Budget padding will never happen again, President Buhari vows

Timothy Choji, Abuja

R-L; President Muhammadu Buhari receives members of Governance Support Group (GSG), Hon Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Alhaji Mohammed Garba Gadi, Hom Commisioner Sadiya Umar Faroug, Mr Alex Hart, Capt Bala Jubrin, Mr Fola Longe and Alhaji Garba Sani at the State House in Abuja.

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed that the distortions that happened in the 2016 budget, in which series of projects and figures were injected into the financial document, will not happen in next year’s budget.

He made the statement at the State House, Abuja, while receiving members of the Governance Support Group (GSG), led by Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba.

President Buhari said:“I am waiting for the 2017 Budget to be brought to us in Council. Any sign of padding anywhere, I will remove it.”

The President re-iterated that he had been in government since 1975, variously, as Governor, oil Minister, Head of State, and Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).

“At all these levels of my involvement, never did I hear the word ‘padding’ till the 2016 Budget,” he said.

President Buhari promised that such a situation would never happen again under his watch.

The President said the government stands by its tripod campaign promises of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption, but lamented that some people were deliberately turning blind eyes to prevailing realities in the country.

“They don’t want to reflect on the situation in which we are, economically. They want to live the same way; they simply want business as usual,” he stated.

On the violence that some parts of the country witnessed during rerun elections, President Buhari stated:

“I agonized over the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers states. We should have passed the stage in which people are beheaded, and killed because of who occupies certain offices. If we can’t guarantee decent elections, then we have no business being around. Edo State election was good and I expect Ondo State election to be better.”

Speaking on the anti-corruption cases before the courts, the President said he believed the cleansing currently going on would lead to a better judiciary.

He told his guests that the progress being made in agriculture and exploitation of solid minerals gave a lot of hope.

“Our grains go up to Central African Republic, to Burkina Faso, but they can’t buy all the grains harvested this year. And next season should be even better. We will focus on other products like cocoa, palm oil, palm kernel, along with the grains. We can start exporting rice in 18 months, and we are getting fertilizers and pesticides in readiness for next year,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of members of GSG, Mr Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba said the government had succeeded to a large extent on the security and anti-corruption fronts, adding that the group was positive that the economy would soon experience a turnaround.

The group said the biggest constituency of the President were the poor and lowly, and  recommended what he called a social re-armament of the poor.

Revenue fall

Speaking to Journalists after the courtesy visit, the Director General of Voice of Nigeria, Mr Osita Okechukwu, who is a member of the group, said the President deserved commendation adding that in spite of the fall in oil revenue, he was still managing the country well.

“We appreciate the condition the President met on the ground. We appreciate the fact that the oil price in a mono economy had crashed. It used to be between 90-100 dollars per barrel in the previous years but with his entry it’s now below 50 dollars, which is a different matter,” he said.

Commenting on the proposed $29bn loan the President is seeking, Mr Okechukwu said if approved by the National Assembly, the usefulness of the money would be felt in all parts of the country.

“In that loan package, there’s about $500m that will be used to complete the East-West road, because it cuts across the nerve centre of the Niger-Delta region, which the President is concerned about. He said tangible projects would be a better thing to do for the region, unlike the previous administrations, kept paying money to warlords. He intends to do the same thing for other parts of the country, for example, the Lagos-Kano rail line, which he wants to expand,” the Director General explained.

Similarly, a member of the group, Garba Gadi, said given the circumstances under which President Buhari assumed leadership of the country, he had done well so far.

Gadi, who is a former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, North-East Nigeria, said the group had been with President Buhari for a long time and would continue to offer useful advice to him.

“We have been his foot soldiers since 2002 and occasionally we brief him and provide some input to the operations of this government. He appreciated our input and he promised to take the appropriate action,” he said.

As the name suggests, the Governance Support Group comprises people from all walks of life, who are working hard to sustain quality leadership at all levels in Nigeria, to enable citizens reap more dividends of democracy.