By: Shola Akingboye
On Nov. 7, 2017, President Muhamadu Buhari presented the 2018 Budget of N8.612 trillion to a joint session of the National Assembly, but what appears to be a shadow war between the Executive and the Legislature arm of government over the quick passage of the 2018 Budget appropriation may have inadvertently transmute into a reality titan battle for supremacy among the two government functionaries, notwithstanding the ovation that graced the early presentation of the Budget to the National Assembly.
Unlike in 2017 when the appropriation Bill was laid on December 15, 2016, the over one month’s gain in the presentation of this year’s budget in December last year has indeed elicited a general hope that, perhaps the nation was on the part of returning to a much more predictable Budget cycle that will begin in January and ends in December. That high hope seems to have completely dashed.
The Budget ritual has somehow been submerged in unnecessary dog fight for supremacy, muscle flexing, shadow boxing, and all these has become nothing but motions without movement, particularly on the table of the National Assembly back to the executive arms of government.
A week earlier, the leadership of the National Assembly was at the meeting with the President at the instance of the President Muhammadu Buhari, and it came to light that many of the MDAs has not really demonstrated the require seriousness to go before the different committees to defend their Budget, and of course coupled with the tardiness shown by the National Assembly committees. The National Assembly recently criticised the MDAs for delaying the passage of the budget due to their Ill-preparedness to attend scheduled meetings and provide relevant information needed by the lawmakers to carry out their job of scrutinising the proposals.
But the Budget Office of the Federation has earlier debunked claims that the 2018 budget has not been passed because some details required for its passage were not submitted.
Ben Akabueze, Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, said in a statement that media reports suggesting that the FGN 2018 Budget was submitted to the National Assembly without details for some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were inaccurate.
However, Mr. Akabueze said that on November 7, 2017 when President Muhammadu Buhari laid before the National Assembly (NASS) the Executive budget proposals for 2018 , it had “all the usual details required by the National Assembly to process the budget.”
These details, the statement said, included that of the budgets of all federal MDAs based on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) budget templates.
It noted that in the course of its review of the budget proposals, the National Assembly normally invites the MDAs to appear before them to defend the President’s budget submissions.
“Given the seriousness the Presidency attaches to getting the 2018 budget passed so it could earnestly focus on achieving the goals set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-20 (ERGP), which formed the basis of the budget, it had directed heads of ministries and extra-ministerial agencies to attend to any requests for meetings/information by the National Assembly (NASS) with despatch,” the statement said.
“To the best of our knowledge, this directive has been complied with. Should any committees of NASS still experience any issues with attendance of any MDA, the Minister of Budget & National Planning has indicated that he is available to liaise with the particular MDA to ensure full cooperation with NASS by the relevant MDA.”
Of course, the Nigerian well structured physical year, starting from January to end in December has once again been missed this year, particularly as the two chambers of the National Assembly have been speaking with two mouths on when exactly Nigerians should heave a sigh of relief on the passage of Budget 2018.
Tagged a “Budget of consolidation”, the name appears to be a response to the fact that Nigeria had just exited economic recession and there is the need to consolidate on the recovery and spur economic growth to previously attained levels. The proposed expenditure is in the sum of N8.612tn which is a 16 per cent increase over the 2017 figure whilst the retained revenue is N6.607tn being 30 per cent above the 2017 estimates. The deficit is in the sum of N2.005tn.
In fairness to the National Assembly however, it would be recalled early in February, following its threat to shut-out 63 parastatals and government corporations from accessing funds from the 2018 budget over alleged refusal to appear before the relevant committees of the National Assembly to explain how they spent 2017 budget as well as defend the 2018 estimates before the National Assembly.
The implication of the threat if executed is that such agencies which cut across all sectors, from finance, agriculture, works, health, education, petroleum as well as the social services would not function in the country for the year, with the attendant pains arising from their lack of operation. The lawmakers with vested power to will such a big stick may have adopted the carrot and stick measures due to the implications this might have on the economy, therefore begging the MDAs to appear before it to defend their budgets.
It is also recalled that, even the legislators even short down the legislative business in honour of their own Senator Wakil, who slum and died in his Gwarinpa home, the day a very serious national issue on Budget 2018 was supposed to take center stage. Without prejudice to the honour and tributes done to the late senator however, but it would also be adjudged that five of the returnee Dapchi school girls were confirmed dead at the returned of over one hundred school girls in Yobe state, but neither was any flag lowered at half mast nor a minute silence was conducted by the National Assembly as the return on Tuesday 21st of March, 2018 to honour the dead youths, yet tributes and encomiums dominated floors at NASS for a lonely Senator dwarfing debates on Budget, which is the economic survival of the nation.
Nevertheless, the 2018 Budget has remains the contentious issues, almost four months after it was presented to the National Assembly, with funfairs and hopes that latest by end of January, Nigeria should have a Budget running. There are som many government agencies whose operations are tied to the passage of the Budget; the Judiciary for instance, INEC which is preparing for an election in the less than a year has its budget also hanging on this Bdget that has not been passed.
Nonetheless, if blames games were to be in thing, obviously there is enough to go round both against the executive and the legislature, and not few analysts have expressed their shock at the battles for survival of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, at the mercy of both the National Assemble and the legislative arms of government while the groans.
Disheartening, budget had not been approved since November 2017 –Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella,
Tella is a Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun state, in an interviews with newsmen recently, the university don said the continued delay arising from the lingering impasse between the executive and legislature was affecting the nation’s development. He said that the delay in passing the budget, in spite its early submission by the executive, exposed the “lackadaisical attitude of our leaders toward national issues’’.
