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Buhari's N500bn social investment votes, greatest duty to Nigerians — Don

A don, Dr Adetunji Ogunyemi, on Monday said the social investment votes of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2016 appropriation bill was the greatest service to Nigerians.

Ogunyemi is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State.

"There can be no better way of executing a social contract between the citizen and the state" than the unprecedented social investments that the Buhari budget has done.

He made the observation in a statement titled "Reconstructing the social equity blocks of the Nigerian state: The Buhari 2016 Budget template''.

"Still the greatest social responsibility portion of the 2016 budget and particularly in the capital budget is that which earmarks the sum of N500 billion directly to job creation, financial support to artisans and cash grants to the extremely poor segment of the Nigerian population.

"This involves the direct cash transfer under the programme government has chosen to call Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) wherein one million extremely poor Nigerians would receive N5,000 every month in the form of social safety net to shield them from total pauperisation.

"There is another N60 billion soft loan to one million small scale producers and artisans via Bank of Industry in an apparent support for small scale enterprises and the creation of jobs in the rural areas.

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"This plan of expenditure which factors into the calculus of Federal Government's spending profile I regard as the greatest duty ever done the Nigerian state since 1982,'' Ogunyemi added.

Ogunyemi said the plan of the Buhari administration to directly employ 500,000 graduate and NCE teachers and deploy them to the rural areas "is another pan-Nigerian outlook of this 2016 budget''.

The lecturer noted that the provision for skills acquisition training to 370,000 non-graduates and one-meal-per day to 100,000 pupils were exemplary.

According to him, there can be no better way of executing a social contract between citizens and the state than this.

"I insist that this 2016 budget, if faithfully implemented, would lead to the reconstruction of those blocks of social equity long pulled down by the harsh capitalist orientation of government at the centre since the 1980's,'' he stated.

He explained that the budget was a relief to "those who have ceaselessly clamoured for the rebuilding of the social blocks of equity between the government and the citizen by transferring a significant proportions of public expenditure to the greatest number of the population".

Ogunyemi also noted that for the first time since 2010, the Federal Government had taken a bold step in the provision of infrastructure by making capital provision of N1.8 trillion, being 30 per cent of the N6.08 trillion appropriation.

He observed that the capital allocation in 2016 was about 223 per cent higher than the N557 billion allocated for capital projects in 2015.

He said previous allocations had focused more on governance and providing for political office holders' needs than on provision of infrastructure for the common good with recurrent estimates taking between 67 percent and 89 percent of budget between 2010 and 2015.

"No greater disservice to economic development could be more than that particularly to the building of critical economic infrastructure,'' he said.

Ogunyemi said that budgets should not be used only as instrument of economic growth and development but also as an instrument of social equity, balance and camaraderie among the population.

"I see this year's budget as an attempt to, in real terms, to transfer resources from the resource-surplus to the resource-deficient sectors of the economy especially the poor,'' he said.

According to him, the Buhari budget in spite of some of the errors indicated, is an attempt to build human capital, reduce poverty and create inclusive growth pattern in the economy such that the poor are directly touched by government spending and are no longer alienated.

The lecturer, however, cautioned that the greatest challenge was in the implementation of the budget which had been the problem with previous ones.

Accordingly, he called on the implementers of the 2016 budget to key into the new philosophy of efficiency and diligence of the document.

He also urged the Buhari administration to have the political will to sanction every infraction of it.

"Deconstructing corruption in Nigeria is just the key to this and this can be done by entrusting people who have shown they can be relied upon for things of honour and good report with the task of budget intelligence.

Patriotic moral agents are therefore needed to drive this 2016 pro-people budget so that blocks of equitable wealth re-distribution among the country's eco-social forces can be well constructed.
By Kolawole Omole

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THE VOICE July 2017

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