2016 Budget: Nigerians’ Patience Is Thinning Out
BEVERLY HILLS, April 15, (THEWILL) – The 2016 Budget has emerged as the most controversial in the history of Nigeria so far. It is President Muhammadu Buhari's first in office; the only budget to have been declared missing and later reappeared heavily padded. It is also the nation's highest since independence and longest in the passage process.
Unfortunately, the same budget, which came with high hopes upon presentation, is yet to get the President's assent, four months after it was first presented. Many have dismissed it as a jinxed document.
However, it is not a surprise that the appropriation bill has manifested itself in this way, considering that a “new order” was adopted in its planning. What had always being the case under previous governments was the envelope system of budgeting.
This traditional system was however jettisoned for the zero-budgeting system by the present government which has unfortunately resorted to the envelope system it had castigated as inefficient.
Little wonder, the end product is a budget overwhelmed with back-and-forths that have embarrassed Nigeria before the international community.
The crux of the disagreement is the delisting of Lagos-Calabar coastal railway project, among others, which the legislators claimed were not contained in the original version presented to it. Even though, the Executive has continued to insist it was contained in the version duly received by the parliament.
THEWILL condemns the continued delay in the final approval of the budget. Under the circumstance, the people who should benefit are left to wallow in hardship; even as the nation's economic doldrums deepen. This waiting game is an evil wind that has not only impeded good governance, but has stretched the people's patience to the extreme.
Unfortunately, the first quarter of the year has gone by, without the provisions made for the period being implemented. By extension, the people who have been shortchanged would continue to bear the brunt of this obstinacy.
THEWILL however warns that this budget controversy should not turn out to be an excuse that the present administration will give for not being able to deliver on the electoral promises it vowed to actualize in 2016 alone. We wonder how the Executive and the Legislature will be locked in this logjam when both are controlled by members of the same party. It begs the question of what the ruling party is doing to resolve this impasse.
Only recently, the Senate declared that it would no longer revisit the budget and asked the President to sign what has been returned to him for his assent and forward a supplementary budget afterwards. The President should heed this advice in the interest of the people or find a way to reach a common ground with the lawmakers on the matter. Grandstanding will not do the nation any good in this circumstance.
The Executive can begin the immediate implementation of all aspects of the budget that have scaled the huddles, while scheduling how to iron out the grey areas with the National Assembly. It should bear in mind that the parliament is constitutionally empowered to override it, with a two third majority after 30 days. Nigeria cannot afford to have its Executive and Legislative arms of government engaged in cold war.
Since this zero-budgeting system has proven to be beyond the handle of the present government, THEWILL advises the federal government to continue with the traditional system where the Budget Office, ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs synergizes with the Senate and House of Representatives' committees even before the estimates is finally presented.