Even as the blame game continues and Nigerians await resolution of the face-off between the Presidency and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget, reports that the presidency has begun extensive work on the 2017 appropriation bill; so as to prevent a repeat of budget delay next year, is a sad statement on the credibility and character of the Buhari government; another advertisement of institutional failure and yet another embarrassment to the country; for which Nigerians must say enough is enough. Prioritizing the 2017 budget, when the 2016 budget is still hanging on the balance, clearly puts the cart before the horse and showcases lack of seriousness and the President’s apathetic approach to the budget. Honestly, the change the APC will bring to Nigeria is like pregnant and nursing a baby at the same time. What a pity!
That almost five months into the New Year 2016, the country is yet to pass a budget; only goes to vindicate critics who say Nigeria is a country where wonders shall never end. From the shoddy attitude of the President and the Budget Office’s embarrassing head-scratching proposals, everything was wrong about the 2016 budget. Initially, the proposed budget was a record N6.1 trillion, which analysts deemed unrealistic, owing to the global fall in the price of oil, which accounts for over 70% of revenue. But the president hoped to fund additional spending through tax revenue, while the N3 trillion deficit will be financed through borrowing, mostly from China. But the public outcry that followed the presentation of the budget led to a tragic-comedy of errors, in which the President’s legislative affairs adviser, Sen. Ita Enang attempted a surreptitious backdoor padding of the document. The attempt to doctor the original budget sparked off a needless controversy, forcing Buhari to withdraw it, but not before embarrassing the government and the entire country.
The stand-off led to an impasse that stalemated into a deadlock after the Senate refused to bend over backwards to assent to the president’s request to introduce new projects such as the Lagos- Calabar Rail project in the budget. The Senate said that having passed the appropriation bill, it would not complete its task of addressing the grey areas pointed out in a number of sectors. And if the rail project must be accommodated in the budget, President Buhari should submit a fresh proposal for it after assenting to the one it had just passed. Since then, the budget has been held hostage over disagreements between the Presidency and the National Assembly, with some lawmakers taking umbrage at the language used in statements issued by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, Gbenga Ashafa, and by the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Ali Saabi Abdullahi. It was also learnt that many senators complained that the appropriation committees did not carry members along in most of the final decisions taken on the budget. Snide comments by officials of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning were also unhelpful, as they were laced with harmful grandiloquence.
The National Assembly Joint Appropriation Committee had claimed that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, did not include the Lagos-Calabar coastal rail project in the 2016 budget presented to the lawmakers. But in its statement, the Budget and National Planning ministry, through the Media Adviser to the Minister, James Akpandem, accused the lawmakers of selective amnesia; insisting two rail projects (Lagos-Kano and Calabar-Lagos) were included in the corrected budget versions submitted to the relevant committees of the National Assembly; and that was the version defended by the Minister of Transportation and his team.
Amid the finger-pointing and recriminations and counter-recriminations, the president refused to sign the budget into law until lawmakers address the irregularities and grey areas pointed out in a number of sectors, including the railway projects for which the President has secured funding from China. Frantic efforts to douse the tension generated by the budget impasse included a communication hotline between Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and the NASS leadership, but so far, despite the middle ground reached and seeming convivial atmosphere between the two arms of government, the country still does not have a budget. All of this is tacky and avoidable if Buhari identified with the yearnings of Nigerians and adopted the budget process as his first responsibility tool for Nigeria. The standing view is that Mr. President is too pre-occupied with his foreign travels and has no time to own, and be seen to own this all-important national document called the budget. He has failed to elevate to an appropriate pedestal what is supposed to be a document of vision for the nation; and one which affects the lives of citizens. This clearly is a dereliction of duty.
The take-off of the 2016 budget and its implementation ought to have begun on January 1, 2016. With the delay in passing the budget, the attendant multipliers and time lags portend unfavorable results all over the economic and social sectors. In a country where government has crowded out the private sector, and the public sector is the biggest business entity, the federal budget is the oxygen of national life. It, therefore, should embody the vision and bear the imprimatur of the person Nigerians elected as president of the federal republic. It is a sad comment on the President’s style and it illustrates another poor dimensioning of the stature of presidential presence and the amplification of the absence of good personal leadership example by Mr. President.
The budget is the arithmetic value of the President’s vision, to the collective wisdom of his cabinet and the entire apparatus of the government. His vision and priorities for the country are central to the budget and, therefore, more than just economic projections. The budget signposts the running of government affairs for the next 12 months, measuring revenue generation, job creation quotient and other critical issues of governance. It is a mark of contempt for the Nigerian people that almost five months into year 2016, Buhari can afford to be globe-trotting while the country has no operational budget. The unacceptable anomaly is more perplexing because the presidency is now contending itself with the 2017 budget, having not availed itself of its responsibility to get the 2016 budget passed and signed into law. Nigerians do not deserve this; and surely did not vote for this nonsense.
. Courtesy: huhuonline.com

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