Stakeholders in education, health and power sectors have warned that National Assembly’s approval for the 2019 election to be funded from the budgetary allocations of 30 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) would adversely affect the performance of key sectors of the economy.
They complained that the sectors are already underfunded and cannot afford to suffer any budgetary deductions.
LEADERSHIP recalls that a whopping N25.5billion was severed from the N714.668 billion voted for the power sector in the 2018 budget as part of monies vired for the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
The education sector also suffered similar fate as N10.238billion was vired from N651.226 billion appropriated for the supervising ministry in the 2018 fiscal year to make up the N242.2 billion budgeted for the conduct of the 2019 general election.
The report presented by the chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Senator Danjuma Goje (APC, Gombe Central), was however silent on the N578 billion constituency projects.
The committee also recommended the deduction of N8.059 billion from Federal Ministry of Health.
The stakeholders said power generation may drop further as a result of poor funding caused by deduction from its budgetary allocation.
They also expressed fears that hospitals might suffer poor medical supplies, while the education sector may suffer further infrastructural decay and Labour tensions.
Already, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is on a nationwide indefinite strike.
Reacting to the move to transfer the burden of funding the 2019 polls to the MDAs, Professor Tony Dansu of the Lagos State University questioned the rationale behind taking funds from an underfunded critical sector to run an election.
He said, “There is something fundamentally wrong with us in this country. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) standard is that a minimum of 26 percent of the budget of any country goes to education and that is the minimum.
“There are countries around the world that dedicate over 30 per cent of their budget to education, but what do we have here in Nigeria? Nigeria has never gone beyond 10 per cent for education, and last year we were around seven to eight percent, yet we are still talking of taking out of that.
“It is quite shameful. It is a well-known fact that education is the bedrock for the development of any country and there is no way any country can grow without it. So it is quite unfortunate that the government is even thinking about it (i.e. moving funds from the sector).”
In his reaction, the national public relations officer of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Salaam Abdussobum, said it would not only be shameful but also criminal to contemplate such an action.
He asserted that the education and the health sectors of the country were already suffering due to paucity of funds and should rather be allocated more funds rather than taking from them.
“If it is being contemplated at all, they (the government) should expect resistance from us at SSANU. The issue of allocating more funds to education and health sectors is not negotiable at all and we are still talking about the fact that these sectors are being underfunded.
“It will be criminal for any government to want to take money from the education or even the health sector to run an election and we will resist it if the government contemplates it at all,” he said.
In his contribution, the coordinator, Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP), Barrister Ayo Adebusoye, condemned the move to transfer the burden of funding 2019 poll to MDAs, describing it as an unfair move to the detriment of the health of Nigerians, especially the vulnerable group in the country.
Adebusoye told LEADERSHIP that if the Senate is allowed to carry out such a decision, it would only reveal that the executive and the legislative arms of government never cared about the health of Nigerians.
He said, “The decision by the Senate simply reveals that the government is tactically trying to remove itself from investing in the health sector and in human capital.
“It is clear that you can only put money where your mouth is. If they feel health, education is not where their heart is, then Nigerians should start questioning their actions. And that is really unfair to the Nigerian people (who are) even complaining about the less than five per cent federal government budgeted for the health sector in 2018, compared to the 15 per cent Abuja Declaration to the health sector. Now they want to use the little fund to finance the 2019 election. It is sad. “
Adebusoye, therefore, urged Nigerians to query the decisions of government during this election period.
“Thank God the 2019 election is around the corner. Nigerians should be wise to put those who care about their health and wellbeing into power. It is about time Nigerians query such decisions of government by coming out enmasse to vote”, he added.
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