A former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, has advised the Nigerian government to cut the billions budgeted for luxury feeding and traveling for the presidency to save cost as the country battles the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr Abubakar, in a statement posted on his Facebook page on Thursday, said despite the crash in the oil price, Nigeria’s inability to expand her non-oil sector revenue base only defines how the country has lost touch with the realities that come with the pandemic.
He also described the federal government’s slash of its budget by N71 billion at 0.6 per cent from N10.594 trillion to N10.523 trillion, as “grossly insufficient”.
“For the avoidance of doubt, when this budget was presented to the National Assembly on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, it was predicated on a projection that our nation would generate crude oil production of 2.18 million barrels a day, at an expected oil price of $57 per barrel.
“Today that is no longer the case. Both our production, and the price of oil have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic, to the extent that we have unsold vessels, and our income has tanked by more than 50 per cent.
“How can anyone justify a reduction in expenditure of just 0.6 per cent from ₦10.594 trillion to ₦ 10.523 trillion. This represents a reduction of only ₦71 billion. We cannot be the only nation bucking the trend,” Mr Atiku said.
Nigeria’s crude oil at the moment is sold below its budgetary benchmark at $30, following the global crash in crude oil due the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, the U.S. crude oil price dropped to its lowest level since the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) opened oil futures trading in 1983.
Since the drop, Nigeria’s benchmark crude oil grade, Bonny Light, slumped to an average $12-$13 per barrel, heightened apprehension about Nigeria abandoning oil production amid declining prices – prompting the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to eliminate non-critical expenditures in its 2020 budget, according to a memo seen by PREMIUM TIMES.
In the same vein, President Buhari had ordered the review of the Oronsaye report aimed at reducing the size of the government and identifying inadequacies in the civil service – headed by Stephen Oronsaye, a former head of civil service.
But, Mr Abubakar, who was the presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party in the 2019 election, said instead of slashing the salaries of civil servants, the massive budgets to run both the presidency and the legislature “has to be downsized.”
He also said the ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly be scrapped, as well salaries of political appointees be reduced and a number of the jets in the presidential air fleet be sold, to save costs.
The former vice president said in times of austerity, no nation should be living in luxury at a leadership level.
“The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure. And a 0.6% reduction is no reduction. It is only window dressing.
“My counsel to the Federal Government of Nigeria is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth.
“Realistically slash the budget. Every pork barrel has to go. The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced.
“The ₦27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go. The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized.
“The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be abandoned. Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.
“Any budget slash that is less than 25 per cent will not be in the interest of Nigeria. And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare. We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people.
“These are the types of sacrifices that we need in a time of crisis. We do not need empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.”