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Oluwasegun Ajetunmobi: Nigerian Budget Needs Serious Attention



On May 27, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the country’s budget into law, over five months after the budget had been presented to the joint national assembly. During the budget’s delay, Nigeria had been operating without a law to govern spending. But an even greater anomaly is what was actually in the final budget itself. The government allotted a great part of the budget to governance and political offices, while allocating very little to the education sector, which desperately needs revamping. Effectively, the Nigerian budget and the entire budgeting process need serious reform.

It is fast becoming a trend and norm for the Nigerian government to approve a budget late into the year. In 2018, the budget was not signed until mid-June. The previous year, the budget was surrounded by controversy and wasn’t signed until around the same time; and in 2016, the budget had massive padding and irregularities and wasn’t signed until early May. This trend is inimical to the development of the country, and the national assembly and other offices responsible for planning and budgeting need to respond to this situation and be held responsible.

Worse yet is where the money in the budget is being spent. Currently, the budget provides so much to general governance that there isn’t even a specified amount. Senator Shehu Sani recently revealed to the Nigerian people that senators earn over $450,000 in bonuses per year, in addition to a $25,000 base salary. Furthermore, the assembly recently provided a $6.5 million increase in severance pay to outgoing lawmakers. 

Instead of focusing on lawmaker pay, this budget should have attended to the vital issues that affect Nigerian society. Currently, Nigeria only allocates roughly $2 billion for education across the entire country, and this poor funding and infrastructure in schools hinders the free flow of learning in public universities. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) reports that 701 development projects in public universities are abandoned or are marked as perpetually on-going projects. Many construction projects in tertiary institutions are not completed on schedule, which limits the productivity of these institutions, and some of the abandoned projects are over 10 years old. While lawmakers cast many votes in favor of spending on general governance and government-owned enterprises, they refuse to prioritize education and developmental projects. According to ASUU’s report, only 75 percent of the 37,504 lecturers in over 70 public institutions are engaged on a full-time basis, and only 43 percent hold a doctorate degree. The estimated number of students in public universities is over 1.9 million. These statistics are alarming and devastating to the quality of education from Nigeria.

The National Assembly must demand that the budget be presented before the middle of the fourth quarter, in October. This will give the assembly enough time to correct, adjust and sit on the budget before the end of the year.

Nigeria must also make significant cuts to governance spending, and the bonuses and salaries of public servants need to be re-visited. In a country with almost 200 million people and an average minimum wage less than $1,200 per year, a legislator shouldn’t earn upwards of $450,000 per year. This disparity is a burden on Nigeria, and the budget must be readjusted to focus on education.

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If the Nigerian government were to allocate more money to education endowments, institutions could spend the interest to address poor funding in tertiary institutions. This would also increase the number of scholarships and research grants available in public institutions. In this sense, the budget would also help public institutions by providing more money to hire new staff and expand the capacity of universities. 

Nigerians must ask questions about how their money is being allocated and spent. The budget is not just fiscal policy — its law, and it will save up to be our history. A proper check of the budget is necessary to keep the government running and to encourage good governance for ourselves and for generations to come.

Oluwasegun Ajetunmobi is an Agora Fellow at Young Voices and a writing fellow at African Liberty. He is currently a graduate student of African Studies at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He can be reached via twitter @segzyaj

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Oluwasegun Ajetunmobi
African Liberty Writing Fellow
Agora Fellow, Young Voices’