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April 21, 2010

Analysts Says Nigerians Already Skeptical About 2010 Budget

by James Butty

University of Abuja professor Kabiru Mato says past federal budgets have failed to meet the expectation of Nigerians

A Nigerian political analyst said he hopes acting president Goodluck Jonathan’s 2010 budget would this time around address Nigeria’s poor infrastructure concerns.

Mr. Jonathan signed into law Thursday a $31 billion budget that calls for Nigeria's government to raise spending by about 50 percent from last year's level.

University of Abuja political science professor Kabiru Mato said federal budgets in the past couple of years have failed to meet the expectation of Nigerians.

“I think it’s really an aspiration of governments in Nigeria, but you see the tragedy of it all is that there seems to be already a high rate of skepticism among Nigerians because every year they vote such a large sum of money and say they are going to put infrastructure in place. But at the end of the day the money is exhausted and the infrastructure is not in place. And that is why electricity is still an issue, roads are still an issue, the issue of public transportation is virtually nonexistent in Nigeria,” he said.

Mato said both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government will have to strengthen their monitoring capabilities if the budget money for infrastructure development is to be used for the purposes intended.

“It means that if the acting president is serious about what he’s saying then he has to, of course, strengthen the supervisory mechanism of government to ensure that the budget is strictly implemented. I lay the blame fundamentally on the doorstep of the national assembly that has the constitutional powers to carry out oversight function over appropriated funds,” Mato said.

The 2010 budget assumes Nigeria will pump 2.35 million barrels of oil a day, with each barrel selling for an average price of $67.

Mato said it is possible the Nigerian government can reach that production goal because militant attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta region have lessened recently as a result of government's offer of amnesty.

“Oil production in the Niger Delta in Nigeria in the last few months has been rather steady. The amnesty granted by President Umaru Yar’Adua is a fundamental factor there. It has addressed a lot of the issues and we’ve had very few incidences of disruption or blowing up of oil pipelines. And the way the oil market is going, it suggests that possibly you are still going to have some savings from the revenue that will accrue from oil,” he said.

Some Nigerians have been commenting on the new budget in the context of the country’s fight against corruption.

Mato said government officials responsible handling money intended for Nigeria’s infrastructure development will have to lead by example.

“What really needs to be done in Nigeria is to build a very strong regulatory framework to ensure that government funds are deployed to the right area and there is value for money. Secondly also the problem of corruption I think lies with the inability of those at the top of societal ladder to provide the exemplary leadership that is required. If transparency is observed at the highest level of governance, it is automatically going to transmit to every level of government,” Mato said.