Every year is heralded by a theme for the Nigerian Christian, especially the Pentecostal community which I proudly identify with. You will find these themes inscribed on Car stickers, lapel pins and various merchandizes to remind the faithfuls of what the year holds or has in stock for them.
We often times feel a deep connection and resonance with these themes from the sacred lips of our Priests often times backed with a scriptural reference. This becomes our reality.
As the New Year draws nigh, I decree thus: 2016 is Nigeria’s “Year of Prayer”. The 60th chapter and 2nd verse of the book of Isaiah says; “For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples;”
You need not go far for interpretation or commentary, just study the full text of President Buhari’s presentation of Nigeria’s 2016 budget. The text contains the words; ‘Problems’ 4 times, ‘Hard’ 4 times, ‘Tax’ 4 times and ‘Oil’ a whooping 11 times! There was no mention of ‘solution’, 2 mentions of ‘Create’ and same goes for the word ‘Change’.
Ancient wisdom shows us that the Nigerian government has always been optimistic when it comes to budget presentations; optimism is on two levels, the first is that oil sells above the enacted above the benchmark, and second is that the budget is an open approval to spend and in the case where the funds are delayed, borrow. Little wonder the optimism that greets every Nigerian Budget cycle; friends of friends and relatives of politicians to the 5th degree are particularly most excited. And what we have seen in the past week is no different. The budget has been Christened Budget of ‘Hope’, ‘Jobs’, ‘Change’, ‘People’ and all sorts.
But the devil is in the details, He is somewhere out there on a mission to kill, steal and destroy – our joy. Nigeria’s monolithic economy read a budget that contains as much Oil as conjunctions within the text! The government seeks to diversify the economy but still can’t stop obsessing over Oil.
And this is the first prayer point, May God give them the vision to see beyond Oil and may they not be limited by the idea that taxation is an alternative. In the words of President Buhari: “We have focused on non-oil revenues by broadening our tax base and improving the effectiveness of our revenue collecting agencies.”
The proposal to expand the tax net as well as reduce tax rates for certain group is laudable, at least on paper. It is my prayer that it works out. However, along this line of thought goes the misconceiving that expanding the tax net will cushion the Oil revenue projections of the 2016 budget. This remains to be seen, as the Federal Government of Nigeria may not easily accomplish this at least in 2016. Increased Economic activity and Service delivery are major factors that influence tax increase or compliance.
The reduced rate of Economic activity, which President Buhari acknowledged, is closing down more companies than the tax net will ever expand to trap. Yes, to pay taxes in Nigeria – I say this with all honesty as a voluntary tax-paying individual and corporate citizen – is a trap.
Goldman Sachs and the IMF projected a barrel of sweet Crude at $20 in 2016 from around the present price of $34. Lying between GS, IMF and the Nigerian government projection is a wide gulf of around $10, which there are no plans to bridge besides the plan to incur debt.
The second prayer point concerns the proposed debt component of the budget; I don’t necessarily have a problem with government debt. I have always held the view that the Nigerian economy requires an adventurous stimulus plan. I believe Nigeria is a credit worthy nation by all standards but presently considered high risk by most lenders. The reasons are obvious to all; state controlled economics, foreign currency rigidity and restrictions in trade is hardly magnetizing in this gloomy days of glut in crude oil and other commodities. But President Buhari is yet to be convinced on the need to let market forces prevail.
This makes one question the terms and conditions that will govern this facility the government seeks. We need to pray about how Nigerian debt will be utilized. I don’t share the optimism that greeted the budget presentation; a look at a purported budget breakdown document had me totally perplexed.
I have no doubt that debt finance will be used to purchase the ridiculous items, I glanced over on that budget document; Executive Furniture, German automobiles, Gourmet presidential catering, exotic wildlife for the Aso villa conservancy, renovation of recently renovated edifices and much more.
Whether or not there are capital projects, my simple conclusion is that we are not serious. I bind this spirit!
Herein is prophecy; Your expectations will not be cut short. 2016 will usher in so much prosperity. Your barn will be full of grain and new yams.
Our country’s 2016 budget promises to spend, spend, spend and share the money (on welfare schemes), that which isn’t exactly ours.
The key point of this prayer is for you to wisely use this prosperity because as things look, I see no future. President Buhari expressed his hope for Oil prices to rebound at $50 per barrel and any hope of Nigeria having a 60% Capital component of a Budget before 2019 is hinged on this. I repeat there is no future after 2016. At this rate we have to pray about War and this is the third prayer point.
Nigeria is still technically at war. I have made deliberate attempts to filter off stories of terrorism, rustling and ethno-religious conflicts from my news board but I have seen so much in the past week. This is sequel to the premature declaration of victory by spokespersons of the Nigerian government. This has to be the most serious prayer of all; increased insurgent activity in the North East and North Central food producing belts of Nigeria is a threat to our belly. And the threat has been computed, data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reveal that over 700 billion Naira was spent on food imports in Q3 2015 an astronomic rise in comparison with the stats provided at about the same time last year. This is why we need to pray Dambazzau, Ali, Burutai, Daura and Arase find needed solutions to bring back our peace.
The bible says ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’, because a man from the South West needs beans to go with it. And we love the honey, red colored ones we get from Yobe state.
We may not need FOREX to purchase Corvettes and Courvoisier, vacation on Turks and Caicos Island, or even school at Hult and Harvard but we will have to on food. And may we not empty our reserves consuming our future.
Nigeria is a great country and I am excited about the New Year and the accompanying promise of prosperity, jobs and remembrance for the poorest and the vulnerable amongst us espoused in President Buhari’s budget presentation, May God grant us the unstaggering Faith, unruffled Patience and chill. Pessimistic as my writing seems, the Christian faith has taught me that it’s beyond what I see and how I feel. So the concluding part of my opening scripture Isaiah 60:2 reads; “for the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee”.
Happy New year to you all especially Wailers!