THE Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, has spoken against the wasteful budgeting of N10 billion for the 50th Independence anniversary of Nigeriaâ€™s independence.
At a time the nation is widely reported to be suffering from a financial crunch, the Congress feels that the lingering poverty in the land does not support an extravagant budget of such magnitude for the festivities.
We agree with them.
NLC in a statement said: â€œWe are of the view that the details of the over N10 billion independence anniversary expenditure in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill submitted by the President to the National Assembly contain very frivolous and extravagant items in the context of the mass misery and poverty in the land, particularly under the prevailing cash squeeze due to the global economic crisis, which the government uses to deny the labouring people their legitimate rights.â€
Others include legislators at the National Assembly doubling their quarterly allowances to nearly N50 million.
The Bureau of Public Procurements, BPP, approved contract for the second airport runway of the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport at over N63 billion when there was a rival bid of about half that amount. The Presidential Project Assessment Committee later reduced it to N49.6 billion, still higher than the total cost of the nationâ€™s newest international airport in Uyo, which also has the countryâ€™s longest runway.
NLC is currently locked in a struggle to raise the basic wage of government workers from N7,500. The Congress proposed a new minimum wage of N52,000, but indications are that N18,000 may be approved.
This amount is doubtful for all workers. The Federal Government has included it in the Supplementary Bill, but with the financial crunch, states and local councils may not be able to pay.
It is important that we remain alert and opposed to corrupt misappropriation of public funds so that there will be resources to meet pressing demands that are more relevant to Nigerians.
For a government that claims it does not have resources for essential expenditures that would enhance the living conditions of Nigerians, a budget of N10 billion is too much for the 50th independence anniversary.
Important as the event is, it is a poor excuse for that type of expenditure at a time millions of Nigerians cannot afford a meal a day.
At 50, Nigerian leaders should reflect with sobriety the state of the nation instead of wasting billions of Naira in celebration. At 50, part of the celebrations should mark a new Nigeria, a Nigeria where accountability and the feelings of the public are considered crucial inputs in policies and actions.
This is not the time to engage in a jamboree. The level of under-development of the nation calls for another type of celebration, one rooted in reality. That reality should accept that we would have done better in the past 50 years and that we can do something about improving our country now.
Even a N100 billion celebration cannot improve the country so let us abridge the waste.