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Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2018

Let’s get 2018 budget out

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President Muhammadu Buhari laying the 2018 Budget Proposal before a joint session of the National Assembly Members, yesterday in Abuja. With him is the Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani Omolori (right).
Photo: Mahmud Isa

President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 Appropriation (Budget) Bill to a joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives Nov. 7 2017, with the hope the federal lawmakers would fasttrack the passage of the budget so that its implementation would start early unlike in years past. Four months have gone by, yet the budget is still being discussed at the committee level. Before the lawmakers went on the Easter break March 29 2018, they announced that a passed budget would be ready April 24, three days away.
Senate President Bukola Saraki expressed his concerns over the delay April 10 in a directive he gave to the Senate’s appropriation committee, headed by senator Mohammed Danjuma Goje to collate reports from standing committees latest April 13 and present a single report to plenary this week. He listed the defaulting committees as: Defence, Army, Air Force, Navy, Industry, Federal Capital Territory, Culture and Tourism, Petroleum Downstream, Petroleum Upstream and Niger Delta.
Others are: Sustainable Development Goals; Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases; Health; Capital Market; Tertiary Institutions and TETFund; Federal Emergency Road Maintenance Agency; Works; Power and Cooperation and Integration.
Saraki said: “I am sorry to have chosen this method. I have no alternative but to list these committees so that their chairmen can know that they are holding all of us back.” On Wednesday, April 18, while in session the senators were attacked by hoodlums who made away with the mace and the Senate had to adjourn abruptly. A further setback in the passage of the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
Neither the lawmakers nor the Executive are ready to accept blame for the delay in the passage of the budget bill. The National Assembly recently criticised the MDAs for delaying the passage of the budget due to their Ill-preparedness to attend scheduled meetings where they were expected to provide information needed by the lawmakers to scrutinise their budget estimates. However, Ben Akabueze, Director General of the Budget Office, said the budget proposals for 2018 had “all the usual details required by the National Assembly to process the budget.” Those details, he said in a statement, included the budgets of all federal MDAs based on the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) budget templates.
Akabueze added, “Given the seriousness the Presidency attaches to getting the 2018 budget passed so it could earnestly focus on achieving the goals set out in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-20 (ERGP), which formed the basis of the budget, it had directed heads of ministries and extra-ministerial agencies to attend to any requests for meetings/information by the National Assembly (NASS) with dispatch. To the best of our knowledge, this directive has been complied with. Should any committees of NASS still experience any issues with attendance of any MDA, the Minister of Budget & National Planning has indicated that he is available to liaise with the particular MDA to ensure full cooperation with NASS by the relevant MDA.”
The point must be made that the majority of Nigerians are not impressed by this blame game which they consider time wasting. All they want to see is the impact of the budget on their lives.They want to know how much food the N6.18 trillion federal budget will put on their dining tables or how many new jobs it will create. They are simply tired of the endless controversies that trail the nation’s annual budgets. They suspect these are contrived by politicians to help themselves to the public till. Their fears are justified by the embarassing level of corruption in political high places..
We warn our leaders they cannot take the citizenry for a ride for too long. Before long, the bubble will burst and the result will not be palatable for the nation as a whole. Let both the Executive and Legislature come together and do the needful, which, in this case, is to pass the budget and begin its implementation in earnest.

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