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BUDGET 2013: All talk; no jobs – 1

By Dele Sobowale

“We have mentioned the 3.5 million jobs we aim to create in agriculture and millions(?) more in housing, and construction sectors, solid minerals sector, aviation and the creative industry”. President Goodluck Jonathan, 2013 Budget Speech, delivered to the National Assembly.

“We must thank God for evil people, for the evil they might have done but failed to do”, according to a Methodist clergy man in Melrose, Massachusetts, USA in 1966.

The 2013 budget, hastily prepared, like the SURE-P document, proudly presented by Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to bamboozle us into accepting there was a real subsidy to remove, is headed for the same grave-yard as well. To be candid and straight to the point, the budget, handed to the President does no credit to anyone associated with its preparation.

At least, we can thank the Almighty that the government is not claiming much by way of achievements. For a government characterized by dissembling officials, this is a step in the right direction. We might eventually get to the point when we are fed only with half-truths instead of outright lies – like subsidy.

The most important parts of the 2013 budget were, to me, security and job creation. Power and petroleum continue to be messed up. About the time the President was delivering his budget, bids for the privatization of Power Holding Corporation of Nigeria, PHCN (or palaver has changed name), were being opened.

Among the winners was a name which had been mentioned in just about every fraud or corrupt practice in Nigeria in the last few years. Then, it turned out that the bidding process was as crooked as a bent nail; at least if state governors are to be believed.

So, expect nothing, nothing good, that is, from that sector next year. The report for the power sector this year is a joke – a bad joke from the Ministers in that vital sector. Read some of what the President said about PHCN’s performance for 2012 and what to expect next year and despair.

“The power sector is on course” (Section 17 of budget address). Of recent, our efforts have paid-off as we have significantly improved power supply averaging about 15 hours per day”. Self-delusion cannot be more boldly written than that. Incidentally, “on course” might mean like the Dana flight from Abuja.

The President might receive I5 hours of power supply in Aso Rock, which at any rate has its own Independent Power Plant, IPP, but only the President of another country, not Nigeria, can boast of 15 hours power supply to his people daily. And just to show that the Commander-In-Chief, C-I-C) of the Armed Forces (armed with what; we wonder), was handed, a report, not worth the paper on which it was written, by the Ministry of Power, nowhere in sections 17 and 18, which were devoted to power, would you be able to find a declaration on how many kilowatts of power per day was delivered to “Fellow Nigerians” to support the 15 hours per day claim. The reasons are not too difficult to discover.

In 2011, President Jonathan’s government promised to attain 5,000MW power supply by December 31 of that year. The promise was repeated several times by former Minister of Power, Professor Barth Nnaji. Well, may be because the Professor, who is also the largest shareholder in a private power company, which failed in its bid to grab one of our stations, was too busy preparing the bid documents, the year 2011 ended without the 5,000MW milestone being reached.

Undaunted by failure, as the lost soul who said “having lost our way, we redoubled our efforts”, Professor Nnaji again promised 6,000MW by the end of 2012. Well, he, justly, got the boot three months ago. But as this article is being written, a crazy generator is making a racket in my backyard – a monument to the battle of 6,000MW lost in 2012.

So, the President deliberately side-stepped the main issue about power supply, namely, how many megawatts can we expect in 2013? There is nothing more to say about that gaping hole in our information network. Blessed
are they that expect nothing from PHCN (palaver has changed name), for they shall never be disappointed. The crazy gen-set has proved more reliable than the Federal government of Nigeria. Mine and others’ will surely see us through another year.

“The petroleum sector continues to play a crucial role in our economy”, announced the President in section 25 of the budget. Even the village idiot knows that. What the moron does not know is what the President has failed to say – the petroleum sector is totally, and, perhaps irredeemably corrupt, as long as the cozy relationship between the swindlers and top government officials continue.

Incidentally, after numbering up to section 18, the budget document stopped numbering and resumed at section 24, where, under the heading Aviation and Airports, Jonathan said, “We know that Nigerians are disturbed about the condition of our roads”.

If there is an award for understatement of the Year 2012, GEJ should step up and receive it. Take any public transport going through Ore-Benin, Warri-Patani-Yenagoa; Portharcourt-Aba-Enugu roads, among others, and what the adventurer, (it is a dangerous adventure to travel Nigerian roads), would discover are not disturbed Nigerians, but people raining curses and maledictions on those in government. Nigerians are livid with rage. It was that way in 1999 and it is worse in 2012.

I sent a letter to Mrs Alison-Madueke, when she was appointed Minister of Transport and she visited Ore-Benin expressway to shed crocodile tears. In it 50 most important roads needing attention were listed; a SUNDAY VANGUARD column was devoted to the same issue. Nothing happened. Again in 2010, the same message was sent to Acting President Jonathan. For all that it matters to both of them, I might as well have been talking to walls. For 14 years, Nigerians have been treated to the same empty promises on roads.

Petroleum Ministry is a den of robbers; where more robbery is being discovered every month. Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, surely, everybody remembers him, in a newspaper report on October 25, 2012, announced that $183 million is missing from the signature bonuses account, in a country laboring under the illusion of becoming top 20 in 2020.

If $183 million was discovered missing in any account of the USA, China, Japan or Germany (numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 economies worldwide), a Minister would be on his way home or jail. Well, the Honourable Minister for Petroleum, from whose Ministry the alleged theft occurred, was not even aware we have been robbed; just as she was incompetent enough to call N1.3 trillion a subsidy – instead of fraud.

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