The new year is less than a month old, traditionally , the new year is a period when people make resolutions which should guide their way in the new year. It is trite to say that most people make new year resolutions but abandon such resolutions midway into the new year, it does not still stop such resolutions from being made, year in, year out.
It is the same with government. Governments all over the world also make new year resolutions. Their new year resolutions are always comprehensively prepared , encompassing all facets of their societies, and that is what is always referred to as the budget.
Nigeria is not much different. The government has equally made its new year resolution through its budget which was presented to the National Assembly by President Mohammadu Buhari on December 14, 2016, two weeks and few days before the end of the year. The National Assembly has also received the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), according to the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma.
All these are all well and good. Government has done its yearly ritual. The people have listened as usual, knowing that not much would change, going by previous budgets, but still full of hope.
Inspite of that, the people still have their expectations and they expect such expectations to be met. They are not interested in the long grammar of budget, but how it would affect them positively. All they want is an end to their hunger.
Nigerians are hungry. The living standard has dipped with people making do with whatever they could find, not what they really desire. There is hardly any family that has not been affected by the down turn in the economy. The haves have become the “have nots”.
It is always said that one rich man in the midst of poor men is equally poor, if not in money, definitely in character. It is only political office holders that are not aware that there is hunger in the land. That is why law makers would buy expensive, exotic cars for oversight functions while their people are crying of hunger.
In the current budget, provision of N432.1million was made for the purchase of vehicles for former Presidents/Heads of State and their vice, though this was lower than the N2.3billion provision of 2016. One now asks, when would our leaders start making sacrifices? If provision was made for the purchase of vehicles last year, must it be a yearly ritual? Should these leaders not consider the times and sacrifice their comfort for once, in consideration of the poor economy. The ordinary man has been making sacrifices every day since about two years ago. He is still being called to make more sacrifices. When would there be an end to his sacrifice?
Though the federal government has embarked on social safety valves with provision of N5,000, to the poorest and most vulnerable, though commendable, more still has to be done to take it round all the states.
The Federal Government should also eliminate the politicization of the effort as the news that politicians are trying to hijack the scheme has become worrisome. The scheme should not be turned into political patronage.
Nigerians also expect jobs for the teeming unemployed. As at mid last year, unemployment rate rose from 12.1 percent to 13.3 percent. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment increased from 24.4 million as at the end of the first quarter to 26.06 million persons.
It is this state of youths not being legitimately employed that has led to the growing case of armed robbery and kidnapping in the country. In June, last year , the government claimed it would offer jobs to about 500, 000 unemployed graduates as teachers. About a few months later, in November, it said about 200, 000 have been employed under the nPower scheme.
This is a far cry from the reality on ground. What government ought to do is create the enabling environment for these unemployed to be gainfully employed. Nigerians and especially the youths are creative and would always find their feet once the enabling environment is created for them.
Another major area of concern is electricity. Presently, the situation seems to have worsened. For about a week in my area, constant darkness has been our companion. You sleep with the sound of generator and equally wake up to the same sound, things have not been this worse. But the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola has given assurance that the situation would improve in the new year in a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper.
“This year, I am optimistic that some results will manifest, but we will be climbing out of a recession instead of expanding growth. If you are climbing from the basement of a building, it takes some time to get to the ground floor.
It will be better in my expectations than what it was in the preceding year”, adding that the government has developed the right energy mix for the country. Good news, but we have heard this before we only hope it would be different this time. The government should live up to that promise.