Nigerian President  from the onset may have developed interest to external borrowing  by not paying  much interest to ensure that the National Assembly pass the Appropriation  as at when do. He may have ralised the  extensive damage done to the  economy with the  continuous  delay in  signing the yearly appropriation that he had woken up from  sleep as the country prepares from the 2023 general elections that would usher in a new government.

Although, he had surprised Nigerians by signing the  202 budget barely  a few hours to the end of the 2020, Fiscal year, but his his thoughts for more loan requests to the All Progressive Congress, APC, dominated National Assembly remains.  He was emphatic on the loans  when he declared while signing the 2021 budget  that ‘’ specific borrowing plans  will be forwarded  to the National Assembly soon’’. Recall that the Lawan led Senate had said  that the country’s total debt profile  had increased to N33 trn with  the approval of N22.7 billion  loan request by the Buhari government.

This may have given the people the impression that the Lawmakers would never want to look at any further request  to borrow , because of the amount budgeted annually to service such  loans.  Take for instance in 2021, the Nigerian President   had budgeted N3 trn to service loans, both local and Foreign, seen by economic analysts  as a drain to economy.

Lawan: Senate President, Sees Buhari Government Borrowng As Natural

The duo, Lawan and Gbajabiamila, both Principal officers in the National Assembly,  would not  want  Nigerians to be bothered by the government planned  borrowing  but ‘’ focus  on what the loans will be used for’’.  They  may not have seen anything wrong in the government seeking for more loans going by their Statement  that ‘’borrowing  is a natural option to be adopted by  governments   when there is a shortfall in their revenue  generation.  The  duo , who, many belive  have a good working relationship with the Nigerian President, may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians  when they said  that  the National Assembly  will ensure  that ‘’ monies borrowed ,  must be used for Capital projects they are slated for’’.

The argument of critics  is that the $22.7 billion that had been borrowed by the Buhari administration over the last five years to provide basic infrastructural facilities had not made any  appreciable impact on the economy but have worsened the security situation of the country. But  Abba Ali,  a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria would not agree.

Hear him: the worsened  state of insecurity in the country  was inherited by the APC government from the former Jonathan administration. Ali noted that’’ the Buhari led APC, government is doing all  they can  to make sure  that people are secured’’. Emmanuel Orker –Jerv, a Benue state  Senator, elected on the Platform of the PDP,   may have countered Ali’s claims that Buhari has done well in the area of security,  when he  said that the country has gone from ‘’ bad to worse in the area of security’’. He cited  the November 28, 2020,  attack  in Zambari village  in Borno state  by Boko Haram insurgents  where 44 ice farmers were  gunned  down.

The Benue born Senator contended that  the Abubakar Shekau, led terrorist group  and the Islamic State of West African Province, ISWAP, in the recent time  have launched  series  of attacks  in the north east bordering  Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states with hundreds of people  said to have  been killed by the insurgents.    

Financial analysts  believe that if past and present administration,s had utilised all the  borrowed money to execute projects  as planned , the country may  not have been in this  economic and security mess. NThere were   allegations against the   former Jonathan administration by the then Opposition , APC,  that a substantial  part of the $1billion  from the EXIM Bank of China, meant for  the construction  of a standard  guage rail line linking Lagos and Kano states was diverted  under the  close watch of  Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then minister of Finance and Coordinator of the  Economy.

The allegations may not have carried weight compared to what is happening now, as the Former minister  of Finance had told those that cares to listen that  the China –EXIM Bank  keeps and disburses the funds  to approved  projects to Contractors based on milestones.

 The ex-minister’s  explanation on the  China EXIM Bank loan may be different from what  Rotimi Amaechi, a former  governor of Rivers state and now minister of Transportation, had said about the $5.3 billion loan for the Construction  of the  Ibadan  to Kano  rail. He may have known that the country may not be able to repay the loan , as clause in the  agreement paper that was said to have been  written in Cinese language states  ‘’if the country  fail to pay back the loan, whatever  the Asian country may want to take from the Nigeria, the Asian industrial giant is free to do so. T                The Opposition PDP  had seen  as the country mortgaging its Sovereignity to China, which is  another form of neo-Colonialism  but the minister insists that  would not amount to the country  losing its sovereignty to China.

This may not be what Nigerians would not hear from the minister  but to know  how the $5.3 billion is being spent and who is controlling the release of the Funds as Okonjo-Iweala, Former President  Jonathan’s minister of Finance and Coordinator did in the case of the disbursement of the $1 billion EXIM Bank of China loan. It was very clear and nothing shaddy.

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