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February 21, 2017

2017 budget will end up in private pockets again – Catholic bishop

Those who believe that the Federal Government’s budget of N7.3trn for 2017 will alleviate their worsening economic hardship, may better hang their hope elsewhere as the whopping amount will still end in private accounts as usual.

The Catholic bishop of Nsukka, Most Rev. Godfrey Onah gave this advice in his Christmas message, titled: “Joy to the world, though the times are tough”.

Delivering the message at St. Theresa’s Cathedral Nsukka Bishop Onah said: “Today in Nigeria, some may ask; do we really have any reason to be joyful. Just a few days ago the president of our country General Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 annual budget in the usual high figures in their trillions of naira. But to the ordinary Nigerian on the street, those trillions mean absolutely nothing. Those trillions will not alleviate the problems and the sufferings of Nigerians today.

“For decades, Nigerian bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful have been praying to God to deliver this country from chaos, anarchy and doom. Year after year however, our leaders have been portioning large sums of money belonging to all of us and those sums eventually end up in private pockets and private bank accounts.

“Nothing so far convinces any of us that the trillions mapped out for 2017 will not end the same way that the trillions before it went. The people are suffering, the people are restive, the people are nervous. Many people are doing what they did not do before.

“Once in a while it now happens that mothers with children and kids are caught stealing food and the police instead of imprisoning them, console them and give them money to go home. I am sure Nigerians will say this is not the change they voted for. But I am also sure that many more people corrupted in the hands of the government will say that, it will always be darker before dawn. It does seem however, that this darkness is lasting much longer than we ever expected.

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“Things are hot; we don’t know whether this budget will ever bring down the price of rice, whether it will ever bring down the price of cement, whether it will ever bring down the price of fuel. What we know however, is that it was not better when God looked from above and saw the misery of His children and sent His son to comfort us and to deliver us from misery. And that is why we say joy to the world even though things are tough. Joy to world because the Lord knows how Nigerians live today. If anybody understands us, He is the one and that is why he is telling us “He who is born among us today and whose birth we are celebrating today is Emmanuel (God is with us)”.

Meanwhile, the sharing of the budget may have begun. Reliable source indicated on Wednesday that even in recession the Federal Government has allocated the sum of N432.193million for the purchase of cars for the nation’s seven former Presidents/Head of State and four Vice Presidents.

The Senate too has put machinery in motion for its own share. A week before it received the N7.3trillion 2017 budget proposal, the senate endorsed for further legislative work, a bill to reserve 20 percent of annual budgets for National Assembly Constituency projects.

If the bill becomes operational in the 2017 fiscal year, “each senator to the exclusion of members of the House of Representatives would be expected to go home with N1.7billion for constituency projects.”

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Economic observers say a look at the pay package of senators will explain how deep rooted our problems are. “These guys are still paid whooping sums that are out of proportion in the context of Nigeria, a country that is sinking economically” said one analyst.


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