Mixed reactions yesterday trailed President Muhammadu Buhari's N8.61 trillion fiscal spending plan for 2018 submitted to the National Assembly on Tuesday.
Oil workers under the auspices of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) urged the National Assembly to reject a plan to sell profitable oil and gas assets in the industry as scraps to fund the 2018 budget.
The workers, who said there are other models to fund the budget, advised government to endeavour to repair assets that are in bad state rather than sell them as scraps to some businessmen and politicians.
The National Public Relations Officer of PENGASSAN, Comrade Fortune Obi said: "The government should critically evaluate the assets to look at their viability and profitability. Assets such as Nigeria Liquefy Natural Gas (NLNG) and shares in the upstream oil and gas JV operations that have become a huge revenue earner for the country should be kept by the government to the benefit of the Nigerian majority."
The National Association of Polytechnics Students (NAPS) rejected the seven per cent allocated to education, saying it is irrelevant compared to the 26 per cent national minimum budget recommended by the United Nations.
In a statement jointly signed by NAPS National President, Mohammed Eneji and National Public Relations Officer, Ijaduoye Olasunkanmi, they said the Buhari-led administration has no regard for education in the country, as it continues to pay less attention to the sector which should be given priority.
"The global organization recommended the budgetary benchmark to enable nations to adequately cater for rising education demands. But in the proposal presented to the National Assembly, President Buhari allocated only 7.04 per cent of the N8.6 trillion 2018 budget to the education. The total sum allocated to the sector is N605.8 billion with N435.1 billion for recurrent expenditure, N61.73 billion for capital expenditure."
But the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, and others commended the budget, saying the
presentation would bring better alignment between the private and public sector budgets.
They expressed optimism about the returning of the budget cycle from January to December and urged the government to be more realistic in its exchange rate.
Yusuf said: "This is good for planning purposes both in the public and the private sectors because many of the private investors also run January to December budgeting cycle and quite a number of them also have one or two things to do with the government, which will bring a better alignment between the private sector budget cycle and the public budget cycle."
According to him, the assumptions are generally realistic. There could be some issues here and there but generally the assumptions are okay except for the exchange rate which is N305 because we all know that the rate in the economy today is not anywhere near N305."
Experts in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector who spoke to The Guardian called for monitoring and faithful implementation of the budget.
President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said going forward, the 2017 budget should be reviewed to know its performance generally.
Teniola said after the 2017 budget must have been adequately reviewed, "concentration should come on 2018. It should be adequately monitored so that its execution can be total, especially relating to all aspects of ICTs expenditure within the MDAs."
The ATCON President admitted that the 2018 budget is a balanced budget, "however, the non-oil revenue receipts are based on the implementation of ICT services that can ensure the collection of taxes, blocking of revenue leakages within the system and removal of ghost workers as stated by President Buhari."
The President of the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS), Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, lamented that there has not been much allocation to the Ministry of Communication. "A country that wants to diversify from oil, but failing to give credence and support to the ICT sector, might find it difficult thriving at a time most countries have enthroned a knowledge economy."
The Lead Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CENSO), Mr. Eze Onyekpere said he was not excited by the budget presentation due to poor implementation of past budgets.
Also, a development economist, Mr. Odilim Enwegbara, said the presentation of the budget did not excite him because the administration lacks the ability to bring positive change through delivery of the dividends of democracy.