The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
• Govt slashes primary health care centres’ fund from N44.4bn to N25.5bn; UBE, N111.7bn to N51.1bn
Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The Federal Government has reduced the N37bn budget for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to N27.7bn.
The Federal Government, in the 2020 revised budget proposal, according to documents obtained by our correspondent on Tuesday, cut N9.3bn from the budget for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.
The renovation of the complex at the initial cost of N37bn, which is to be executed by the Federal Capital Territory Administration, attracted criticisms from a large section of Nigerians last year.
However, following the drop in the price of crude oil and a fall in the projected government revenue, it was learnt that the Federal Government decided to reduce the budget for the renovation.
The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had on Thursday presented the 2020 Appropriation Act (amendment) Bill to the National Assembly, which both the Senate and the House passed for second reading same day.
Buhari explained that the amendment became necessary in view of the sharp decline in crude oil prices and the cut in Nigeria’s crude oil production quota occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Basic health care slashed by 42.5 per cent
In the proposed revised budget, while the National Assembly complex renovation budget was reduced to N27.7bn (a reduction of 25.1 per cent), the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, which is meant to cater for all the primary healthcare centres across the 774 local government areas in the country, was significantly reduced by N44.4bn to N25.5bn, a decrease of more than 42.5 per cent
The BHCPF is made up of one per cent of the Federal Government Consolidated Revenue from international partners such as the World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Sates Agency for International Development.
It is the fundamental funding provision under the National Health Act and was appropriated for the first time in the 2018 budget since the Act was signed in 2014.
UBE fund reduced by over 54.25%
The Universal Basic Education fund was also reduced significantly from N111.7bn to N51.1bn, by more than 54.2 per cent, according to documents obtained by Dataphyte, an open data organisation.
The UBE is a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to quality basic education throughout Nigeria.
It seeks to ensure an uninterrupted access to nine-year formal education by providing free, and compulsory basic education for every child of school-going age.
N’Assembly, NJI’s allocations cut by 10%
Incidentally, the budget for the National Assembly which was N128bn was cut by only 10 per cent, bringing its revised total budget to N115.2bn.
The same calculation was applied to the National Judicial Council as its N110bn original budget was reduced by just 10 per cent, bringing it down to N99bn.
Cut in critical sectors’ allocations, a setback – Dataphyte
Speaking with The PUNCH on Tuesday, the Founder, Dataphyte, Mr Joshua Olufemi, described the cuts in critical sectors like education and health as a setback to Nigeria’s quest for development.
Olufemi said, “But the bigger dilemma borders on Nigeria’s priority. While budgetary allocations to the National Judicial Council, National Assembly, Independent National Electoral Commission, and other agencies of government have been reduced only by about 10 per cent respectively, budgetary provision for education is reduced by close to 55 per cent.
“Similarly, provision for basic health care fund is reduced by over 42 per cent. With the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, reduction in budgetary share for education and healthcare does not reflect the prioritisation of the citizen’s real needs.
With the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the country, an increase in budget share to the health sector is expected. To expand education access to the teeming Nigerian schoolchildren who are deprived of education during this period, additional budgetary commitment is also required. This is to cover up the cost of setting up virtual learning alternatives.”
It’s shameful, says CACOL
In his comment, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, said it was unfortunate that Nigeria, which is the poverty capital of the world, would relegate the health and education sectors.
Adeniran said Nigeria had one of the highest maternal and mortality rates in the world as well as out of school children and the government ought to give priority to health and education.
He said, “Why should we waste N27bn on building that is not showing any sign of distress? It is a misplaced priority and a total waste. The National Assembly doesn’t need repainting let alone renovation.
“Nigeria is the poverty capital in the world despite being one of the most endowed countries. It is the misplaced of priorities that brought us to this sorry state we found ourselves.
“Nigerians are dying from treatable and preventable diseases and the government thinks it is right to slash the health budget while maintaining the N27bn for renovation? It is a shame.”
N27bn allocation for N’Assembly renovation, injustice to Nigerians – HDA
Also speaking to The PUNCH, the Executive Director of Human and Development Agenda, Lanre Suraj, said Buhari could not claim not to be aware of the injustice being done to Nigerians.
Suraj said reducing the health budget showed that the government had not learnt any lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “It will be very difficult to absolve the President of the blame. This is a disservice to young people and Nigerians in general. It is obvious the government doesn’t have the interest of the masses at heart.
“The pandemic has exposed the poor state of the public health centres as they have failed to meet up to standard in the pandemic. To reduce the basic health care fund by almost 50 per cent and then maintain the budget for National Assembly complex renovation which has no bearing on the people is a betrayal of trust and all citizens must reject it.”
When contacted on the telephone, the Special Adviser on Media and Communications, Yunusa Abdullahi, asked our correspondent to send a text message so he could respond appropriately. He had yet to respond as of press time.
In December last year, there was outrage over N37bn budgeted for the renovation amid dwindling allocations to important sectors.
Curiously, before the budget was reviewed, while N37bn was budgeted for the repair of the National Assembly complex, N36.6 billion was allocated for the repair of federal roads.
Buttresses the Senate had said the outrage was misplaced on the grounds that the National Assembly leadership played no role either in the approval, the execution or the cost of the project.