Stakeholders in the North-East have lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for increased allocation to education and health sectors in the proposed 2023 budget.
The stakeholders including educationists, health experts and social activists said the measure was imperative towards raising standards in the sectors.
They made the made the commendation while responding to a survey on the 2023 budget by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bauchi, Damaturu, Gombe and Yola.
NAN reports that President Muhammadu Buhari on Oct. 7, presented N20.51 trillion 2023 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly.
In the budget, N1.08 trillion has been allocated to the education sector, representing 5.3 per cent of the budget size.
The breakdown showed that N470 billion has been earmarked for revitalisation and salary enhancement in tertiary institutions and over N50 billion would be expended on implementation of new the Teachers Salary Structure in public schools, among others.
In his contribution, Dr Ali Fannami, Secretary, Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in Yobe, however, noted that the N1.08 trillion surpassed the N0.92 trillion allocation to education in the 2022 budget, adding that the sector requires additional funding for sustainable development.
He suggested that 15 to 20 per cent of the country’s total budget should be channelled to the education sector in line with international benchmark.
The scribe inferred that if South Africa, with a population of about 62 million people could allocate 20.4 per cent of its budget to education, Nigeria with an estimated population of 200 million people should not be spending 5.3 per cent in the sector.
Fannami also lauded the Buhari administration for the proposed N15.2 billion expenditure on Safe School Initiative (SSI) in the 2023 budget.
According to him, the SSI, which is an inter-governmental commitment to protect schools from armed and non-armed conflicts will boost education, especially in high risk areas.
The scribe, however, said that unless communities assist security operatives with credible information on crimes, the scheme might not achieved its objectives.
He said the SSI would be more successful if teachers, parents and communities are adequately carried along at every stage of its implementation.
Similarly; a Gombe-based public analyst, Mr Clement Stanley has urged the federal government to sustain the increase in the health sector budget to enhance access to quality healthcare services in the country.
He said the 2023 budget increase to health would accelerate infrastructure development, address manpower gaps and other challenges bedeviling the sector.
According to him, for the first time in the history of health funding in the country, the health sector has been allocated N1.17 in the proposed 2023 budget.
He said the figure showed a significant increase above the N547 billion and N826.9 billion allocated to the sector in 2021 and 2022 budgets, respectively.
This, he said, should be sustained to transform health systems towards enhancing healthcare service delivery.
He, therefore, called for proactive measures to ensure strict implementation of the budget in line with its provisions to achieve the set objectives.
Also, Mr Mubarak Muhammad, Social and Behavior Change Communication Officer, Marie Stopes Nigeria, Bauchi State Office, said the allocation to the sector demonstrated federal government’s commitment towards attaining the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“It is just about six per cent of the proposed total budget size, a little above one third of the Abuja Declaration which requires 15 per cent allocation of the total budget to the health sector.
“The proposed allocation to the health sector in the 2023 budget rose from N826.9 billion equivalent to 4.7 per cent of the total budget in 2022 to N1.17 trillion indicating 5.75 per cent in 2023.
“The proposed budget saw an increase of about 94.83 per cent for capital expenditure and 25.54 per cent for recurrent expenditure.
“This means that the public will feel more impact than they felt in 2022, if the proposed budget would be passed and fully implemented,” he said.
According to him, with adequate funding, the country will advance towards Universal Health Coverage for the citizenry.
He noted that the Federal Government’s contributions to state governments under the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) and other programmes encouraged them to enrolled reasonable number of vulverabel people and scaled up activities towards improved healthcare service delivery.
“Indeed with the 2022 allocation to the health sector, the Federal Government has put states on their toes. We hope that the 2023 would come with better health indices”.
While urging the federal government to ensure effective implementation of the Abuja Declaration, Muhammad called for prompt release of fund to facilitate smooth implementation of the health programmes, especially Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health plus Nutrition (RMNCAH+N)
Moreso, Abu John, Executive Director, African Community and Environmental Health Intiative (ACE-HI), said the gesture indicated government’s commitment to quality healthcare service delivery in the country.
He advised relevant authorities and stakeholders to utilise the allocation to improve personnel welfare towards addressing manpower gaps and brain drain in the sector.
“No fewer than 2,000 doctors left the shores of the country for white collar jobs from 2020 to date.
“The work force requires an emergency intervention to ensure that workers are retain for better healthcare services, and access to live saving drugs and modern equipment should be a priority of the budget.
“It is also important for the federal government to take up responsibility and redirect its focus on primary healthcare services.
“A key essential to basic healthcare is for the government to reduce dependence on partners, rather develop and implement sound policies to strengthen the system,” he said.
However, Dr Shehu Sirajo, a lecturer, Adamawa State University Mubi (ADSU), described the N20.5 trillion proposed 2023 budget as “ambitious”.
He said that budget was an annual government expenditure of projected revenue based on expectations and anticipations.
The don noted that the 2023 budget was ambitious considering the dwindling revenue occasioned by insecurity, tax evation and the quantum of debts.
“Larger chunk of the budget would be used on debt servicing which might affect both macro and micro economic variables in the country,” he said.
For his part, Muhammed Aliyu, a civil servant, expressed optimism that the target for the budget could be achieved if revenue sources are effectively utilise.
He stressed the need for proactive measures to block revenue leakages to facilitate effective implementation of the budget.
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