The Senate and the House of Representatives on Tuesday passed the revised 2020 budget of N10.505 trillion.
Analysis of the revised budget by Dataphyte showed a cut in Universal Basic Education, UBEC, fund by more than 54.2 percent, from N111.7bn to N51.1bn. This is even as an estimated 13 million Nigerian children are out-of-school and public schools infrastructure at all levels across the country remain largely dilapidated and not fit for quality learning.
The Basic Health Care Provision Fund, BHFC, which is meant to cater for all the primary healthcare centres across the 774 local government areas in the country, was significantly reduced from N44.4bn to N25.5bn, a decrease of more than 42.5 percent.
In a contrasting move, funds allocated to the National assembly only got a 10 percent reduction from N128bn to N111.5bn This is in addition to the N9.3bn allocated to the renovation of the National Assembly complex and the N2bn for the National Assembly library project.
A 2018 report published by Premium Times Centre For Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ highlighted lack of water supply, poor power supply, unqualified medical personnel, expired/irregular drugs and abandoned/partially completed buildings as some major issues affecting the functionality of Primary Health Care Centres. Out of its 191 member states, World Health Organisation ranked Nigeria’s healthcare system 187 in 2018. The WHO report cited poor budgetary allocations as of one the challenges of Nigeria’s healthcare system.
Speaking to an24.net, Gabriel Okewo, Chief Executive Officer of BudgIT described the 2020 revised budget as disappointing and an indication that the priority of government isn’t the welfare of citizens.
“We are looking at the details of the budget and based on the analysis we have done and those done by other organisations, we can see that there has been massive reductions across board and while we understand that these reductions happened because of the effects of the pandemic, this situation also brings up issues that need to be resolved in terms of our legislation and where we can say the priorities of government lies.
“The budget is disappointing and makes me feel as though there is no hope but in the context of what we do, we know that the only way is to keep forging ahead, knocking on the door of government till they listen to us.
UBEC fund was cut by 54 percent and what goes into BHCF was cut by 43 percent while what goes into statutory organisations like National Assembly, National Judicial Council…etc were cut by just 10 percent.
He also noted that although the law provides for the allocation of only one percent and two percent of consolidated revenue to UBEC and BHFC respectively, this referred to minimum and there was no limit to the maximum that can be allocated
He said: “On the other hand, the existing law that guides what goes into UBEC and BHCF is directly tied to revenue so we have a situation where one percent of consolidated revenue is meant to be for Basic Healthcare Fund so generally when revenue goes up, allocations to these sectors go up also and vice-versa.
“However, the legislation only stated this as minimum, there is no maximum but what we have seen our government do in this case is holding on to what the legislation says which is one percent but the truth is there is no maximum and a government that prioritises health and education can go beyond that amount. The idea of legislation is to put a cap on the minimum you can budget for these sectors in a given fiscal year. It is not saying the maximum you can budget.
“The 2020 budget was passed and approved just before the year began and there was a provision of N37 billion to renovate the national assembly. This is June and the National Assembly has not been renovated. Some of us that are familiar with that facility know that it can still be less prioritised over health and education of Nigeria and that is what we are advocating for.
“So for us, its a question of where government’s priority lies. If the priority of the government lies in the welfare of the people, they would allocate more to health and education.
“We are talking about education; it has been three months since we shut down practically all sectors of our nation and no government school be it primary, secondary or tertiary can confidently continue learning like the private schools. This shows that there is a deficiency because in other nations even though there is a lockdown, education has not been halted.”
He emphasised the need for citizens to collectively demand accountability from elected officials.
“We need to galvanise as citizens, we need to raise our voice collectively, let us show where our own priority lies too but there has been a lot of citizens apathy
“But you find a situation where some of us are advocating and others have been bought off by the same people that are messing the system up their future.”