By Drew Povey
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was first elected in 2015 with the promise to reduce corruption and increase spending that would benefit the labouring classes. He claimed that his government would bring ‘Change’. Since then nothing has changed for the better. Corruption has increased. The value of the minimum wage has fallen. Spending on education and health has not seen any significant change for the better.
The economy has grown by nearly 12% since 2015 (and it was three times higher in 2015 than in 1999). This is despite falls in the price of crude oil (with recent recovery) and the impact of Covid-19 (made worse by the over-reaction of the government and imposition of lock-downs). In 2015 the federal budget was just over N4 trillion. A federal budget of just over N16 trillion was presented to the National Assembly earlier this month. So, government spending in 2022 is planned to be nearly four times the level when Buhari came to power in 2015. However, this massive growth in the economy and increases in government spending has not benefited the poor.
In contrast, the rich are richer beyond their wildest dreams and continue to benefit legally and illegally from government largess. In May 2017, fewer than 30 executive jets flew to Minna for Babangida’s daughter’s wedding. This is a 40% increase in wealth in only four years! Now, there are said to be 150 executive jet owners in Nigeria, but most have failed the verification tests or not paid the required dues to the Customs Service. There is no change in impunity for these people.
In contrast, the poor continue to suffer in abject poverty – 40% estimated by the National Bureau of Statistics. The minimum wage increase due in 2016 was not assented to by the President until April 2019 and there is no mention of the increase due for 2021. For most families, the two key areas of expenditure that in many countries are covered by the government are education and health. These remain a huge burden due to the failures of the governments at federal and state levels. No wonder that Nigeria is the out-of-school capital of the world and has worse health outcomes than almost any other African country.
56 developing countries’ governments, members of the Global Partnership for Education, agreed to spend at least of 20% of their total annual budgets on education. In 2015, when Buhari came to power, the figure was more than 12% for the federal budget. For 2022, Buhari is proposing less than 8%. At least the annual reductions since 2015 have now been reversed.
In 2001, African governments pledged to spend at least 15% of their budgets on health in the Abuja Declaration. Buhari has increased the proportion spent on health from 4.2% for 2021 to 5% for 2022. At this rate it will take at least another 12 years to reach the 2001 target.
In contrast, Buhari is proposing to spend more on Defence and Security than the total for education and health combined. Defence and Security are to receive 15% of the federal budget in 2022. So, Buhari is planning to spend more on the security forces than the total for educating and treating Nigerians. Perhaps if the government was to spend more relieving the huge burdens of families trying to educate their children and keep themselves healthy, less would be needed to address the problems of insecurity.
Using figures released by the Minister of Finance on the budget, for oil price, production and exchange rate; government income is now 50% higher than expected a year ago. Remember this when governors claim they have no money to pay salaries and pensions! Crude oil prices are now well over $80, double the level expected for the 2021 budget.
Buhari has not delivered the promised change – it is only the wealthy that continue to benefit from the massive growth in budgets over the last seven years.
Povey, Iva Valley Books, Paschal Bafyau Labour House, Cenral Business District, Abuja