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Thursday 16 February 2017

Biafra: Nigeria's Foundation Is Padded By Colonialists Just Like Her Yearly Budget

February 16, 2017

The 2016 Appropriation Bill, might have gone down in history as the most controversial and scandalous budgeting process in Nigeria. President Muhammadu Buhari presented his 6.7 trillion-naira budget estimate on the floor of the National Assembly in December 2015; the very first in the life of his administration.

A summary of the breakdown of the budget estimate indicates 351.3 billion naira for statutory transfers, 1.47 trillion for debt services and 2.6 trillion naira was earmarked for recurrent non-debt expenditure. The budget also made a remarkable improvement with about 30 percent of the total estimate dedicated for capital expenditure. However, this bright prospect of economic prosperity for Nigeria was jeopardized by some kleptomaniac and unscrupulous elements at the helm of affairs.


For the first time, the country was confronted with a phenomenon called “Budget Padding,” a situation that is described as criminal inflation of budgetary estimates, by some of top government officials with clear intention to personally benefit from proceeds of the fraudulent act, at the expense of the masses in part and the country as a whole. This unfortunate act is believed to have been an entrenched practice in finance and planning process all through the years in a classic case of official corruption.

Issues surrounding budget padding is an invention of the executive and the blame for such criminal acts should go to the executives. The road to this unfortunate episode began with the report that the 2016 budget was missing. It was later revealed that the executive had sent a second version different from the original one presented at the joint sitting of the entire National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari. It was discovered by the legislature in the course of their scrutiny of the budget that certain irreconcilable figures were added by some MDAs by way of inflated budgetary estimates, with obvious intention to convert same to personal monetary gains if passed into law.


This padding was further complicated by the fact that two versions of the budget existed and the National Assembly was in dilemma as to which to work with. The Presidency finally accepted the fact that it replaced the first version of budget with a second one because of discrepancies it discovered. This was interpreted as a veiled admittance that indeed the budget was padded. This was particularly dramatized by the Minister of health, Proffessor Isaac Adewole during his budget defense on February 8th, when he claimed that the figures contained in the document before him was strange and did not emanate from him.

This claim reverberated all through the various MDAs when billions of naira were alleged to have been smuggled into the original estimate. The saga was blamed on a so-called ‘budget mafia’. The presidency acted swiftly by approving the sack of the Director General of the Budget Office of the federation, Yahya Gusau and other top management staffs of the budget office on the 14th of February, 2016.

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Now, on the 2017 Budget, it appears that the same frivolous situation that occurred during last years budget screening is once again rearing its ugly head again. Recently, there was drama on the floor of the Senate at the ongoing 2017 budget defence as the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola could not explain how a staggering N2 billion ‘walked into his proposal’.

The minister, who appeared before the committee to defend the proposal, referred the lawmakers to the Ministry of Finance for information on the controversial item labeled ‘FMOW99934089’ while denying knowledge of the N2 billion allocated to Regional Housing Scheme in the 2017 budget proposal of the ministry.


From the fore going, it is crystal clear that budget padding is an executive affair. Fashola is guilty of either incompetence (didn’t know what was in his own ministry’s budget) or collusion (surreptitiously inserted a budget item, only to deny it because it was indefensible). Whichever it is, is now left to be imagined.

It is said that a thief is always a thief any day, anywhere he goes. We can vividly recall that this same Fashola had issues of corruption hanging on his neck at the twilight of his hand over to the new governor of Lagos State in 2015. This was surreptitiously swept under the carpet by the supposedly ‘change’ government of Buhari. Now, his itching fingers have been caught in the 2017 budget with a staggering N2 billion found inserted in his Ministry budget estimate. And Buhari promised the nation that never again will there be any budget padding under his watch but once again it has happened.


Logically, “padding” in whatever form, is one of the worst elements of corruption. Its literal interpretation in accounting is simply “false entry” of figures aimed to go astray on its approval and release. Its applications by those who have a penchant for corruption are opaque and varied in nature. It could be used to manipulate census figures, contract values, workforce, i.e ghost workers, electoral figures, goods and services, to mention but a few.

