29 December 2012

Nigeria: Jamboree of Spree Overheads (II)

At the time of submitting this page last week, the House of Representatives was debating the request of N161 billion which President Jonathan asked for in order to service fuel subsidy scheme. The House approved of the request in spite of the fury that initially greeted the presidential request in the two chambers of the National Assembly. In any case, many Nigerians were not amazed by the double-standard approach of the lawmakers whose actions (as widely believed today) are never to match their words.

The N161 billion must be lodged in the "Forbidden Fruits (FF)" account and never to be tampered with by any of the fraudulent oil and gas outfits officially designed for pilfering public funds including the Excess Crude Account (ECA); Sovereign Welfare Fund (SWF); Amnesty Programme (AP); PPPRA; NNPC; PPMC; DPR; SURE-P; etc.

To continue from where we stopped in the first part of this discourse, I present below a conservative catalogue of proposals on how government could use the "FF" account to impact positively, even if it were in few sectors, on the life of Nigerians. The "woodcarvers" who seem to have lost sensitivity to the plight of Nigerians in deciding what to "carve" for ordinary citizens with the nations resources could pick just few critical areas such as education, agric, health, and transport to provide the "little" they could with the "FF" funds, which balance in the first part of this piece stood at N451.4 billion. Are you surprised that power sector is not included in the list of areas recommended for intervention with the "FF" funds? I just feel we have had enough wastages, misappropriations, sabotages, stealing, deceptions and mendacious collaborations in that sector.

Out of the N451.4 billion in the "FF" account, each of the 34 Federal Universities in the country should receive N1 billion. This is to be used for giving a face-lift to the dilapidated physical structures on the campuses; provide essential teaching and learning materials in the laboratories, workshops, theatres, farms; update libraries with current research information and data in soft and hardcopies on various fields of study; and improve upon the state of classroom furniture and hostel accommodation for students. On no account must part of the N1billion naira be used by universities to service tours undertaken by university staff including vice chancellors. A total of N34 billion is required for this initiative. I recommend that the sum of N100 million be spent on one Basic Education School in each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in the country with a view to making each a model (at global standard) for other Basic Education Schools in the area. N77.4 billion is needed for this proposal. Similarly, I propose that N40 million is used to purchase school buses in all the 774 LGs for conveying pupils to and fro their schools at subsidized fares. A total of N30.9 billion (N40 million multiplied by 774 LGs) would be required for this scheme. When the monies proposed for the various projects in the education sector are added up together: N34 billion plus N77.4 billion plus N30.9 billion; the sub-total for education shall be N142.3 billion.

Under Agriculture, I suggest that 1,000 hectares of land be provided by each of the 774 LGAs in Nigeria and shared among 10 unemployed graduates at 100 hectares (one square kilometer) per person. The sum of N10 million should be given as a take-off grant to each of the 10 beneficiaries in each of the 774 LGAs to be selected through an entrepreneur aptitude test. The grant must be paid back within a period not exceeding 10 years. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) should be appointed to coordinate, monitor and evaluate the farming activities of the beneficiaries; taking appropriate legal actions against defaulters. This scheme which will gulp N77.4 billion "only" is expected to take off at least 7,740 unemployed graduates from streets nationwide.

When you deduct N142.3 billion (for education) and N77.4 billion (for agric) from the N451.4 billion in the "FF" account, we still have a balance of N231 billion to be spent for the benefit of Nigerians. I propose that this balance of the fund is expended on the health-care delivery. Women and children (0 to 5 years) should receive free medical attention in the treatment of common diseases and "minor" surgeries including malaria fever, typhoid fever, cough, diarrhea, dysentery, snake and scorpion bites, appendicitis, male circumcision, hernia and injuries from domestic accidents; at least for the next six months. To do this, each of the 774 LGAs in the country should receive N300 million.

Now that we have exhausted the N451.4 billion in the "FF" account, I remind readers of the N2.8 trillion which the Nuhu Ribadu-led Petroleum Task Force recommended for refund by oil companies. This amount (N2.8 trillion) is more than the 2013 budget proposals of the entire 19 northern states of Nigeria. I propose that the money should immediately be recovered and used to build six new refineries in each of the six geo-political zones in the country. This project will require N948 billion "only" at the cost of N158 billion ($1 billion) per refinery.

The question that logically comes up at this point of the discourse is whether those who will be in charge of disbursing and utilizing these monies are themselves not "woodcarvers" suffering from kleptomania; a psychological malady with many Nigerians especially public office holders. May Allah (SWT) guide those who consider public office or other privileges of life as an opportunity to test their "abilities" in the art of corruption unto the path of piety and godliness, amin.

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