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2019 budget has something for everybody

The 2019 draft budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari contains a lot of projects and programmes, to the extent that it…

The 2019 draft budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari contains a lot of projects and programmes, to the extent that it has one or more things that would have direct, positive benefit for every citizen and resident of Nigeria.  It has something positive for everybody.

The president said the process of putting the budget was inclusive: “This 2019 budget proposal has benefitted from extensive consultations and stakeholder engagements, reflecting our belief that all sectors have a critical role to play in our journey towards sustainable and inclusive development. It further demonstrates our commitments to deliver the dividends of democracy to all Nigerians in a more inclusive manner,’’ he stated.

One other distinctive feature of the budget proposal is that every item is linked to policies of the government and overarching strategic priority projects or actions that would contribute in taking Nigeria to the next level of progress and prosperity as a secured, united country.

It can also be said of the budget that by the time its proposed infrastructural developments are actualised, the physical landscape of the country would be different, as new railway tracks, expanded roads and brimming hydro power dams, which also facilitate irrigation farming, spring up across the country.

With emphasis on completing ongoing projects, some of them abandoned for decades by previous administrations, the objectives of the previous and current budgets of the Buhari administration are to ensure that the country no longer embarks on projects that have neither real nor actual impact on the wellbeing of the citizens. There must be value for money spent on every project.

The ongoing projects, which Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see completed, as contained in the 2019 budget proposals, span different sectors. In the power sector alone, N1.02 billion is set aside as fund for the Mambilla Hydro Power project; the sum of N400 million for completing the construction of 215MW LPFO/ gas power station in Kaduna, while the Kashimbilla transmission project would be completed with a provision of N388.5 million.

The president pointed out that: “In power, we are working on over 90 transmission projects across the country. Major power transmission stations like Mayo Belwa in Adamawa, Ejigbo and Odogunyan in Lagos, Apo in Abuja, Ikot-Ekpene switching station, Akwa Ibom, Maiduguri in Borno, Damaturu in Yobe, have been completed to support electricity transmission.”

The completed projects have certainly improved power supply and distribution in the states and communities the projects were meant to serve. As business activities picked up and social wellbeing enhanced as a result of the improved power supply, Nigerians are appreciating the successful effort in the nationwide improvement in power supply, which has cut their cost of on-site power generation.

To further improve the sector, a large portion of the N408billion capital allocations for the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in the 2019 budget proposals, is devoted to the power sector. And N30.04 billion has been provided for the Federal Government’s national housing programme in 2019. This is necessary in the effort to increase the national housing stock and reduce accommodation problem for Nigerians.

In the recurrent expenditure portion, the N2.29 trillion personnel costs include provision for a new minimum wage, settlement of pension arrears and outstanding salary increments and allowances for civil servants who were promoted to higher grade levels.  It is a comprehensive package that will improve the take-home pay of civil servants and consequently raise their purchasing power and ability to cater for the needs of their families better.

However, there are more ongoing capital projects that are scheduled for continuation and completion, on which the president said: “In order to get full value for monies expended by the government overtime, and to avoid duplication and waste, our emphasis will continue to be on completion of existing projects. Accordingly, provisions have been made to carry over projects that are not likely to be fully funded under the 2018 budget to the 2019 capital budget.”

Those projects, especially railway projects, which all Nigerians are talking about and expect to benefit from when completed, were listed by the president himself.  “In addition to completing the Ibadan-Kano rail line, we will also embark upon and move rapidly to complete the eastern rail from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, passing through Aba, which will connect to Abakaliki, Awka, Enugu, Owerri, Umuahia, then through Makurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Gombe.  The coastal rail from Calabar to Lagos will also be completed as we aim to build a true national rail network that links all state capitals,” he further stated.

The sum of N80.22 billion has been set aside as counterpart funding for railway projects, which include the new Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi in Niger Republic and the completion of the Abuja-Itakpe and Aladja (Warri)-Warri port and refinery, including the Warri New Harbour and the new Bonny deep sea port, Port Harcourt line.

The Social Investment Programme (SIP), on which N500 billion was utilised in 2018, will be replicated in 2019.  In 2018, it achieved these results: The N-Power scheme, which led to the creation of 500,000 jobs for graduates; the National Home-Grown School Feeding programme is feeding 9,300,892 pupils in 49, 837 schools in 24 states across Nigeria and empowering 96,972 cooks and food suppliers.

The sum of N1,378,804 loan has been given to small businesses and farmers in all states, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), under the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). These are repayable interest- free loans; while 297,973 poorest households in 26 states across the country are benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme.

The 2019 draft budget gives hope to millions of Nigerians. It promises to truly transform our country for the better.  The Nationally Assembly is challenged to speed up work on the budget and avoid tempering with its contents unduly.

 

Dambatta, a senior journalist and former director in the Ministry of Finance, wrote from Abuja

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