Budget 2023: Stakeholders call for higher allocations for health, education and agriculture – NAN survey

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Stakeholders from the health and education sectors in the South East have called for high budget allocations for the two critical sectors.

They spoke in separate interviews during an investigation by the news agency of Nigeria reviewing allocations to the sectors in the 2023 finance bill presented by the President Muhammadu Buhari in the National Assembly.

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They argued that both sectors had suffered gross negligence and needed adequate funding for recovery.

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In Abiathe president of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Emeka Orjicalled the Federal government to increase the annual allocation to the health sector, given the enormous deterioration and infrastructure deficit of the system.

Orji said many public health institutions lack the modern equipment and facilities needed to operate optimally, hence the need for an increase in budget allocation from 5% to 15%.

He recalled that the “2001 Abuja Declaration of Heads of Government” recommended a benchmark of 15% for the annual budgets of African countries to improve the health sector.

He said implementing the declaration would help address the brain drain issues currently threatening the country’s health sector.

Orji said the sector needs adequate funding to equip health facilities, improve salaries for health workers and employ more staff to meet the growing health needs of citizens.

“We have carried out studies and found that there is a crisis situation that needs to be addressed because it will come to a point where you will no longer find doctors in public hospitals.

“Some African countries with similar economic situations to Nigeria offer better pay and incentives to their health workers.

“Investing more funds in the sector is one of the things you are doing to encourage your best minds to stay to serve the country,” Orji said.

He advised the federal government to put in place an effective mechanism to monitor the use of its allocation to the sector.

On education, a teacher, Mr. Kenneth Okoriechastised the federal government for “consistently” failing to respect the UNESCO target of 26 percent allocated to the sector.

He said the sector’s low budget had contributed to its abysmal performance of late.

“How can you allocate a measly 5.6% to education in the 2023 budget when UNESCO recommended at least 26%?

“It is unfortunate that we have continued to pretend to talk about this very important segment of our life and our economy,” Okorie said.

In the same vein, a Umuahia-based lawyer, Mr. Chibuike Nwankwodescribed the federal government’s appropriations bill of N20.5 trillion naira for 2023 as unrealistic.

Nwankwo argued that the country’s huge debt profile and unstable exchange rate would make the budget difficult to implement.

He said: “A country that depends on borrowing cannot have an achievable or realistic budget.

“What we need is an ‘adjustment budget’.

“We have to adapt to what we have or what we can afford.

In Ebonysome analysts have expressed concern over the National Assembly’s colossal budget allocation.

Political analyst, Mr. Ken Nwabuezesaid Nigerian lawmakers were among the highest paid lawmakers in the world with huge allowances.

He urged federal and state governments to reduce the cost of governance and pay more attention to agriculture.

He spoke in the context of the 169 billion naira allocated to the National Assembly through the 228 billion naira for agriculture and rural development.

An economist, Mr. Philippe Onwesaid more investment in agriculture was needed to improve productivity in the sector and save Nigerians from the impending food shortage.

“There is a need to increase funding for agriculture in the country to achieve food security.

“Agriculture has the capacity to generate jobs for the many unemployed young people in the country and to contribute substantially to the GDPadded Onwe.

Civil servant and farmer, Ms. Rose Okechukwuexpressed satisfaction with the allocation to agriculture but called for effective implementation of the budget.

Speaking further on the matter, the Enugu State Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Romanus Ezesaid poor budget execution would certainly affect productivity in the agricultural sector.

Eze said: “The amount allocated to agriculture has never been an issue in food production.

“The problem has always been how the allowance is distributed to genuine farmers.

“The government has great policies and programs on agriculture, but the implementers are either few or insincere.

In Enugu, the candidate for Governor of the Accord Party, Mr. John Nwobodowelcomed the federal government’s allocation of 470 billion naira to take care of ASUU requirements as “fair and just”.

Nwobodo, a jurist, advised that each administration should allocate funds according to the particular needs of each sector.

“Thus, in allocating resources, each administration should ensure that no sector has an undue advantage over the others,” he said.

Public Affairs Analyst, Mr. Steve Ofilicriticized the budget, saying it was unrealistic to set it at $70 a barrel, with 1.9 million barrels per day.

He said: “$70 and 1.9 million barrels of crude is not realistic because the price of oil is largely dependent on the global economy.

“And, with the recent revelations about the theft of crude oil in Niger DeltaI doubt Nigeria can achieve that,” Ofili said.

He further said that the budget is full of ambiguities, arguing that it is not a sound budget plan for recurrent spending to far exceed capital spending.

“Again, the government’s plan to borrow over 800 billion naira to finance the budget is not sound.

“Even some agencies that were flagged for the merger still received budget allocations.

“Until we reduce the cost of governance in Nigeria, we will not succeed,” Ofili said.

In Imosome farmers have called on the government to pay more attention to agriculture to mitigate the effects of this year’s floods.

They warned that unless urgent and drastic action is taken to address the impending food shortage resulting from the floods, food prices will soon rise beyond the reach of many Nigerians.

Furthermore, stakeholders in the education sector have stated that no allocation would be too much to revive education in the country.

They spoke against the backdrop of the N1.08 trillion allocated to the sector.

They noted that education in the country has been grossly underfunded and neglected over the years.

A former lecturer at the Enugu Institute of Management and Technology, Mr. Jerome Amuhsaid the education sector needed a huge allocation for a possible turnaround.

Amuh argued there was no guarantee the federal government would release the full amount in the fiscal year.

“So it’s not something people should start dancing to,” he said.

According to him, many schools, especially higher education institutions, lack good classrooms, laboratories up to standard, while many structures are in deplorable conditions.

“The government should assume its responsibility in the sector to save the situation in the education sector.

A student, Miss Anthonia Ugbaja, said that as a vital sector of the economy, education should always get the lion’s share of the annual budget.

NewsSourceCredit: NOPE

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