By Uduma Kalu, Deputy Features Editor
Imagine the difference the 25% allocation to Federal legislators over the years would have made to the lives of Nigerians. The nation’s budgets in the last 10 years stand at about N22.5 trillion and based on the revelation from the CBN Governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi that 25% of recurrent budget is spent by the National Assembly, as much as N5.62 trillion has accrued to the NASS in the last ten years.
Saturday Vanguard sounded out experts in the various sectors on the difference this amount would have made in the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
No Nigerian would have had cause to seek treatment abroad
Dr Saheed Babajide, Secretary General, Association of Resident Doctors, LASUTH
If Health can get 25 per cent of budget allocations, it will go a long way in helping the health sector in the country, in the sense that as at now, health is making less than four per cent of the total budget which is inadequate. If health is getting 25 per cent, there will be improvement in health delivery in all tiers of government-state, local and federal in the sense that you don’t have to go out of the country for any treatment.
In this case, primary health will be improved. Secondary health will be improved, even tertiary health will be improved. In this case, the necessary equipment, the necessary environment of better health care delivery will be provided with that type of money. It will go in a very long way in reducing infant and mortality rates in the country.
It will help in research, in the sense that if you can get a lot of money, you go into real research. There are a lot of things to be researched on. Everything is changing. By the time you are treating, say malaria, the plasmodium you are treating with artesaunate, they also change their genetic form. That means you have to change the programme you are giving everyday. That means you have to research everyday.
Different types of cancer, different types of diseases are coming out now. Look at AIDS. AIDS came out in the early ‘80s, nobody knew about it because of the low development in research. We research to tackle even AIDS problem, cancer problems, infectious problems like TB, malaria, any endemic diseases can be treated. And also improvement in the environment.
Is health underfunded?
As I said, health collects less than four per cent of the budget. This is very, very low. It is inadequate even to delivering the minimum health delivery, minimum. It’s very inadequate.
What is the right percentage?
From the WHO, if you get more than 10 to 15per cent of the budget, it will go along way. We will be able to get at least optimal health delivery in the country.
What is the state of the health sector?
Our health sector is underdeveloped. The infrastructure is not good enough. The health provider is not being remunerated very well. The environment is not conducive. The health sector is in a shambles. It is poor.
What should be done.
Government should have a health summit. It should declare a state of emergency in the health sector in the country and have a health summit that will comprise those that deal with health, not politicians, not contractors— that is doctors, pharmacists, people that deal with the patients and also the people that have the knowledge of health. If you just bring people that don’t have any idea about it, then we will have problem.
We need a health summit where we sit down, we talk and move forward and government should provide an enabling environment for the health summit. Apart from their report, they should have the will to implement the decisions of the summit.
It would have improved the education sector
Ramoni Alani, Professor of Education, University of Lagos
Such amount will improve the education sector. You have a situation where some people earn salaries and allowances not recommended by the Revenue Mobilisation and Allocation Commission and that is not in order. You know that government is now asking the National Assembly to ensure that the minimum wage is N18, 000 per month. I think the legislators are just insensitive to the average Nigerians who are living in abject poverty.
Forget about what is happening in other sectors of the economy, like the education sector. They are largely insensitive to the plight of the average Nigerian. One would expect that they will consider the economic condition in the country where people cannot get three meals a day, to behave responsibly. There is no harsh words that should not be used for them because honestly, they behaved irresponsibly.
How 25% would have helped
I believe a lot can be done in the education sector in terms of improvement of facility, in terms of purchase of equipment. Go to the Faculty of Engineering. Go to any faculty in any Nigerian university. You are talking of over population of students. We are talking about inadequate facilities, equipment. A lot can be done in the education system.
Give more examples.
That amount of money can go a long way in the university, especially.
What is the present budget on education?
The point is the UNESCO recommended that at least 26 percent of the national budget be devoted to education. What are we spending on education? Consider the federal budget. I don’t have the figure off hand but I know we didn’t allocate up to 10 percent of the national budget. Even if they are not going to allocate up to 26 percent at a go, there should be a gradual improvement. At least, if 10 percent is given this year, it is expected that 10 percent will be raised next year. A situation where they are just at a standstill, that will not help the situation in the country.
What is the state of our education?
The situation of education in the country is tragic. At least, consider the performance of students in senior schools certificate examination. You will agree with me that the situation is tragic. We need to take some measures to stem the tide. Students are failing in mass number.
A situation where you don’t have enough facilities in educational institutions, a situation where government agreed to pay an increase of 27. 4 percent to teachers and salaries and allowances, it took some state governments months and teachers had to embark on strike in some states before the state governments could agree to pay the percentage. The situation is tragic. I think there is need for stakeholders meeting to proffer honest solutions to the problems in the education sector.
Can government fund the sector adequately?
Like I told you, there was a time federal government agreed with ASUU to raise the percentage. They suggested a gradual increase in the national budget that will be allocated to the education section. Yet government has not redeemed its pledge. An agreement that was fully entered into with ASUU.
It is also very disappointing that those who belong to the so called progressive parties are supporting that rape of the Nigerian economy. It is disheartening that they are supporting that. It shows that even if they take over the reigns of government in 2011, you can imagine what they will do if they have political power. It is disheartening the progressives are also supporting such rape of the economy.
