A Dissection Of The Awaited 2016 Budget

By Nebo Ike
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Public opinion is one of the devices through which stakeholders in a participatory democracy express dissent or consent on policies and programs of government; as well as legislative proceedings. In like manner the 2016 budget a.k.a “Budget of Change” was subjected to scrutiny and criticism by stakeholders through public opinion.

The just concluded economic summit is a public opinion of expert with a Committee to Revitalize Economy emerging from it. The budget proposal is probably one of the most criticized budgets in this country in recent times.

It is also about the only budget which got lost after its presentation to the National Assembly. Trading blames by the two arms of government is not the focus of this comment, besides the blames have not solved the problems associated therewith.

The fact remains that the 2016 budget’s integrity has been tainted by the disappearance and re-appearance with missing figures. As usual no one is facing criminal charge of stealing. Besides, the budget as failed more than two passage deadlines, as a proposed figures of N6.07tr have been questioned by the red and green chambers, with about N37bn about to be exorcised therefrom.

The timing of the budget was appropriate giving the delay in assembling the cabinet suffered. Though from the hindsight of present experience it could have been presented earlier than December 23, 2015. No one is left in doubt about the orchestrated three major policy issues of security, corruption and employment of its administration reflecting the economy realities of the nation. However, only time will tell how the budget turns out to effect positive change on those issues.

On the surface of the 2016 budget the accurate non compliance with the Fiscal Responsibilities Act speaks volumes of the legal status of the Appropriation Bill. Many of government parastatals like Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Communication Commission (NCC), etc were glaringly absent in the budget. What this means is that the government was unable to change the status quo. And the further implication is that some of these institutions may not submit to the authority of Treasury Single Account (TSA).

I must say that the fiscal policy of this administration became disjointed and confusing when petrol-dollar nose-dived against the naira. The exchange rate remained static at the rate of N 199 to $1 which is unrealistic in the face of about N 400 to $1 in the parallel market. At this point it failed to make sense when in the midst of uncertainties the budget benchmark pegged at $38, suddenly witnessed downward oil price of $27. In all of these challenges you begin to wonder whether the change this administration is desperately searching for would have been found if there is a specialized institution that manages the nation’s annual appropriation.

A country without the equivalent of Parliamentary Budget Office, now tinkering with the enactment of National Assembly Budget & Research Office (NABRO). An initiative of members of the legislature, when enacted it would be an apolitical institution that researches, analyses and forecasts the annual fiscal ritual. It would be of assistance to the law makers in providing capacity for the discharge of the statutory duties. A typical assignment would be to analyze the budget and give unbiased and independent assessment of budget to the legislature. This function could have stemmed the situation that arose with the 2016 budget, or put them on notice before its presentation.

As these fiscal challenges besetting the economy unfold, it took the Minister for Information a lot of time and courage to control. In quest of solutions heads have started rolling at the CBN with the sack of Deputy Governors by Governor Godwin Emefiele. But the major set back of mono-product economy with the antidote of diversification are yet to receive critical attention; even as 27 out of 36 states were prior to bail-out unable to pay salaries.

Being an optimist, I believe as much as Alhaji Aliko Dangote is credited with the assertion that the dwindling revenue does not spell doom for Nigeria, but a budget that has from the onset stressed the nation with N 2.22tr deficit is enough burden to worry about.

The judiciary which is called the last hope of the common man, lost hope in the 2016 budget. The realities will manifest during the implementation period. However, comments from stakeholders fear that the independence of 3rd arm is yearly being eroded. They maintain that proper founding would further strengthen the independence of the judiciary increase the capacity in terms of more courts with the incidental creation of employment at all cadres of the judiciary.

Presently the capacity is low as a result of poor funding which has nose-dived to about 1% of the national budget. The 21st judicial system should perform much more than our present system with mounting of delays at all the hierarchy of the judiciary. Such a legal system can hardly impress vestors wishing to establish in the country so it fails to boost investment. Even at the domestic level the confidence of members of the public on the judiciary that re-crippled and overwhelmed by delays has been eroded. This affects productivity man-hour and frustrates contract and genuine business and some critics want to externalize our economic prices.

To this end, the judiciary should learn to maximize spaces and allocation they have. The court should not necessarily be a hall or “globe theatre”. The courts are full of litigants expecting to hear their cases, when the judge/magistrate has calls of cases on daily list out of which a few would be heard partly. This is the same judiciary the president blames for undermining his anti-corruption war.

Finally, as the Economic Revitalization Committee embarks on their assignment, may I conclude with Justice Isa Ayo Salami’s opinion titled “Eradicating Corruption in the Judiciary”: “Corruption is the product of a failed system – education, social, political and economical and the earlier it is tackled from the root rather than engage in a game of responsibility shifting the better it would be for all of us”.

Iyke Ozemena
Ikechukwu O. Odoemelam & Co
Corporate Attorneys/Consultants

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