By Lateef Ibrahim, Abuja
Former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has advised the Federal Government to cut its coat according to its cloth, not by its size, stating that no nation can afford living in luxury during austerity.
Atiku, who gave the advice in a statement personally signed by him Thursday in Abuja noted with consternation that despite the crash in the price of oil, and the inability of Nigeria to expand her revenue base through the non oil sector, the Federal Government of Nigeria has only deemed fit to slash this year’s budget by a mere 0.6%, from N10.594 trillion to N10.523 trillion.
This, according to him, represents a reduction of only N71 billion.
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the last year’s election, maintained strongly that the Federal government must put Nigerians first by realistically slashing the budget by removing items not very important.
Atiku insisted that in times of austerity, no nation, not the least a mono product economy, such as Nigeria, should be living in luxury at a leadership level.
According to him, ‘My counsel to the Federal Government of Nigeria is this: put Nigerians first and cut your coat, not according to your size, but according to your cloth.
“Realistically slash the budget. Every pork barrel has to go.
“The billions budgeted for the travels and feeding of the President and Vice President has to be reduced.
“The N27 billion budget for the renovation of the National Assembly has to go. The massive budgets to run both the Presidency and the Legislature has to be downsized.
“The budget for purchasing luxury cars for the President, his vice, and other political office holders must be jettisoned.
“Leave the salaries of civil servants alone, but reduce the salaries of political appointees. Sell 8 or 9 of the jets in the Presidential Air Fleet.
“Any budget slash that is less than 25% will not be in the interest of Nigeria.
“And beyond a budget slash, Nigeria needs a budget realignment, to redirect expenditure away from running a massive bureaucracy, into social development sectors like education, infrastructure, and above all, healthcare. “We must invest in the goose that lays the golden egg – the Nigerian people.
“These are the types of sacrifices that we need in a time of crisis. We do not need empty gestures that will lead to empty treasuries.
“In times of austerity, no nation, not the least a mono product economy, such as ours, should be living in luxury at a leadership level”, he counseled.
The former Vice President between 1999 and 2007 posited that Nigeria cannot make up for the loss of expected revenue by taking out more loans and issuing out more bonds, warning that if that is done, “debt will be the death of our economy and bonds will put our people in bondage”.
In his reasoning, “The best way out of this economic quagmire is to reduce our expenditure. And a 0.6% reduction is no reduction. It is only window dressing”.