COVID-19: We must abandon 2020 budget now, says Atiku

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Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, says the federal government must take calculated steps to prevent the country from slipping into economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an opinion article entitled ‘what Africa must do to mitigate the damaging effects of coronavirus’, on Tuesday, Atiku said the government must now abandon the 2020 budget because some of its provisions are no longer realistic.

He said the N100 billion allocated to the national assembly in the budget is no longer feasible considering the current economic challenges.

”In Nigeria, it is already clear that we must abandon the 2020 budget and come up with a more realistic budget. Our oil benchmark is way off the mark. And we are certainly no longer in a position to budget ₦100 billion plus for our legislatures and almost ₦50 billion for the Presidency (in truth, we were never in a position to do that),” he said.

The former vice-president said if Nigeria does not save itself in this season of a global emergency, it may be eclipsed as the giant of Africa and consigned to irrelevance.

He also said Nigeria cannot afford to borrow money now, and advised the government to prioritise its citizens.

“However, there are two remarkable differences. The first is that we had a stellar cabinet between 1999-2007. We had the right people manning our economy. We certainly would not have proposed to take out a $500 million loan to digitalise the Nigerian Television Authority, or devoted N37 billion to renovating the National Assembly complex (which was built from the scratch at less than 20 per cent of that amount),” he said.

“Today’s Nigerian government is severely lacking in qualified hands. And nothing proves this than the state of the Presidency itself. To think that after devoting N13 billion to the State House Clinic in the last five years, it is virtually useless as we face the most significant public health challenge of our national life. That is a pointer to the state of our federal government.

“The second and perhaps more important thing is that we did not have to deal with a worldwide pandemic of this extent (although we had the H5N1 incident).

“As it stands today, the world is too preoccupied with its challenges to prioritise Africa, and so we have to prioritise ourselves. The issue of Nigeria wanting to borrow $6.9 billion at this time shows the almost delusory state of our government. No one has that type of money to throw about.”

Atiku has been offering suggestions to the COVID-19 challenge in Nigeria since the outbreak of the disease in the country.

When the country recorded its first few cases of the disease, he asked the government to close the borders to stop a spread of the virus.

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