By: Jerome-Mario Utomi
The ripple reaction that trailed the signing of the 2018 budget into law on Wednesday 20th June 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari after a protracted wait by Nigerians has again demonstrated that efficiency of the government sector does not only affect the performance of the public sector but that of the whole country.
Interestingly, aside the concern expressed by Mr. President that some strategic projects were slashed by the National Assembly, the breakdown of the budget passed reveals that the present administration committed to developing the nation’s infrastructures as the details explains that the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing got jumbo sum amounting to N682.309bn, followed by transportation which received N251.420bn; N157.715bn for defense; N149.198bn for agriculture and rural development; N147.200bn for water resources among others.
The above development to Nigerians with critical interest appears heartening, because for the nation to function well, good public services are needed; roads and good transport networks, so that goods can be transported; a public infrastructure so that economic activity can flourish, and some types of basic regulation to prevent fraud and malfeasance.
No doubt, the effort of the federal government was praised but along the way, lies an inherent challenge as a further analysis of the budget revealed that a paltry sum of N102.907bn, and like the previous years, hovers around the ‘customary’ seven percent of the sum total of the annual budget was allocated to the education sector.
A decision that is marred by non-compliance to the international budgetary benchmark on educational funding and fears of possible inability to meet the nation’s educational sector’s primary mandate; and as an effect, heightened the apprehension among Nigerians that the already not too impressive educational sector may further deteriorate.
From the analyses of their action, the vast majority of Nigerians are of the views that however noble the initiatives that informed the government’s decision to place other sectors ahead of education may appear, it remains antithetical to national development and renders Mr. President’s comment that ‘the 2018 Budget is targeted at consolidating the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020’’ as a body without a soul.
This visible gap in my views may have stemmed from a confluence of silent reasons with the most radical being the government’s inability to remember that globally, there is no leftist or rightist principle for lifting a nation from poverty to prosperity but can only be achieved by the government’s disciplined attention to education/ human capital development sector.
Looking at commentaries, Nigerians are particularly pained that the current administration failed to break away from the perennial underfunding challenge of the nations’ educational sector which is fast becoming a norm despite their promised hypermodern nation via education but instead had it compounded.
Not supporting the FG’s action is the fact that the allocation barefacedly fell short of the United Nations budgetary recommendation on education. For a better understanding of this line of argument, it would be recalled that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had recommended a twenty percent and above nation’s budgetary allocation to education.
What is most frightening of this episode is that the FG has from this standpoint undermined the imperativeness of the United Nations’ 2030 sustainable Development Agenda which of course has education as one of its enablers.
This state of affairs has understandably raised a lot of worries and concerns among development practitioners as there is an accompanying believe at the global stage that if Nigeria fails to get the above right, Africa as a continent will in turn not get it right. And, if Africa as a continent fails, the 2030 sustainable development agenda as planned will be considered a failure the world over.
Counting their losses, the Nigerian students have since bemoaned the development which has dimmed their hope of accessing quality education while their teachers/lecturers and non-teaching staff laments the development with many wondering what the future holds for the educational sector in Nigerians.
This and other sordid developments may have informed the belief at the world stage that African countries are poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty; they get it wrong not by mistake or ignorance, but on purpose; a position that can only be understood by studying how decisions actually get made, who gets to make them and why those people decide to do what they do.
Markedly, this allocation to the educational sector has further exonerated Bill Gates off, and further reinforced his position as conversed during his recent visit to the country where he called on our leaders to deepen their commitment to human capital development in the country; a call that was roundly criticized.
In view of the above fact, it has become glaring that underfunding of the educational sector propels viciousness of poverty in the country as the analysis below explains.
‘A man denied access to quality education becomes poor; because he is poor,, he may not have enough to eat; being under fed, his health may be weak; being physically weak, his working capacity is low, which means that he is poor and so on’.
Meanwhile, as the condemnation rages, different groups has equally voiced their displeasure with the latest coming from the ijaw Youth Congress, worldwide (iYC) .
The group through a release dated Thursday 21st, June, 2018 among other things described as insensitivity, retrogression and selfishness the action of the National Assembly’s reduction of the budget proposal for the Maritime University’s take-off grant and other key developmental projects while increasing the budget for their personal cost.
Such a reaction may not be a surprise to a student of history as it was such decisions from the previous administrations that rendered their region blighted, increased the social difficulties of the people; with no good record for survival as their environment has been polluted with half of their population unemployed and starved.
With these challenges in mind, we should therefore as a people not live under any illusion that we can effect economic growth; social progress and cultural development; promote peace and stability; collaborate agriculture and industry and expand trade without the FG reprioritizing their choices.
To get the above process catalyzed, the government should realize that the secret of successful development lies in reaching an ideal formula that can effectively use the skills of the people along with the right vision to build an enduring society.
What Nigerians assiduously needs in this regard is human capital development built on a well-funded educational sector.
Jerome-Mario Writes Via; Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com