Nigeria: Buhari's 2016 budget proposal, "defeat" of Boko Haram highlighted in Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - President Muhammadu Buhari's 2016 budget of 6.08 trillion naira (about US$ 30.4 billion), unveiled on Tuesday, and his declaration that the Boko Haram insurgency has been "technically" defeated were the major stories in Nigeria this week.

Addressing a joint session of the National Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives) in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, Buhari unveiled what is now popularly called "A budget of Change", saying that the budget had been predicated on the oil benchmark of US$38 a barrel.

His revenue projection during the year was set at 3.86 trillion naira. The document said there would be a deficit of 2.22 trillion naira which, he declared, was equivalent to 2.16% of Nigeria’s GDP and would take overall debt profile to 14% of the GDP.

Buhari said the deficit would be financed by domestic borrowing of 984 billion naira and a foreign borrowing of 900 billion naira, totaling 1.84 trillion naira.

He said his administration would increase revenues, reduce overheads, bring the fiscal deficit down to 1.3% of GDP by 2018.

While oil related revenues will contribute 820 billion naira to the economy, non-oil revenues – Company Income Tax (CIT), Value Added Tax (VAT), Customs and Excise duties, and Federation Account levies – will contribute 1.45 trillion naira.

Job creation was also a major high point of the proposals, which, he indicated, would be kicked off with the deployment of some 500,000 unemployed graduates as teachers.

The pro-establishment NATION newspaper, reporting under the headline "TUC hails plan to employ 500,000 teachers", said that the Trades Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has praised the decision of the Federal Government to hire 500,000 unemployed graduates as teachers, saying the move will curb the escalating rate of unemployment.

The union said it was still not comfortable with the position of the government on fuel subsidy removal and asked the government to call a stakeholders' meeting, including labour, to discuss why it had become impossible to refine and sell fuel for as low as 50 naira per litre. Fuel is currently sold at 87 naira per litre.

The TUC National President, Bobboi Bala Kaigama, and General Secretary, Musa Lawal, were quoted as saying that the union was also impressed by the decision of the government to ensure that all the Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) were captured and brought under the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

The congress commended the Federal Government for the budget but said it was worried that “our challenge as a country as regards national budget is not how to propose, draft or present a good budget but its implementation. We are also worried that about 1.8 trn of the budget will be borrowed to fund budgets".

Reporting the same story under the headline "2016 budget: Labour hails proposal, demands effective implementation", the VANGUARD said that Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN) has commended the Federal Government for the 6.08 trillion naira 2016 budget announced, but stressed the need for the content of the budget to be implemented for the benefit of Nigerians.

In a statement in Lagos on Friday, ASCSN officials lauded the decision of President Buhari on the recruitment of 500,000 unemployed graduates and holders of National Certificate of Education (NCE), as teachers to curb the escalating rate of unemployment in the country.

While praising the Government for its resolve to compile the list of the poorest to implement its cash transfer programme, the Union stressed the need for the policy to be transparent and inclusive without discrimination, saying: “We must equally express joy in the decision of Government to make good its promise to provide a meal per day for primary school pupils.”

ASCSN, however, frowned at the decision of the Government that fuel subsidy would not be removed “for now” because the impression had been created that it might be removed later more-so that no provision was made for fuel subsidy in the budget estimate.

Writing under the headline "Boko Haram ‘technically defeated,’ says President", the NATION quoted Buhari as saying on television that the militant group could no longer mount “conventional attacks” against security forces or population centres.

According to him, the sect had been reduced to fighting with Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and remained a force only in its heartland of Borno state.

It was the second time in 24 hours that the government would proclaim victory over the sect whose activities had led to the death of over 1,000 people and whose sphere of operation had expanded to neighbouring countries – Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

The paper quoted Information Minister Lai Mohammed as saying on Wednesday that the war against the sect had been “largely won”.

Boko Haram has been described as one of the world’s deadliest terror groups.

Critics of the government argue that it has exaggerated the scale of its success against the militants, and that each time the army claims to have wiped out Boko Haram, the militants have quietly rebuilt.

But the President said that the jihadists had been driven out from Adamawa and Yobe states, and their way of operating curtailed.

"FG will continue to provide logistics to end insurgency, Defence Minister reassures troops" was the headline of the VANGUARD. According to the paper, the Minister of Defence, Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Dan-Ali (rtd), has assured soldiers fighting insurgency in the north east of government’s commitment to provide the needed logistics to expeditiously end insurgency in the country.

Dan-Ali gave the assurance in Damaturu on Friday at a Christmas lunch organised for troops fighting insurgency in the north east.

He acknowledged some of the challenges facing the operations and noted that most of the challenges were being addressed, urging the troops to remain committed to the war against the insurgency.

“While your welfare needs are being addressed, I urge you to continue to adhere to all the rules of engagement in your operations. I want you all to note that your actions and inactions will be accounted for, you must therefore respect the rights of people in your host communities,” he charged.

On his part, the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Gabriel Olonisakin, commended the sacrifices of troops fighting on different fronts across the country, saying that their contributions to the defeat of terrorism would not be forgotten in a hurry.

Also speaking, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, the Chief of Army Staff, said the visit of the defence minister would boost the morale of troops in the ongoing operation.

He noted that the situation in the troubled region had improved tremendously and attributed the feat to the sacrifices of the troops.

The Yobe Deputy Gov. Abubakar Aliyu, confirmed that the security situation had indeed improved in the state, saying "unlike the previous festivities since the insurgency started, residents were able to celebrate the yuletide without fear of any attack from the insurgents".

The media also reported the tragic gas plant explosion in Nnewi, south east Nigeria, where many people died and scores of others injured.

The explosion rocked the Inter Corp Oil Limited, a gas depot, as many people were filling their domestic gas cylinders ahead of the Christmas celebrations.

It left many of the patrons, workers and neighbours burnt beyond recognition. Houses and other buildings were also razed.
-0- PANA VAO/MA 26Dec2015

26 december 2015 08:25:08

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