10th June, 2010
It is unreasonable and even disheartening that the Federal Government has budgeted N10 billion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nigeriaâ€™s independence in October when the country is plagued by numerous problems. We regard this huge budget as a waste at a time the country is grappling with gargantuan problems.
How can a country that cannot boast of stable electricity supply, qualitative education or something as basic as good roads or potable water, waste billions to celebrate failure? At a time our roads have become death traps and hundreds of thousands of our children cannot secure admission into our poorly equipped universities, it breaks our hearts that the government can dole out billions to spend on a one-off event.
The N10 billion is part of the N639 billion Supplementary Appropriation Bill that President Goodluck Jonathan sent to the National Assembly for approval last week.
A breakdown of how the money will be spent shows that N950 million is budgeted for anniversary parade including march past, fleet review and aerial display, while N350 million will be spent onÂ national unity torch and tour.
First Lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan will spend N50 million for a special visit to special homes, orphanages, prisons and selected hospitals, while N20 million will be used to sponsor a special session of the National Children Parliament.Â Another N20 million will used to organise a party for 1000 children.
The government will further spend N40 million to organise a Presidential banquet, N50 million for calisthenics performance, N310 million for cultural, historical and military exhibitions while another N40 million will go for what the government called â€œfood week.â€
As part of the 50th anniversary jamboree, N320 million will be spent on secretariat equipment, accommodation, logistics and utilities while N30 million is budgeted for the designing and unveiling of the 50th anniversary logo.
Similarly, the Ministry of Information and Communications will spend N1.2 billion on special reports on Nigeria in both local and international media, another N320 million will be spent on jingles, adverts, billboards, documentary and publicity, while the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will receive N105 million for an undisclosed expenditure.
To mark the 50th independence anniversary, the government has also budgeted N700 million to accommodate and transport special guests both from within and outside the country. Another N450 million will be used to finance the production of branded souvenirs and gift items for foreign heads of state and to erect a coat of arms on Aso Rock.
Also as part of the bash, a variety gala night and fireworks will gulp N210 million; an international friendly football match and local competition will gulp N200 million while event managers and producers will take home N120 million. Designing and publication of a compendium on Nigeria will cost N400 million, while a similar one on the legislature will cost N150 million and a compendium on the judiciary will cost N50 million.
CommissioningÂ of the golden jubilee plaza will cost N10 million, while designing, construction and mounting of Tower of Unity in the 36 states of the Federation will gulp another N540 million. Debates, essays, conferences, lectures, and a colloquium will gulp yet another N150 million; musical concerts and carnivals in the six geo-political zones will cost N60 million; durbar, masquerades and cultural dances will consume N100 million and designing and construction of 10 symbolic monuments of founding fathers of Nigeria will gulp N80 million.
A memorial tomb at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, will consume N40 million, security and protocol will cost N500 million while N25 million has been budgeted for medicals during the anniversary.
The figures are staggering and mind boggling. Countries such as Ghana deserved to celebrate after 50 years of their independence because they enjoy stable electricity, qualitative education, security, stable democracy and other perks that come with it.
In our case, what is there to celebrate? Is it insecurity? Election rigging? Bad roads? Lack of stable electricity supply? Lack of qualitative education? Lack of qualitative health infrastructure? High unemployment rate or is it our ill equipped airports? Why then should we waste billions that the country ought to spend to improve the lives of Nigerians? This is unacceptable. The budget should be scaled down to reflect the mood of the times. A fraction of it could make meaningful impact on education and health rather than allow everything to go down the drain.