controversies over poor implementation of the 2012 budget for which members of the House of Representatives have called on President Goodluck Jonathan to buckle up and ensure 100 per cent implementation or face impeachment proceedings as from September 18, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, Wednesday, approved a 2013 draft budget proposal of N4.929 trillion.
If approved, it means that by December 2013, the Federal Government would have spent N32.24 trillion within a period of eight years (see table) with little or no improvements on the well-being the citizenry.
Finance Minister and Co-ordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the budget would be ready in September, while the actual laying before the National Assembly would be in the first week of October.
Giving insight of what to be expected in the 2013 budget, she said the Federal Government had reduced the recurrent expenditure component of the budget from 71.47 per cent of the 2012 budget to 68.66 per cent.
"We are increasing the capital expenditure from 28.53 per cent in 2012 to 31.34 per cent in 2013," she added.
Without meaning to, Okonjo-Iweala showed why majority of Nigerians have been swimming in extreme poverty over the years despite the hefty budgets.
How? If only 28.53 per cent of the 2012 budget is allocated to capital expenditure (provision of infrastructure, amenities, etc), which has been miserly implemented with 71.47 per cent squandered on recurrent expenditure (salaries, emoluments of public servants and politi
cal office holders, running costs, etc), there is really no cause for cheer.
Over the years, the bulk of funds allocated to capital projects have been looted by political leaders and civil servants. And despite the efforts of the anti-graft agencies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and related offences Commission (ICPC), graft is still upwelling and looted funds are hardly recovered leaving the citizenry to bear the brunt.
High, maternal, infant mortality rates
A United Nations report titled: "Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2010," which was released on May 16 showed that 14 percent of the world's deaths related to childbearing are in Nigeria. While maternal death rates around the world have almost halved over the past two decades, according to the UN report, Nigeria's rate -- 630 deaths for every 100,000 live births -- is the world's 10th highest, behind nine other sub-Saharan African countries led by Chad and Somalia.
Statistics from the Save the Children organisation, an international non-profit group revealed that almost 800,000 Nigerian children die every year before their fifth birthday, making Nigeria the country with the highest number of new born deaths in Africa. The group said that majority of children deaths under age five, particularly in the northern parts of the country, were due to treatable and preventable diseases. The group released the figures at a Save the Children Special Campaign (STC) launched in Lagos last Tuesday.
Poor human development indices
Currently, Nigeria is ranked 142 out of 169 countries on the Global Human Development Index. Nigeria's ranking was part of the 2010 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme in Abuja last Monday. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.
The 2010 HDI Report titled, "The Real of Nations: Pathways to Human Development,' examined the progress in health, education and income over the past 40 years. According to the report, Nigeria, which was listed as 158th in 2009, currently has a life expectancy of 48.4 years, while Gross National Income per capita stands at $2,156.
Nigeria ranks lower than many African countries such as Mauritius, which occupies the 72nd position in HDI,with life expectancy of 72.1 years and GNI per capita of $13,344 respectively; Tunisia (81); Algeria (84); Gabon (93); and Egypt (101). Other African countries ranked ahead of Nigeria include Namibia (105); South Africa (110); Morrocco (114); Equatorial Guinea (117); Cape Verde (118); Congo (126); Sao Tome and Principe (127); and Kenya (128).
According to the report, Togo was better than Nigeria in the global HDI, with life expectancy of 63.3 years and GNI per capita of $844. Benin Republic, which was ranked 134th, has a life expectancy of 62.3 years and GNI per capita of $1,499; Ghana (130th) has a life expectancy of 57.1 years and GNI of $1,385; and Cameroon stood at 131, with life expectancy of 51.7 years and GNI per capita of $2,197. Indeed, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said last February that more than 112.5 million Nigerians were living below the poverty line.
It said the percentage of Nigerians living in absolute poverty -- those who can afford only the bare essentials of food, shelter and clothing -- rose to 60.9 per cent in 2010, compared with 54.7 per cent in 2004.
According to the Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale, between 2004 and 2010, Nigeria's poverty rate had moved from 54.4 per cent to 69 per cent involving 112,518,507 Nigerians, adding that although the country's Gross Domestic Growth (GDP) had grown since then, it had little impact on the poverty situation.
"NBS estimates that this trend may have increased further in 2011 if the potential positive impacts of several anti-poverty and employment generation intervention programmes are not taken into account," Kale said.
Applying the United Nations' definition of a poor person in dollar terms, the Statistician-General disclosed that 51.6 per cent of Nigerians were living below US$1 per day in 2004 but this increased to 61.2 per cent in 2010.
"Although the World Bank standard now is US$1.25 per day, the old reference of US$1 per day was the standard used in Nigeria at the time that the survey was concluded," he added.
National Assembly to the rescue
Disturbed by the dwindling fortunes of the citizenry amid the huge budgets, the legislature is now on the jugular of the executive over poor implementation of the 2012 budget. At issue is conflicting accounts of the level of the budget implementation. While Okonjo-Iweala hitherto reportedly claimed that it was 56 percent implementation; the House of Representatives said it was 34 percent, and the Senate claimed it was just 21.56 percent.
