Whose budget is it anyway; NASS, the Presidency, or Nigeria?

Nigeria’s 2016 Budget fiasco seems to have taken another turn, after what looked like it was over. The National Assembly, after taking several weeks for the appropriation committees of both houses to agree on the budget, finally submitted the draft to the President, without the details of the changes they made. President Buhari demanded for the details before he could bring himself to sign it into law, a demand that seemingly caused the National Assembly to fidget, asking for extra time to provide the details. They eventually did last week, to the relief of Nigerians, however news emerged yesterday suggesting that once again, the budget had been changed and padded, this time by the National assembly. Here is what we can deduce from the latest episode of the 2016 Budget ‘series’:

Ethnocentrism in the Nigerian National Assembly?

Yesterday, the media was abuzz with news that the National assembly, through its budget Appropriation committee had re-allocated money from one MDA to another in the budget or within MDAs, especially in the Ministry of transport. Budget allocation for the construction of a rail that would link the south-east and south-south states of Nigeria through Calabar city to the commercial hub, Lagos was diverted to another rail construction project (linking Lagos to the Northern Commercial capital of Kano state.) With the present agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra premised on the claims that south eastern and south south Nigeria were marginalized by the federal government, this surely came across as a physical manifestation of these claims.

According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Dogara and Abdulmumin Jibrin, Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, (both northerners) no part of the budget had the Lagos-Calabar rail project. However, the Chairman, Senate Committee on “Land Transport”, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, claims that the federal government actually budgeted for the the rail and it is surprising that it was not in the bill submitted to the president. Is it the executive or distinguished members of parliament that could be the problem here?

Does the National Assembly have the authority to make changes to the budget WITHOUT the permission of the Executive?

Yes it does, according to a 2012 report by Ekeocha Chukwuemeka, a fellow at the National Institute of Legislative Studies in Abuja, Nigeria. The preparation of the budget is a shared responsibility of the Executive and Legislative arms of Government. Nigeria’s budget unlike company Budgets is an act, the Appropriation Act, and hence behooves the National Assembly to check assiduously, especially the expenditures which the Federal government has to defend.

“The budget, which is officially referred to as the Appropriation Act, is introduced by the Executive, approved by the Legislature and signed into law by the President.”

But like every bill, the Budget Appropriation bill/act, after deliberation by the National Assembly has to be scrutinized by the president before it is signed into law. The Appropriation committees in both houses recommend changes, which might take the form of “allocating, re-allocating, remove, add, increase, reduce or retain revenue and expenditure heads” after which the next step is to  forward these changes to the president to sign, with the details.

However, it seems the National Assembly tried to blindside the president few weeks ago by forwarding the Appropriation bill to him to sign into law without the details, thereby denying the Executive its responsibility of communicating its displeasure or approval of the changes made to the allocations in the budget back to the National Assembly within the customary 30-day-period. Although it looks like the Nigerian Senate has done no wrong with re-allocation, do they really have an ulterior motive concerning this 2016 Budget? and did Nigerians truly elect a competent group of people into parliament?

The Executive seems to ‘not know’ what it is doing

And how can we leave out the unprofessional behavior of the presidency? Firstly, not denying, through the media yesterday, that it had any “Lagos-Calabar rail project” in the budget submitted to the National Assembly makes it look like the rumours were true. And then, the media silence by Nigeria’s Minister for Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo udoma. Perhaps he ‘knows not’ what he is doing, and is dancing to the tune of his pied piper, President Buhari. Buhari’s apparent inexperience in budget matters, as shown by his actions since he went into the National Assembly to announce it last year, brings us to one conclusion; NASS and the Executive are not ‘co-ordinated’.

Nigeria’s budget implementation get as e be this year. Abeg if you ask us now, na who we go ask?

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