2020 Budget Review: ActionAid Nigeria Advocates Increased Allocations To Health, Education, Agric Sectors

Action Aid Nigeria has tasked the federal government to set up a Budget tracking and performance assessment mechanism to ensure the amended budget does not contain duplicated expenditures across MDAs.

The Country Director, ActionAid Nigeria,
Ene Obi, who gave the charge while reacting to the 2020 budget cut following the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic also reiterated her call for an increased budgetary allocation to the education, health and agricultural sectors.

In a letter she addressed to the President of the Senate, titled: “Budget Reality: X-Raying the Implication of the Cuts in the 2020 Budget on Key Sectors, Health, Education and Agriculture Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic”, Obi said any cut on budgetary allocation to these sectors would be detrimental with far reaching implications.

She noted that since the emergence of the new Coronavirus in 2019, life has never been the same again saying in spite of unrelenting efforts by government at different levels to contain the spread of the virus, the number of infected persons and resulting deaths have increased.

The letter read in part, “As at 11.59a.m, Wednesday May 27th, 2020, the number of confirmed cases in Nigeria as reported by NCDC is 8,344, with 249 deaths and 2,385 discharged cases.

“While lockdown measures are being used to contain the spread of virus, the economy has come to a standstill with revenue and job losses across many sectors. For instance, in the aviation sector, there is an estimated N180b revenue loss and more than 24, 000 jobs that are at risk in Nigeria.

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“This downward spiral trend of the economy has compelled the Federal Government to review the 2020 budget, in which total Federal Government expenditure was revised downwards from N10.594 trillion to N10.523 trillion”.

She recalled that ActionAid Nigeria, an affiliate member of the ActionAid International, has been advocating for increased budgetary allocation to key sectors; Agriculture, Health and Education, given their strategic importance.

“Agriculture employs up to 80% of the population, especially in the informal sector, where the majority of the small-scale food producers are women farmers.”

She also solicited improved funding of the education sector, saying it will minimize incessant strikes in the public institutions, enhance quality of education, learning and provide basic infrastructures at both secondary and tertiary levels.

She also noted that the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the health sector at all levels, signifying long years of negligence of investment in public health infrastructure.

Ene, who maintained that the Health, Education and Agricultural sectors were grossly underfunded in the 2020 budget insisted that the allocations to these three key sectors should not be reduced further in the ongoing budget review, given that they are already very insignificant, falling below the international benchmarks, which is 10%, according to the AU 2003 Maputo Declaration

The ActionAid Nigeria boss further recommended that “The Brazilian model for increased agricultural productivity should be embraced in its entirety. Adequate provisions should be made for small scale farmers, gender friendly tools should be prioritized, and resources should be properly utilized to increase production, processing, and marketing for small holder farmers.

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“A coordinated framework should be established to ensure that funds
allocated to Health, Education and Agriculture are properly administered,
ensuring value for money and an integrated approach.

“The Nigerian Government should enhance its capacity to offset loans before obtaining more of the same.’

She advised that henceforth, loans should not be used for recurrent expenditures like payment of salaries, traveling allowances among others.

She also stated that allocation to the National Assembly should be reduced and all excesses channeled towards enhancing the Health, Education and Agricultural sectors.

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