Nigeria: Revised Budget - Anger Over Cuts in Health, Education Votes

President Muhammadu Buhari, National Assembly (file photo).

Nigerians have condemned the cuts in budgetary allocations to critical sectors in the federal government's revised 2020 budget proposal.

The ministries of health, education, science and technology and agriculture are among the worst hit by capital expenditure reductions.

The review is due to the fall of oil price and the projected government revenue following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill had passed through second reading last Thursday in both chambers and was referred to the committees on appropriations.

The committees are expected to submit their reports next Tuesday.

The budget size was cut by N84bn from N10.594trn to N10.509trn.

But a close look at the document showed that while recurrent expenditure and debt servicing were jerked up, capital allocations to critical sectors and statutory transfer suffered a downward review.

Debt servicing was increased from N2.7trn to N2.9trn, and recurrent expenditure from N4.8trn to N4.9trn.

While statutory transfers decreased by 28.9 percent to N398.505 billion, capital expenditure reduced by close to 10 percent to N2.2 trillion.

MDAs with biggest cuts in capital expenditure

According to the revised document obtained by Dataphyte, an open data organisation, the ministry of works and housing got the highest cut of N58.83 billion. Its capital expenditure was slashed from ₦315.57 billion to ₦256.74 billion.

The federal ministry of agriculture and rural development came second with a reduction in capital expenditure from ₦124.4 billion to ₦79 billion.

The capital allocation for the federal ministry of health was cut by ₦15.17 billion.

Provisions for the transport and science and technology ministries were slashed by ₦14.71 billion and ₦20.47 billion respectively.

The ministry of education got ₦16.86 billion cut; FCTA ₦32.75 billion and the Presidency ₦9.1 billion.

UBE, NDDC, NEDC, Health fund suffer biggest cuts in statutory transfers

In the revised budget proposal, budgetary allocation to the National Assembly complex renovation was reduced by 25% from N37 billion to N27.7 billion, provisions for education and health were cut by 54% and 42% respectively.

Universal Basic Education fund was slashed from N111bn to N51 billion, while Basic Health Care Fund was reduced from N44 billion to N25 billion.

Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) got N44 billion, a reduction from N80 billion; North East Development Commission was allocated N20 billion against N38 billion earlier approved.

Nigerians condemn cuts

Industrialists, academics and other Nigerians have condemned the cuts in critical sectors' allocations in the revised budget.

Francis Agbo, a member, House of Representatives (Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadibo federal constituency), from Benue said "we have in clear terms asked the Executive to restore the health and UBE projects removed under the unacceptable excuse of COVID- 19", he told Daily Trust.

Height of insensitivity -PDP

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejected the budget slash saying it is the height of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerians.

The PDP in a statement on Wednesday, by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, asked President Buhari to recall the budget, rework the figures to reflect a 100% increase in the initial figures as a step towards meeting the needs of the citizens in these sectors.

The PDP argued that in slashing the budget for the primary healthcare and UBE in a country of over 200 million people "who are already economically overburdened", the Buhari administration has shown it has no interest of the masses at heart.

The party said no government, which genuinely mean well for its citizens, will vote "a paltry" N25.5 billion for basic health care for 200 million people in 774 local governments, particularly at a time the nation is facing huge health challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the provision for renovation of the National Assembly complex, which is not in a distress state, was a scandalous misplacement of national priority.

Failure to address growing inequalities -SERAP

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project asked the United Nations to prevail on Nigeria to halt the planned expenditure on NASS complex renovation.

An urgent appeal letter dated June 3, 2020, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation requested three United Nations special rapporteurs to prevail on the federal government and the National Assembly to immediately reverse the disproportionate and discriminatory budgetary cuts to education and healthcare amid COVID-19.

"The budget cuts show failure to address the growing economic and social inequality in the country, and to genuinely address the consequences of COVID-19 on the poor and marginalised groups. Nigeria's budget deficits are caused by excessive expenditures on politicians' allowances and mismanagement," SERAP said.

NLC, experts want health, education prioritised

The Nigeria Labour Congress also expressed dismay at the decision to slash the budgets in the primary healthcare and education system.

"It was not a wise decision actually to cut the provisions for health and the provision for education" the President of the Union, Ayuba Wabba told Daily Trust.

Wabba maintained that organised labour's position is that the government must continue to prioritise the issue of education so that the children of the poor can be able to have quality education without limitation.

An industrialist, Prof. Adesoji Adesugba, said the federal government should have prioritised healthcare and education while reversing the budget to reflect current realities.

Adesugba, who is the founder and Provost of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Business Entrepreneurship Skills and Technology Centre, told Daily Trust that an adjustment should be made from such headings as the National Assembly and the National Judicial Council in favour of budgetary allocations to primary health care centres and the very important Universal Education Fund.

The Director of the Policy Centre of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Olawale Rasheed said the restructuring of the budget was "quite cosmetic" considering the low overall reduction.

Dr Son Gyoh, a development specialist based in Ireland, also told our correspondent that the budget cuts were scandalous.

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