It would have changed our transportation system
Alphonsus Funso Falade, Professor of Civil Engineering, Unilag
If 25 percent of the budget is spent on our roads, there will be a change in our roads transportation system. Government has been spending so much on the roads but how well is the money spent? Is it properly spent? Are the projects adequately supervised? It’s not sufficient you say you spent money. Do you have value for money? I think these are the key issues that need to be addressed.
If N5.62t is spent on roads
If they spend such amount on the road network, it will make a lot of change. You know, people have been killed. Our roads are deathtraps. People are dying everyday. And we all know that. Go to the North, South West and see the kind of roads we have. Why do we have so much problem going from Lagos-Ibadan expressway? They should be expanded to take more volume of vehicles.
But the money is being shared, it’s unfortunate. But if that amount of money is properly spent, properly spent, not just spent on paper, we will see a lot of changes. People will be happy. And travel time will reduce. Go to Ore-Benin road. Everybody is avoiding the place. Is it because of we don’t have money to do it? Go to Ibadan- Igberin road. The roads are bad. It’s unfortunate
How much can be spent…?
I don’t know. Physical planning unit should be able to have information on that. We have so many roads, different grades. Somebody might estimate the volume of what to be done and properly price it and have information on this. You don’t really need to reinvent the wheel, like they say. You don’t need to spend so much money to get the road on track.
So the problem is not how much we have spent but improper supervision?
Can we prove how much we have allocated? The thing we have spent, can we prove it? They use quacks to do quality jobs. You construct a road today, tomorrow it’s in bad shape. You rehabilitate today, tomorrow, it’s in a bad shape.
Is it lack of human capacity?
We have human capacity. But people cut corners and use quacks. When you use the right calibre of people and use the right quality of materials, with proper supervision, then you get value for money. But for now, we are not getting what we are supposed to get. That is very, very unfortunate. Look at roads in Nigeria; how many of our roads are passable? They are all deathtraps.
And we have engineers like you?
We have engineers but they don’t have jobs.
Electricity supply would have outstripped demand
Chris Ojomo, Electro mechanical engineer, Retired PHCN Senior Manager
How many power plants can N5.62t build?
It’s not a question of plants. With my understanding of power, as it is done in Germany and elsewhere, you can generate power with coal as it was in Lagos with coal from Enugu. You can generate power with black oil, hydro, with thermal, wind, sun. All you need to do is to synchronize the system at the end of the day. Everything will start working. And the power sector will generate its own money.
It’s as simple as that. You are not generating trade by barter. You are selling. Energy is being sold to the consumer. Factories use energy to produce their products. You pay for electricity. We need to decentralise power. What I mean is let each state take care of their system as is in the US, not taking everything to the centre. Federal government does not allow you to generate more than two mega watts because they want it to be a general problem.
If states generate more than others, they know some states will move faster than others. Federal government should decentralise power.
The current effort to privatise the power sector is in the right direction. Let them unbundle PHCN the way unbundled NITEL. In the few months, I will tell you what I am trying to do in the power sector which will interest the government.
N5.62t impact on power
If we spend such amount on the power sector, and with the right people in place, it will be more than enough. But you can imagine where an ordinary section of this country is given such amount to develop their constituencies. We go to those constituencies. What is happening there? The money is not spent there.
The very short period in NEPA, I worked in transmission section, in the corporate headquarters, in the distribution section, now I am in politics. What I discovered in NEPA is that the problem is Nigeria and Nigeria’s problem is not just NEPA. Nigerians work for NEPA. So the problem itself is Nigerian problem. And what is the Nigerian problem. We don’t put professionals where they belong. The collapse of NEPA today is just simply because we are not putting the right people in the right place, and that is why I pulled out because I could not continue to remain where there is no progress.
In energy generation, you can generate, as before with coal, from Enugu. You can generate power with black oil, air, wind, sun, gas, water that hydro. Tell me which one we cannot do? We can use them and collapse them at the end of the day. Can you we say we don’t have the people to do these? We call ourselves the giant of Africa when small countries like Dahomey, Ghana are doing well in the power sector. Why is our own not so?
Though we must not fail that the cabals are behind it. They are those who do not want electricity to work such as people importing generators into the country. Such as people importing diesel, while we have oil. All these that can generate power, why are we importing all these. I can put my life at stake.
If you give me 12 calender months, if I don’t make power work in this country, they should tie me to the stake. All I need is government to give me support and everything will be flowing.The problem is not fund. You have to put the right people there. If you don’t put the right people, all the money will be siphoned. There is enough fund in that power sector. We have quality people. People that are fearless. I am over 50 now. I am not afraid of death now.
So, the power sector is well funded?
Funding is not about putting money. I have told you that there are some cankerworms in this country that will not want things to work, and not until we eradicate them…. Look, we have refineries in this country are they working. Some Nigerians have refineries outside Nigeria, and they are making fine. Nigerians must believe in Nigeria if only we can take care of ourselves as brothers and sisters. Look at what the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has said. It is an eye opener. We sent people to go and defend us but they are defending themselves. We must change.