By Uche Mbah
President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2019 budget yesterday amid boos, jeers and accolades from the joint sitting of the national Assembly. The budget, which degenerated into a campaign speech by the president, was received with boos and shouts of “it’s a lie”, “no more years”, four more years” etc. It was a rancorous session, which prompted the president to take a break from reading the budget and caution the National Assembly, saying they should not be behaving this way, and that “the world is watching us”. Amid the crisis, the security agents were forced to start playing the National anthem when he was still seated, and he was hurriedly whisked out of the place.
The Peoples democratic Party, PDP, reacted by saying the booing was part a sign of vote of no confidence passed on the President. The All Progressives congress, APC, criticized the National Assembly for being unruly. And the social media was on fire, with people at opposing camps in their reactions.
Part of the reason given by legislators for booing Buhari was their allegations that he was lying to the Nation standing inside the hallowed Chambers. They cited the Enugu Onitsha road which Buhari claimed has been completed. The Source fact-check shows that the workers were hurriedly moved to site recently, and that they have not even done a small fraction of the road. The road was one of the agenda tabled by Igbo leaders who met Buhari recently. Others were the second Niger bridge, Enugu Port Harcourt expressway and Enugu International Airport. These were mentioned as what the Igbo leaders are not happy about. “For Buhari to come and bring up the road as part of the completed project is an insult on Ndigbo”, a member of the House of Representative told this magazine yesterday.
Besides, during the meeting with governors recently, Buhari has said the economy is in dire straits. But during the budget presentation, he has noted that the economy is on the recovery side, citing the exit out of recession as proof. This was however refuted by the Senate president, Bukola Saraki, who noted that it is still a dicey.
Perhaps the highlight of the budget presentation was the acknowledgement of subsidy, which he officially provided for in the budget. Buhari had, during the runoff of 2015 elections, claimed that subsidy is a scam. try into unprecedented debt since the history of the nation. The excess crude account, meant to be saving for the rainy day has since become monthly allocations to governors.
The Buhari administration has enmeshed the country into debt, The excess crude account, meant to be a cushion for the rainy day, and forced to be shared by profligate governors, has suddenly become too depleted. $1.688 billion, almost 73 per cent, left the account within the last three weeks. It can not be immediately confirmed what the Federal government has done with it. External Debt averaged 8486.04 USD Million from 2008 until 2018, reaching an all time high of 22083.44 USD Million in the second quarter of 2018.
The budget, however, is devoid of economic revival plan. Recently, the Presidential candidate of the PDP has said that there is no single economist in Buhari economic team.