Saturday, March 7, 2015

This Week in Nigeria: $30 Billion Budget Signed into Law

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President Goodluck Jonathan gives a speech in Lagos. Photograph by the Ford Foundation.

This Week: News

$30 billion budget signed into law

The 2012 Appropriation Bill was signed into law last Friday by President Goodluck Jonathan. The budget has an aggregate expenditure of N4.69 trillion ($30 billion) whilst the total federal government revenue forecast is N3.5 trillion ($22 billion) based on a benchmark oil price of $72 per barrel. N1.32 trillion ($8.3 billion) is earmarked for capital expenditure and N3.4 trillion ($22 billion) is budgeted for recurrent expenditure. N890 billion ($5.6 billion) has been set aside to fund the government’s reduced petroleum subsidy payments, while the N180 billion ($1.1 billion) for the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme is be deducted from federal accounts.

Anger over failed police network project

Anger is brewing over the fact that the Chinese-led project to build a modern telecommunications network for the Nigerian Police Force remains incomplete over two years after the contract was awarded. The $500 million contract was given to Chinese company ZTE and was one of the topics for discussion when Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala visited Beijing earlier this year. Industry professionals claimed the project would significantly enhance the efficiency of the police by enabling faster transmission of information.

Air Nigeria to begin international flights

Air Nigeria has concluded its two year turnaround programme and will commence its international routes in May according to its chairman Jimoh Ibrahim. The airline will start with flights from Lagos to London-Gatwick and OR Tambo International, near Johannesburg. Ibrahim also admitted that $373 million worth of debt was inherited by the company after its acquisition of Richard Branson’s Virgin Nigeria which now flies under the Air Nigeria name.

Ban on foreign health visits by officials proposed

Public office holders are to be banned from foreign medical trips by the federal government in order to curb what is seen as waste of public funds. Minister of Health Onyebuchi Chukwu told journalists in Abuja on Saturday that he preparing a memo to be presented to the Federal Executive Council proposing those in public office be prohibited from seeking medical treatment abroad. The minister also stated his regret at the increase in fraudulent referrals by Nigerian doctors who receive between 10-15% of the foreign medical bills as kickback.

Old bomb excavated in Anambra

A buried object suspected to be a bomb was excavated by explosives experts in Anambra State. The Russian-made device is thought to have been dropped during the Nigerian Civil War (1967-70). Major roads to the area were blocked off while Nigerian Mine Action Centre (NMAC) experts excavated the device in preparation for a possible detonation. NMAC are working in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence in de-mining South-East and South-South states, where about 50,000 landmines are suspected to have been laid during the 30-month war.

This Week: Politics

Overseas medical treatment is not just the preserve of public officials, it is sought by anyone who can afford it. And the steady decline in the public’s faith in Nigeria’s medical institutions shows no signs of abating. Widely seen as unprofessional and lacking in the latest technologies and methods, foreign medical trips have become a recurring theme in the lives of the Nigerian elite. The investments in healthcare have made little difference with funds frittered away as in so many of the country’s other big contracts and projects.

Teaching hospitals are understaffed and undertrained; and numerous deaths could have been averted if the rights steps were taken to reform healthcare in Nigeria. The current Senate President David Mark has just arrived in Tel-Aviv for his yearly medical checkup, and who can forget the fiasco surrounding deceased President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his Saudi Arabian hospital treatment. The average Nigerian continues to suffer. Rather than ban foreign trips for political office holders, why not focus on comprehensive reforms of Nigeria’s health sector?

With 102 days left until the London Olympics, there has been little coverage of Team Nigeria and their preparations. The director general of the National Sports Commission, Patrick Ekeji, stated during his grilling by the House of Representatives Committee on Sports that N2.4 billion ($15 million) was needed to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Nigeria, blessed with an abundance of talent should easily be amongst the medals in events such as athletics, boxing, weightlifting and wrestling. On past evidence, there are individuals who can make the Nigeria proud. Yet idiosyncratic inefficiency and lack of planning is threatening to derail the chances of these elite athletes. A meagre payment of $4000 quarterly was awarded as training grants, and budgetary delays have seriously affected preparation. It is no surprise that many athletes have chosen to forgo their dreams of an Olympic medal. Nigerian Sprinter and Africa’s 100m record-holder Olusoji Fasuba chose to join the British Royal Navy rather than persevere with Nigerian athletics. With a final total of three bronze medals and one silver, Nigeria did not win a single gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, and at London 2012 it’s hard to see how this will be improved upon.

Writers of the week:

Living Under Siege’ by Mark Amaza tells the story of a Maiduguri resident in fear for his safety and that of his loved ones. Having lived on the front line of Boko Haram attacks, Amaza explains in graphic detail what living in a city ‘under siege’ entails. The feelings of loss, pain, anger and fear are described throughout the article giving a moving human element to a security situation. Brilliantly written and truthfully emotive, the insight into Amaza’s life will be of interest to those concerned with the Boko Haram attacks and how they affect those caught in the cross-fire.

Are Nigerians Heartless or Just Tired?’ by Ebuka Obi-Uchendu takes a soul-searching look into the psyche of the modern day citizen. Talking from personal experience, Obi-Uchendu details the situation of the Easter Sunday bomb blast in Kaduna and a day in the life of an active Lagosian. The lack of thought and care when the news of the bomb attack was brought up in conversation with a cousin leads Obi-Uchendu to the conclusion that “we need to regain a hold of our moral fibre before the decay is complete”.

Website of the week:

Vivacity PR is a London-based public relations company with the objective of connecting Europe and the rest of the world with African markets. Services include public and trade relations, brand awareness and advertising alongside events and exhibitions. Vivacity aims to be a market leader in African-owned PR companies and promises to provide a ‘fresh’ approach and new ideas.

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