By Oji Odu
Six months into the country’s financial season, after the 2018 Appropriation bill was presented to the National Assembly in November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari is expected today, Wednesday, June 20, 2018, to sign the bill into law, leaving government with only six months to perform all the magic and abracadabra needed to make Nigeria a better place and better the lives of the sun stricken Nigerians.
Are Nigerians surprised? No. Are they expecting life impacting changes in the remaining six months? Definitely, many are not. This is because for about a decade, this has become norm. However, Nigerians are rather disappointed that the Buhari-led administration with its ‘Change’ mantra is yet unable to change this “Baba Go Slow” budget passage that has become a veritable avenue for corruption. After all, which Ministry Department and Agency remits unspent budget money at the end of the fiscal season?
The Magazine’s findings for a 10-year period from 2008-2018 show that budgets have always been delayed while the economy has continued to suffer and degenerate with attendant hardship on the Nigerian people who are said to have just come out of economic recession.
|S/N||Year of Budget||Passed into law|
|1||2008||April 15, 2008|
|2||2009||March 10, 2009|
|3||2010||April 22, 2010|
|4||2011||May 27, 2011|
|5||2012||April 13, 2012|
|6||2013||February 26, 2013|
|7||2014||May 24, 2014|
|8||2015||May 19, 2015|
|9||2016||May 6, 2016|
10, 2017 May 2017
Speaking on the budget, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, confirmed that President Buhari will sign the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law today. “I can confirm to you that the President will sign the budget into law at midday on Wednesday,” the presidential spokesman said.
Because of this, the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council that normally holds every Wednesday inside the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa , Abuja at 11am will not hold on that day. It was not clear as of the time of filing this report if the meeting was put off because of the signing of the budget.
Last week Wednesday, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, had told State House correspondents that the budget would be signed into law this week, although he did not give details of the specific day and time the document would be signed this week. He had said the details would be made available later.
“The budget will be signed next week. We will give you the specific date when it is confirmed,” Adesina had stated.
The Presidency had stated that the President would only take a stand on the document based on the advice he was expecting from the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma.
It noted that all ministers were expected to scrutinise the budget passed against the proposals they submitted and report their findings to Udoma. The budget and national planning minister would thereafter form an opinion based on the feedback from his colleagues and proceed to advise the President accordingly.
The two chambers of the National Assembly had recently passed the budget and transmitted it to Buhari to sign. The lawmakers raised the total figure from N8.6tn to N9.1tn, six months after the estimates were presented to them.
The delay in the passage of the 2018 budget has been a cause of concern to many Nigerians, especially experts in various fields, who bare their minds on the development.
Reacting to the delay, Professor Sheriffdeen Tella of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, said that it was shameful that long after the 2018 budget estimate was submitted to the National Assembly it was yet to be passed.
Tella regretted that the legislature had failed to perform its function of completing the consideration and authorising expenditure in the fifth month into the year.
“It seems they do not know that one of the main duties of the National Assembly is to pass the federal budget on time to facilitate economic growth and development.
“Non-passage of the bill has locked down rapid recovery from the recession and movement towards growth.
“This is because capital expenditure aspect of the budget, which has higher growth multiplier effects on the economy, cannot be executed without authorisation of the budget by the National Assembly,’’ he said.
He expressed fears that the economy will not witness meaningful growth unless the budget is passed on time to complement the monetary policy to be introduced by the newly inaugurated Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
“It takes time for implemented policies to have effect on the economy; therefore, we should not expect much improvement in output of the capital market and the economy at large,’’ Mr Tella said.
On his own, Peter Ozo-Eson, the General Secretary, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), also said that the continuous delay was unfortunate.
“We are already into the second quarter of the year and the budget is still not passed and we cannot even say definitely when it will be passed.
“The budget is supposed to among other things show the direction of the economic policies for the year, which will then influence the economic planning by economic agents, both in the private and the public sector.
“People respond to the economy of the budget. So if by the second quarter, we still have not passed the budget, it means that we are having economic function without direction.
“This does not help the economic performance of the country and I think it is rather sad.
“`Whatsoever, whosoever that are responsible for the delay, I think they have to be called to order in the interest of the country and the budget needs to be passed,’’ he said.
The non-passage of the 2018 budget has made some financial experts attribute the retention of the Monetary Policy Ratio (MPR) at 14 per cent by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). They said that the absence of a fiscal policy direction in the economy was inevitable for the CBN to decide otherwise.
The MPC, in its first meeting in 2018, according to the Magazine’s findings, retained the benchmark interest rate at 14 per cent, the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 22.5 per cent and the liquidity ratio at 30 per cent. The bank had retained the benchmark interest rate at 14 per cent alongside other monetary policy rates since July 2016, citing inflationary pressure and a fragile post recession economy.
Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, a Civil Society Organisation, regrets that the delay was impacting negatively on the economy. This he said is making it rather difficult for public and private sector stakeholders to plan and manage their economic activities.
“The delay compounds the already parlous economic situation and shows a country that is afloat and without a focused leadership at both the executive and legislative levels,’’ he observed.
In his rection, Edwin Uche, President, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, said that the delay budget had affected maize cultivation in the country.
He said that timely implementation of federal government’s programme on maize cultivation was key to the success of the agriculture sector. He also said that decision makers and the budget handlers should be more proactive and less bureaucratic to make the process work.
According to Uche, cultivation of maize is time-bound and the time requirements for the crop growing must be strictly followed to achieve food sufficiency in the country.
“The timely implementation of every set programme of the federal government should be prioritised by the handlers of the budget.
“Most of the time, we have programme designs but we are often comfortable with a situation where the implementation process tends not to affect the time of cultivation.
“Once the cultivation timetable is punctured or we have a problem with implementing the programme based on the environmental or natural timetable, it affects the yields and outputs.
“When there is delay in implementing the programmes in the Federal Government’s budget, maize farmers might lose interests or become agitated,’’ he said.
But Johnson Ukoh, a Human Rights activist sees it differently. “ Let’s tell ourselves the truth. These politicians are toying with the lives of innocent and vulnerable Nigerians who they believe cannot challenge them.
“They want to release money to be shared for the 2019 elections. How much do you think they can achieve within this short period of time before the end of this years financial season? Who will monitor use of this money correctly to the stated projects? Who will make sure that all the money is used? Which officials will return unspent monies? It is a pity Nigerians are gullible and not yet ready to stand for the truth,” he lamented.