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2022 budget, pragmatic approach to critical social sector

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TO UNINFORMED Nigerians, the budgetary provisions for the critical social sectors, namely education and health, an improvement to the previous fiscal years. Unfortunately, not all Nigerians are in this dismal category, hence the healthy deprecation of the approaches to the critical sectors which are crucial to capacity building and functional healthcare delivery system that contributes to optimum socio-economic growth and sustainable productivity in line with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Programme (SDP).

In what could be said to be misguided eulogy on the federal government on the budgetary provisions for the education and health sectors, the New Telegraph editorial of November 4, 2021, captioned: “2022 budget and big challenges for the people” said: “It is hearth-warming to see education displacing the usually over rated sectors such as works and housing; as well as transportation to attract the highest allocation of N1.29 trillion which amounts to 7.9 per cent of the total allocation.

“Health moved up slightly with an allocation of N820.2 billion translating to five per cent of the value of the Appropriation Bill. Our appreciation goes to President Buhari and his Federal Executive Council [FEC] for the generous allocations to education and health.

“We also thank the people of Nigeria, including the relevant professional bodies and trade unions for their years of committed struggle culminating into the upward review of the budgetary allocations to these two very crucial sectors. The upward review of the allocation to education and health points to a paradigm shift suggesting that education and health are beginning to be accorded their places as extraordinary sectors, which activate and sustain other sectors through supply of ideas and human capital. What this means is that sectors such as education and health should always rank highest in the country’s prioritisation and should constantly receive the greatest dose of financial intervention in the Appropriation Bill”.

Apparently contradicting itself, the editorial contended thus: “However, despite the fact that the education and health segments attracted higher budgetary allocations than other sectors, the amount allocated to them is unlikely to help deliver vibrant education and health sectors to the country. The extraordinary status of both sectors appears not to have fully ended up being subordinated to defense and security. New Telegraph wishes to underscore the point that vibrant education and health sectors are likely to help a country find solutions to her shortcomings in all spheres of human endeavour including defense and security”.

I have taken time to quote the editorial extensively which is a testament to the lamentable deterioration of the analytical skill of the senior media executives with particular reference to the behemoth and bloated exclusive legislative list which has led to deterioration in the socio-economic growth and development of the country.

It is a categorical imperative to state point-blank that the critical sectors comprising education and health need pragmatic approach which depends on proper federal structure of government whereby the sub national governments will be in a prime position to enunciate policies and programmes that can benefit the people. In other words, there is no amount of yearly federal government’s budgetary allocations to the education and health sectors that will assuage the yearnings and aspirations of the people because of divergence of values among the ethnic groups that make up the country. It is basking in illusion to expect that the central government will lift the two sectors from the morass of depredation and comatose state. All the gimmicks of upward budgetary allocations to the two sectors is to suppress the nation-wide clamour for a truly federal set up where the two sectors will be adequately taken care of by the sub national governments [state or regional governments as the case may be in a restructured Nigeria] taken into due consideration the peculiar needs and world view of the respective ethno-religious groups in a multi-national society as obtained in countries with such admixture where truly federal system of government operates without dilution.

The above matter-of-fact and pragmatic position is akin to the groping in the dark in yearly budgets on the provision for road infrastructure throughout the federation. The incontestable fact remains that no amount of budgetary allocation to roads in every fiscal year can take adequate care of the ever deteriorating roads in all the states of the federation. Why are we deceiving ourselves while the pragmatic  solution is a restructured federation whereby the sub national governments will take adequate care of the roads within their jurisdiction so as to jumpstart the economy as good road infrastructure is a desideratum to vibrant economy that contributes to the country’s GDP.

What obtains in the education, health and transportation sectors is on all fours with security. In other words, no amount of budgetary appropriation on security will ensure adequate security in all the states of the federation unless the principles of federalism is applied which entails decentralised security architecture as obtainable in sane and sanitised nations of the world that chose federalism as a form of government.

The recalcitrance on sticking to the military imposed unitary-federal contraption [in the name of federal system of government] has made the present federal government to embark on binge borrowing to provide transport infrastructure but the foreign loans have not registered impressive mark on road infrastructure that conduce to the growth of the economy which has been comatose and recessed. It is lamentable that the asphyxiating debt burden has reached unsustainable level even as the over 90 per cent of the country’s gross revenue is used in debt servicing.

Again, the recalcitrance on pseudo federalism has not allowed for the real diversification of the economy as the constricting federal laws centralising the exploration and exploitation of the vast natural and mineral resources that abound in all the states of the federation laws sub national units have not been repealed. These constricting laws are deliberately being preserved for selfish calculation of the “Northern Establishment” who nurse the trepidation that if the laws are relaxed, they will lose the power of fiscal control which has enabled them to breath down on the rest of the ethnic groups that have equal stake to the geographical areas called Nigeria.

Coming back to the critical social sectors of education and health which are the bedrock and foundation of sustainable socio-economic growth and development, the United Nations sounded the alarm that Nigeria cannot achieve meaningful progress in pragmatic nation building with centralised governance with the quasi federal arrangement provides. The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] report stated in 2013 that “Nigeria needed to recruit 200,000 qualified teachers if the country is to meet the Universal Basic Education for All Goal by the year 2015. The fact remains that the Federal Ministry of Education which does not operate secondary and primary education cannot accomplish the feat. It is unheard of in sane and sanitised countries that operate federal system of government that the central government controls secondary and primary education, even tertiary education.

But what do we find in this curious federal arrangement? The APC-led federal government makes budgetary provision for primary school feeding which is simply to favour the northern part of the country where federal revenue allocations are not applied to education and health but to massage the ego of traditional chieftains and conservative religious programmes at the expense of education and healthcare delivery.

Education and health sectors in Nigeria are hemorrhaging with decrepit infrastructure and facilities due to centralisation of virtually everything about governance. Federal government’s policies and programmes are forced down the throat of state and local governments and failure to abide by them attract sanction and deprivation and blackmail. Surely, we cannot continue like this if the country will make meaningful progress in all facets of national life.

The critical adversity of centralised trajectory of governance is the ever spiraling of youth unemployment which could be drastically reduced by restructuring of governance where the sub national governments will explore and exploit the resources within their domain to create massive employment and wealth creation to place the country on the path of meaningful growth to take its place among the comity of nations of the world.

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