Stakeholders and experts have raised alarms following the unveiling of Nigeria’s 2024 Appropriation Bill, expressing deep worry over the meagre allocation of 12.5 per cent earmarked for the health and education sectors.
The allocation, deemed inadequate by critics, has sparked predictions of acute funding shortages that could worsen citizens’ already challenging living conditions.
Presented to the National Assembly by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the budget’s allocations for health and education have drawn significant criticism for failing to depart from historical trends of minimal funding for crucial social sectors directly impacting citizens’ lives.
Despite earlier pledges outlined in Tinubu’s Renewed Hope manifesto to allocate 10 per cent to the health sector, the actual allocation amounted to a mere 4.9 per cent, totalling N1.07 trillion.
Similarly, the education sector received 7.9 percent, raising concerns over its inadequacy in addressing pressing needs.
Experts have scrutinized this allocation, particularly in light of recent governmental economic policies such as the removal of petrol subsidies and the floatation of the currency, which have contributed to an uptick in the country’s misery index.
Speaking with The Guardian on the 2024 budget, the Chief Executive Officer, Dairy Hills Limited, Kelvin Emmanuel, lamented that debt servicing and refinancing costs take 30% of the budget.
He said debt servicing is practically 94.8 per cent of capital expenditure. At the same time, education and health, the two most critical sectors and determinants of the GDP growth rate and per capita income of the people, cumulatively got 12.5 per cent allocation, indicating that the present government was not ready for change.
“The government needs to work on changing the structure of Nigeria’s educational system from revamping curriculum to providing infrastructure, granting higher institutions financial autonomy that will facilitate the establishment of endowment funds.
“It is sobering and a serious threat to national security that Nigeria currently has one doctor to 10,000 people as against 2.5 per 1,000 recommended globally. And that an increasingly high turnover of medical personnel from Nigeria does not seem to bother this government,” Emmanuel said.
An expert, who chose to remain anonymous said: “Progressive governance means incremental progress. There are many competing sectors, all critical in their rights, that need to be funded.
“Let the states do their part because education and health are not on the Exclusive List. If we are placing the burden of N7 trillion on the neck of the masses, how much are the political class willing to bear?”
An Investment banker, Tolulope Alayande, said while he could understand the need to focus on revenue generation and increase the GDP, neglecting the social sector could be economically fatal soon.
In his words: “The social sector plays a crucial role in an economy by addressing social issues, promoting welfare and fostering inclusive development.
“It encompasses education, healthcare, social services and community development, contributing to a more equitable and resilient society. Additionally, a strong social sector can enhance human capital, improve productivity, and create a supportive environment for economic growth.”
Retired banker Ande Mohammed underscored the importance of robust evaluations and coordinated social interventions, urging community involvement and evidence-based decision-making to address the repercussions of inadequate funding in critical sectors.
Ultimately, stakeholders and experts pressed for urgent action to prioritize the social sector, advocating for sustained and increased funding to foster inclusive development, economic growth, and to avert potentially dire consequences arising from continued underfunding of crucial sectors.