GOING by the controversy that shrouded the 2016 budget, thus resulted to its late passage by members of the National As- sembly, many thought that the 2017 budget would have been passed by now to enable the ex- ecutive swing into action. But lo and behold, the peren- nial late passage of budget and its poor implementation has not only remained a sad com- mentary, but also an albatross to effective budgeting process in Nigeria. On December 14, 2016, Presi- dent Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 budget esti- mates of N7.298trn to the joint session of the National Assem- bly. Though many thought that following the late presentation of the 2016 budget, the 2017 Appropriation Bill would have come much earlier to enable the lawmakers work on it dili- gently and meticulously and perhaps pass it on record time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case as the 2016 bud- get was presented to NASS on December 22, 2015 and was eventually passed by the law- makers on May 6, 2016. No doubt, late presentation of budget invariably gives room for late passage. Perhaps, the budget padding and insertion By Dozie Emmanuel that greeted last year’s budget could be attributed to late presen- tation of the budget. Of course, it was expected that President Muhammadu Buhari and his budget team would have proved Nigerians wrong by pre- senting the 2017 budget in Octo- ber as earlier promised. From all indications, the 2017 budget seems to be towing the path of 2016 budget as the House of Representatives said the bud- get will now be passed as soon as they come back from the Easter break. While giving further clari- fication on the budget after Thurs- day’s plenary, the House Com- mittee Chairman of Media and Public Affairs, Hon Abdulrazak Namdas hinted that the House is likely to embark on Easter break on Tuesday (today) and resume plenary at the end of April to fin- ish everything concerning the budget. The spokesman stressed that at the moment, they were still engaging the various minis- ters, departments and agencies to come up with a robust budget. On March 16, Namdas said the March 30 deadline the House of Representatives set for itself to pass the 2017 budget will no lon- ger be feasible due to delay from some standing committees. He said they were working round the clock to ensure the quick passage
of the budget. The lawmaker ad- mitted that the March 30 deadline might not be sacrosanct again in view that some standing com- mittees were yet to submit their reports. According to him, “As it stands now, we may not meet up with the March 30 deadline. It is no longer sacrosanct. We will contin- ue to do our part to pass the bud- get on time. But in case we do not, be informed that few issues had hindered us from achieving that. As I speak to you, some stand- ing committees are yet to submit their reports to the Appropriation Committee”. Having considered the report of the Joint Committees of Fi- nance, Appropriations, National Planning and Economic Devel- opment, Legislative Budget and Research and Aids, Loans and Debt Management on the 2017- 2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fis- cal Strategy Paper (FSP), both chambers of the National Assem- bly adopted $44.5 per barrel as the oil benchmark for the 2017 bud- get. The lawmakers also adopted the recommendation of an oil out- put level of 2.2 million barrel per day (mbpd) as well as N305/US Dollar as earlier proposed by the executive. By now, it is hope that the legis-
lators must have completed work on the knitty-gritty of the bud- get with the various government ministries, agencies and depart- ments. Of course, it is expected that the legislators should use the 2017 budget estimates currently before them to right the wrongs of last year’s budget. Essentially, Nigerians expect that the legislators, while carrying out its core legislative duty on the 2017 budget, it will be mindful of the pitfalls of last year’s budget. Unfortunately, the controversy of budget paddings and insertions that surrounded the 2016 budget has brought the lower chamber and the entire National Assembly into disrepute. Worthy of note is that amidst all these controver- ies, the fact remains that it does not and will not in any way speak good of the hallowed chamber and the very institution of the Na- tional Assembly in many years to come. In view of this, the lawmakers must have learnt their lessons not to allow the ugly incidence that characterized the 2016 budget to repeat itself. As an indepebdent body, the National Assembly has set of rules that guide its activities and as such, it was expected that the lawmakers should have re- solved its budget crisis internally
rather than wash its dirty linen in public. No doubt, the pit- falls of the 2016 budget must have dawn on the lawmakers to be open- minded, transparent and carry on with their constitutional respon- sibility in good con- science as they set to pass the 2017 Appro- priation Bill. Interestingly, the Speaker of the House, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, has assured Nigerians that the 2017 budget will be more transpar- ent and devoid of con- troversy. While stress- ing that the 2017 bud- get remains the major tool to revive Nigeria’s economy and pull it out of recession, the speaker should make good his promise that the budget will be de- bated and passed on time. Again, the implementation of the 2016 budget has fallen short of expectation. The presi- dent explained that the drop in oil price affected the smooth implementation of the budget. Nigerians are, however, opti- mistic that giving the current price of oil in the international market, poor budget imple- mentation will not be case this time around. The 2017 budget christened ‘budget of recovery and eco- nomic growth’ was designed to accelerate the provision of basic infrastructure and improve the living standard of Nigerians. Thus, any deliberate attempt by the legislators to slow or de- lay its passage will be resisted because many projects will in- variably suffer some setback. Therefore, it is expected that the appropriation commit- tee of both chambers should be rounding off on the budget documents, ready to be laid on the floor of both chambers as soon as they return from Easter break. Furthermore, any attempt by any lawmaker or government official to temper with the bud- get again or allocate projects haphazardly without due pro- cess will automatically attract sanctions.

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