Budget padding is not only fraudulent, it is also a destructive crime against the future of the people. In fairness to the people, and in line with the government’s orchestrated “change” and the “fight against corruption” mantras, perpetrators of high profile padding, being economic saboteurs and betrayers of public trust, must not go unpunished.

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The padding syndrome has dealt Nigeria a terrible blow. It is a dangerous propeller pulling the country’s economy astern, which has refused to disengage, to see if the vessel of Nigeria’s economy and nation-building will forge ahead in reducing people’s sufferings and economic recession.

Nigeria As A Padded Country

Padding is a social evil. It is operated by transgressors who lack social conscience and sobriety. It has the venomous tendency to destroy the economy and the polity of any country that fails to forestall its growth. Ghana was a victim of a padded economy but when the ruling elite were ready to sincerely combat corruption, a disciplined and motivated leadership-by-example became the norm of public office, and Ghanaians followed suit.

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At various times, all advanced countries went through such uncivilised and barbaric governance. But they took steps to ameliorate the situation and embraced civilisation before it became too late. For instance, the state of affairs in England at the ascension of Henry VII, after the War of the Roses in 1485– 30 years of civil war was chaotic! The barons kept personal armies and did not care for the law. According to a historian, “Devastation of crops led to famine; and the disbanding of baronial forces led to increase in the number of sturdy beggars”.

Records have it that the coasts of England were infested with pirates; farmers and merchants were in constant peril of robbery and destruction; judges were corrupt; the House of Commons was too weak, and its members have no ambition of making it strong. The country was not united; it needed a strong government to restore law and order. The situation then was worse than what we have in Nigeria today. But when the masses observed that the leadership was ready to salvage the country, they followed suit.

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But unfortunately, the reverse is the case in Nigeria. The foundational structure of the country was padded in such a way that it benefited a certain region with its attendant injustices, marginalization and segregation against the Eastern region. When in 2015 electioneering, the present ruling party blew the whistle for “change”, Nigerians, except some of the ruling elite, were ready for real change! Although some heads(no matter how vindictive) are rolling in the judiciary now, the Federal Government withdrew one of the cases against the Senate leadership, and some accused and fingered corrupted elements now serving the government may no longer see the sun. These actions and more, are reducing people’s belief and trust in their orchestrated “change” and “corruption crusade”.

Ironically, the foundations of the 1914 structure called Nigeria were pivoted on padding by the colonialists. For instance, five padded population censuses were conducted by the colonialists between 1866 and 1911 in this country. Bad enough, the delimitation and delineation of this country were anchored on the outcome of those padded numerical exercises.

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And those were the genesis of the unmendable crack in our co-existence! In a similar vein, the censuses that were conducted between 1921 and 1952 were also characterised by padding. In his confession, a team player in the British exploitation of Nigeria, Harold Smith, confirmed and admitted the padding of Nigeria’s population figures. In his words: “Despite seeing vast land with no humans but cattle, we still gave the North 55 million instead of 32 million.”

Evidently, the colonialists exposed us to corruption. They also taught us falsehood, money laundering and padding norms. But that notwithstanding, if after 56 years of Nigeria’s independence and she has not been able to sincerely retrace her wrong steps and correctly put its citizens’ future in their own hand, it means that the ruling elite are toying with their future by making Nigeria look like a country that has no focus. So, those who are taking budget padding as trivial or treasured inheritance are only doing so to water their selfishness and greedy appetite!

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The poor masses are watching the executive misconduct at the National Assembly. Absolutism and injustice may trigger people’s provocation when pushed to the extreme. The ruling elite had converted the nation’s wealth into dollars, shared, and carted away into foreign banks when the naira was doing fairly well in the foreign exchange market.

With the present exchange rate, their loot have become a boon to them. So , they now have more than enough money to fight their perceived political enemies and afford a luxurious living. Mismanagement and theft of public funds by the ruling elite are one of the major causes of the present economic mess called recession.

Good governance is about the genuine use of democratic principles to drive the future of the people. Such drive encompasses a high standard of moral, ethical and financial discipline. Like all other elements of corruption, padding has become a negative culture in Nigeria such that its structural padding is now rubbing off on all sectors of the country and that will continue until everyone agrees to its imminent dissolution.

By Chukwuemeka Chimerue 
Published By Nwosu C.S 
For Biafra Writers 

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