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.
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.
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.