By Yemi Adedeji, Abuja
Human Rights Writers Association of Nigera (HURIWA) has described President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2018 budget speech before the National Assembly as “empty ritual” and “political rhetorics”,
A statement issued in Abuja by Emmanuel Onwubiko, National Coordinator of the group, in reaction to the 2018 budget speech rendered before the joint session of the National Assembly by Pressident Buhari, said there were no evidence-based empirical proofs to show that the extant 2017 budget has been implemented optimally going by the declining standards of living by millions of Nigerians.
Onwubiko noted that findings from all across Nigeria show dilapidated situations of core strategic national infrastructures such as primary, secondary and tertiary health sector, educational sector, road networks and importantly, the widening chasm between the few rich and over 120 million heavily impoverished Nigerians.
He lamented that the allowances of military combatants in the ongoing counter – terror war haven’t been paid up to date and wondered where the humongous budgetary releases to the Ministry of Defence have gone to even.
Onwubiko stated: “in the last one year there have been more deaths by suicides caused by absolute poverty than in recorded history of Nigeria and therefore we wonder whether the outgoing budget was implemented for the benefits of aliens or for real Nigerians who are living from hands to mouths in their millions due to grinding poverty and lack of effective economic empowerment programmes and social support programmes to mitigate the unwarranted and horrendous human sufferings”.
He said the clearest evidence that the 2017 budget has not been sufficiently implemented or that the fund released may have disappeared into private pockets of officials is the poor state of equipment and services at the presidential clinic in Abuja and the total breakdown of social amenities including pipe borne water at the Murtallah Mohammed International Airport, Lagos and the Akanu Ibiam International Airport in Enugu as discovered by the National Assembly’s Aviation Committees during oversight visits to the rapidly deteriorating aviation infrastructures last week.
“Where then are the fund released for these subheads in the extant budget? Onwubiko queried.
“The claim by President Buhari that a whooping N1.2 trillion has been spent on capital budget this year is being economical with the truth because most national infrastructures have collapsed as can be seen in the pot- holes’ infested federal highways all over the country and especially in the South East of Nigeria.
“The claim that Abuja rail project has been pushed to 98 percent completion in 18 months is neither here- nor -there because of the obvious pragmatic evidences that abounds in the streets of Abuja on the abysmal lack of efficient transportation system. The paltry N10 billion allocation made to the second Niger Bridge is grossly insufficient going by the strategic need to complete a second Niger Bridge urgently to stop the lone Niger bridge built over half a century ago from imminent collapse.”
He also faulted the implementation of the 2017 budget in the interior ministry and especially in the prison sector because of the overwhelming evidence that the moribund prison infrastructures erected many decades ago are collapsing whereas no new prison facility has been built even as the welfare and health conditions of awaiting trial inmates and the prisoners have rapidly deteriorated to an emergency situation with many succumbing to the cold hands of sudden deaths and there were many recorded incidents of prison breaks.
“The budget of consolidation valued at N8.6 Trillion for the 2018 budget may appear humongous but because of the overwhelming presence of federal cabinet officials not committed to the crusade to enthrone transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public fund, these sums may amount to nothing since a great chunk of it would inevitably be stolen. it may as well become the budget of consolidation of official heists.” He said
“We challenge President Buhari to reconstitute his bogus cabinet made up of “dead woods” to infuse fresh blood and young but committed patriots who are to be made to sign a bond of performance and strict adherence to the principle of rule of law and respect for ethical codes of transparency and accountability,” the group added.