By Louis Okoroma
It is a welcome relief to all Nigerians, that at long last, the 2017 budget has been
signed and sealed. What remains to be done is for all hands to be on deck for a
resounding delivery. The Executive and the national legislature deserve
accolade for a job well done, bearing in mind how problematic getting budgets
on track has been in recent times.
The 2017 budget is very important to the administration of President
Muhammadu Buhari and his hardworking deputy, Acting President Professor
Yemi Osinbajo who is doing so much to improve the business and economic
climate in the country.
The importance of the 2017 budget, lies in the fact that if the government can
achieve between 60- 70 per cent implementation, the nation’s economy would
surely experience a great lease of life that would set it strongly on the road to
exiting the stifling recession that currently ravages our economy. Second,
successfully implementation of the budget especially as it concerns delivery of
the laudable and ambitious infrastructural development projects, would open
up the economy and energies economic activities all through the nooks and
crannies of the country.
One aspect of the budget that highly recommends it for faithful
implementation, is that it has so much for all parts of the country and faithful
implementation would mean that the country would be on the highway to
greater economic integration and complementarity.
The budget is quite ambitious. It is a total of N7.44 trillion and was signed into
law by the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo. The huge estimate is not a surprise
because so much is expected from the budget at the end of the financial year
and beyond. It is expected that as implementation of the budget kicks off, many
Nigerians would be put to work in various sectors, thus reducing the ravaging
unemployment while critical infrastructure would hopefully be spread to all
parts of the country. It is heartening that the funds for executing the budget is
available unlike in previous budgets when paucity of funds has adversely
compromised the implementation. The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun has
allayed fears in this regard by promising that N350 billion would be immediately
released for the execution of capital projects across the country.
And to minimize and avoid waste, her counterpart in Budget and National
Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, hinted that funding of projects would
now be on project- based release system whereby, funds would be released for
a particular project after the government has ascertained that it can be
completed within a given time frame. The beauty of this is that wastages would
be curbed and the rate at which projects are abandoned in the country,
Minister Udo Udoma, also revealed that the Federal Government would
‘’strengthen its monitoring and evaluation framework to improve physical
inspection and impact assessment of projects and programmes implemented by
the MDA’s’’. Apparently, these MDA’s are responsible for much of the
abandoned and poorly conceived projects that dot the landscape and make the
country ugly. According to Udo Udoma, ‘’… we have to do things differently. We
need to have more targeted releases. We have to look at the projects that are
important and can be easily completed. The Ministers are working together to
ensure that over time, we concentrate our resources on completing important
projects, so that we can have maximum impact’’. This means that we are in an
era of serious governance and service delivery when government embarks on
projects only when it is assured of its value and feasibility.
The 2017 budget is highly loaded on the provision of infrastructure. This is in
keeping with President Muhammadu Buhari’s keen interest in transforming the
nation’s economy from recession to a dynamic and active economy where
people, goods and services have means and ease of movement.
A whooping sum of N 10 billion has been set aside for the construction of over
65 roads and bridges to enhance transportation in the country. These would
include roads, rail, waterways and airports.
As part of its targeted project implementation and release of funds, some of the
strategic roads for which the money have been set aside have been identified.
They are but not restricted to the Lagos/ Ibadan road, Kano/ Maiduguri road
and the Enugu/ Port Harcourt road. It also includes the Second Niger Bridge for
which the sum of N7 billion was set aside.
Other critical road projects that will change the transportation experience of
Nigerians when completed, include Abuja/ Abaji/ Lokoja road, Obajana
junction- Benin road, Onitsha/ Enugu dual carriageway which got an impressive
allocation of N7.5 billion and N7 billion for the Bodo/ Boni road. There is also
Ilorin/ Jebba, Odukpani- Itu, Kano/ Katsina and Gombe/Numan/Yola etc.
The above shows that the 2017 budget was well thought out more so when the
funding for projects would not be a problem. Remarkably, government has
mobilised the Federal Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Customs
to strive hard on revenue collection to aid the availability of funds while
hopefully, modest oil revenue is guaranteed following steady improvement in
oil production in the Niger Delta.
Though the 2017 budget is ambitious and revolutionary in the area of
transportation infrastructure, other sectors of the economy also got a good
deal. Over a hundred billion is set aside to provide water and sanitation across
the country through construction and rehabilitation of dams and irrigation
projects. Similarly, agriculture and rural development got good allocations.
About 6.5 billion naira has been earmarked for water sanitation while the sum
of 4.13 billion and 20 billion naira would be used to guarantee minimum price
payment to farmers to encourage farming and promote and develop value chain
for a number of commodities, respectively.
The 2017 budget could be referred to as ‘’ a budget of inclusion and
reconstruction’’, given that there is something in it for all parts of the country
and it is geared to change the face of the country with new projects. PMB is on
course. It thus behoves on all Nigerians of good will to use their best
endeavours to see that peace reign in the country and that contractors and
workers on site nationwide are given maximum cooperation. Not much can be
accomplished in the area of development if there is no peace.
One hereby call on all agitators, militants and radicals across the country of
whatever hue, to spare a thought for the long- suffering and exploited people of
our country, by identifying with the government’s economic recovery efforts as
contained in Budget 2017, and support its diligent implementation.
Louis Okoroma is a Public Affairs Consultant. He is on firstname.lastname@example.org
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