House threatens to impeach Jonathan
Members of the House of Representatives started the fight when on July 19 they accused President Goodluck Jonathan of breaching the 2012 Appropriation Act and poorly executing the budget and threatened to begin impeachment proceedings against him if he failed to achieve 100 per cent budget implementation by September.
Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, in proposing an amendment to a motion before the House on the poor implementation of the budget, accused the executive of allegedly breaching the Appropriation Act, 2012 by engaging in "selective implementation" of the budget.
"If by September 18, the budget performance has not improved to 100 per cent, we shall begin to invoke and draw up articles of impeachment against Mr. President," he said. The original motion, which was moved by the Chairman, House Committee on Rules/Business, Mr. Albert Sam-Tsokwa, sought an interface between Jonathan and the leadership of the House on why it had been difficult for Ministries, Departments and Agencies to implement the budget.
However, the Reps later amended the motion, saying that a meeting with the President was not necessary but they advised Jonathan to direct the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to "stop forthwith" the violation of Section 6 of the Act. Gbajabiamila cited Section 143 of the 1999 Constitution, saying that any action of the President defined as "gross misconduct" by the National Assembly was sufficient grounds to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Mr. John Enoh, lamented that the budget had performed less than "35 per cent" with about five months to the end of the year. Observing that the 2012 had no funding challenges unlike past budgets, he said that out of the N1.5 trillion, only N404bn had been released to MDAs in the first and second quarters, "which is a far cry from what is expected. When you look at accessing of the funds by the MDAs, only N200bn has been cash-backed. The budget implementation is about N35 per cent," Enoh said.
Senate steps in
The Senate continued from where the House of Representatives stopped last week when it grilled Okonjo-Iweala. Previous attempts by the Senate Joint Committee on Appropriation, Finance and Public Accounts, to question the minister were aborted on two occasions because of the Minister's absence.
Last Tuesday, the presence of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation Anyim Pius Anyim, Minister of State for Finance Yerima Ngama and Director-General of Budget Office of the Federation, Bright Okogu could not even pacify the senators. "Okonjo-Iweala must appear in person, no matter the circumstance", they insisted.
But penultimate Thursday when Okonjo-Iweala, accompanied by President Goodluck Jonathan's Parliamentarian Adviser Joy Emodi and other principal officials of her ministry, appeared for the interactive session, they faced the angst of Senators, who berated the executive for blaming its alleged failure on the legislature.
Senate Leader Victor Ndoma-Egba, who represented Senate President David Mark, said the lawmakers would not take responsibility for the failure of others. "We won't be scapegoat for anybody. The executive has claimed that our constituency projects are stalling the budget implementation.
I don't know how constituency projects of about N100 billon, out of the entire budget of N4.7 trillion, could be a problem. Which project is not a constituency project? The Abuja-Lokoja road project passes through some people's constituency", he said.
Responding, Okonjo-Iweala noted that the Presidency did not link constituency projects to budget implementation. However, she said that the executive tampered with the budget by moving resources meant for some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) "from some areas to other areas, making it a little bit difficult to implement with that movement".
Miffed legislators questioned her if the movement of funds was done with the approval of the National Assembly, which she did not reply but rather sought their collaboration to address the issue insisting that the executive did not violate any law regarding the budget implementation.
On the performance of the budget, the minister said: "The first thing to note is that this budget implementation started in April. In talking about what we have done so far, we are talking of utilization of resources since April. That is, what have we released? How much has been used?
The total amount appropriated for capital projects is N1.3 trillion. We have so far released N404 billion; we have cash-backed N324 billion out of which 56 percent has been used, meaning that there is still 44 percent of resources not used. We are working to see that even the 44 percent left, is used.
"The Ministry of Finance has released all the monies available. We are not holding back any money. On the 44 percent left to be used, the ministers are working hard. If we look at the pro-rata for those four months, N446 billion should have been released for capital projects, but we have released N404 billion, and you look at the cash-backing, the utilization and a percentage of that.
That will be a proper way of looking at the budget. If we look at that ratio, you will see that we should have released N446 billion from April to July, we cashed backed N324 billion. N184 billion has been utilized and this gives you, if you want to look at the execution part of the budget, 41.3 percent."
Pressured further on the level of the implementation of the 2012 budget, Okonjo-Iweala said: "N1.3 trillion was appropriated for capital projects outside of the SURE-Programme (SURE-P), but if you add SURE-P to it, you get N1.5 trillion.
If you pro-rate that amount month by months because budget execution is supposed to take place month by months, you get a figure of N113 billion each month. If you want to measure it (budget implementation) over the entire year, that means measuring it over 12 months, you get a figure of 13.7 percent. But we have been implementing for four months and we have been releasing like that because our money comes in every month, not in bulk."
Given the exchanges between the minister and the lawmakers, it is obvious so far the citizenry have benefited little or nothing from the 2012 budget. It is to be seen whether or not the executive would perform a miracle within the next 27 days as demanded by the House of Representatives or face the sword of Damocles.
Federal Govt budgets since 2005 (in N Trillions)
TOTAL N32.24 Trillion
Federal Government Spends N32.24 Trillion in Eight Years