The economist added that the legislature indicated from the onset that it was not in hurry to consider and approve the budget.
“From December 2017, those who are directly in charge of the budget consideration had told the public that serious work would not commence until 2018.
“The position was not helped by the bureaucratic personnel who did not appear before the National Assembly Committee as and when scheduled,’’ he said.
He further noted that fiscal and monetary policies were important in driving major economic activities. Tella said that the blame game between the executive and the legislature in budget passage and MPC members’ confirmation were not in the nation’s interest.
“These are the two major economic policies that drive economic activities,” Tella said.
He observed that further delay in the passage of the 2018 budget, and by implication delay in implementation, would have negative effects on the country’s economic growth. He said the nation’s interest should be of paramount interest to elected public office holders.
“There is the need for a change of attitude for the economy to move forward, and in the right direction,” he said.
Budget Delay Rubbishes Budget Assumptions- Dr. Uche Uwaleke,
Another experts, who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said that the delay in the passage. by the National Assembly, could hinder implementation of projects critical to economic diversification.
Dr. Uche Uwaleke, Head of Banking and Finance Department, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, said that the Budget of Consolidation was developed in line with the Federal Government’s ERGP designed to make the economy more diversified.
According to him, the delay rubbishes budget assumptions and renders unrealistic, targets such as the gross domestic product growth of 3.5 per cent.
He told NAN that planned investments in agriculture and infrastructure, in particular, could be hampered, adding that the delay could also hinder job creation.
“This development does not augur well for the stock market, as share prices of firms in the agriculture sector, industrial goods sector and construction sector will be worst hit,” Uwaleke said.
According to Uwaleke, the delay can also adversely affect timely payment of contractors and increase the chances of non-performing loans in banks which will negatively affect their share values.
“If the delay drags on for too long, it can heighten uncertainty in the market.
“It has the potential to scare away foreign investors whose presence is being felt now due to the current investors’ confidence in the country’s economy following recovery in crude oil price,” Uwaleke said.
As evidenced in the battle over the Budget passage, in what look like the executive sponsored against the National Assembly, a bill board
Meanwhile, a reliable source at the presidency, who does not want his name in print confided in INFORMAVORES Online investigation, he insists that the issue of budget delays and permutations behind it goes beyond the MDAs not appearing before the NASS, say it is a case of corruption fighting back.
The source declared that most of the affected agencies had earlier sent their top echelon of their management team to represent them at the National Assembly committees, but the legislatures declined them the opportunity on account that such people are not in a position to enter into familiar deals with them.’’
“The fact remains that, the committee members of the National Assembly are economical with the truth. They should come out openly to declare what they are looking for.”
“Two things are involved here: they are looking for an excuse to say they are not delaying the budget passage, and secondly, they are looking for under the table deals with some agencies, reasons they insist that the Chief Executives of the MDAs, who are in position of signing shady deals with them must appear since they cannot trust third parties that will not guarantee the security of their deals.” she said.
Consequently, in demonstration of the titanic show of strength among the two arms of government, the blame game and the battle for supremacy has since be laid open before the general public, as a gargantuan billboard has surfaced at the main entrance to the Presidential villa, with inscription:
“RED ALERT! National Assembly Stop Playing Politics With 2018 Budget. The Masses are Anxiuosly Waiting. Pass the Budget Now, Or…
Though the signpost, signed by one Aminu Balele Kurfi, suddenly surfaced at the time the debate on the delay passage was heated, but it appears the legislative arms was not deceived by who the progenitor or palpable sponsors of the bill board could be, and it is apparent that the campaign projection in the billboard actually rattles the lawmakers, hence the appearances of another counter public billboard campaign against the Aso Villa entrance post.
This time, the Legislative’s reprisal banners did not only appear in three different categories, but well positioned strategically at the main gate of the National Assembly for the world to see, with inscriptions such as:
“Ministers are Responsible for Budget Delay, Let them Do the Needful”
Another one reads:
“Put the Blame Where it Belongs, Ministers are Subverting Budget Passage”
“They should abide by the President’s Deadline”
Though some analysts have waited to get clarification of what the National Assembly posters means by Ministers should do the needful, some are more confused on the word ‘subverting the passage of the Budget’. This school of taught believes there might be more to such languages ‘do the needful’ and ‘subverting’, which according to some analysts connotes lack of cooperation and unwillingness to play games by the Buhari Ministers.
However, the actions and inaction by these political gladiators has left many Nigerians wondering if the ongoing imbroglio really helps matters at the time the nation drips economically. Wagging questions are that, what does this do to our budgeting cycle and physical plans, particularly so when this is supposed to be an election year.
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of public outcry on the Budget 2018, indication emerged at the time of filing this report that the National Assembly has unequivocally announced that the 2018 budget will be passed on Tuesday, April 24. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, made the announcement during the plenary session of the lower chamber recently, gathered that Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed on this position, adding that the budget would be laid on April 19 and passed on April 24. But how realistic is this as the lawmakers resumes from Easter breaks remains a subject for another day.
- Sola Omosola Akingboye graduated from Lagos State University, Ojo and also an alumni of International Institute of Journalism, Abuja. The Abuja based Media Consult is a member of NUJ, FCT Chapel; Member, Nig Energy Correspondents and affiliate of other proffesional bodies such as Believe in Nigeria Initiative (BINI); Change Agent for Positive Transformation (CAPT); OSHA Association for Industrial Safety in Nigeria. He is currently an Associate Editor and Chairman Editorial Board Informavores.com.ng.