By Myke Uzendu, Abuja
Former Vice-President and the Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, has stressed that for the country to successfully contain the negative economic impact of the corona virus pandemic, the national budget must be slashed by more than 25 per cent and national priorities realigned.
He expressed worry that despite the global economic doom that is imminent, the Federal Government only slashed its budget by a mere 0.6 percent, from ₦10.594 trillion to ₦ 10.523 trillion, which is a reduction of only ₦71 billion.
Atiku in a statement on Thursday pointed out that Saudi Arabia and other stronger economies have already slashed their budget by more than 30 percent, so as to contain the looming recession. He advised that with the free fall the mainstay of the nations economy which is oil, all luxuries in the budget must have to give way for more pressing national needs.
According to Atiku, “The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced. The ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go. The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized. The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be jettisoned. Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.
“Any budget slash that is less than 25% will not be in the interest of Nigeria. And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare. We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people”.
Atiku recalled that when the budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a projection that the nation would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel. He lamented that as at today, both the production capacity and the price of oil have been severely affected by the corona virus pandemic, to the extent that the country have unsold vessels, and its income tanked by more than 50%.
“Saudi Arabia, a nation with a much stronger production capacity than ours and with a larger global market share, as well as foreign reserves that is 12 times ours, has slashed her budget by almost 30%. Ditto for other oil economies. Nigeria cannot make up for the loss of expected revenue by taking out more loans and issuing out more bonds.
“Debt will be the death of our economy and bonds will put our people in bondage. The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure. And a 0.6% reduction is no reduction. It is only window dressing”.
The Waziri Adamawa further counselled the Federal Government to put Nigerians first and adjust its budget according to current realities. He said that such was the sacrifice leaders must make.
“These are the types of sacrifices that we need in a time of crisis. We do not need empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.
“In times of austerity, no nation, not the least a mono product economy, such as ours, should be living in luxury at a leadership level” Atiku said.