Government & Politics

Why 2016 Budget Remains Embroiled In Crisis

Right from the onset, controversies have continued to trail the 2016 national budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari before a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22. Some senators told Daily Trust that the reason is simply that an old tradition entrenched in the budgetary process in the last 16 years has been jettisoned.

First, the budget was reported missing and later, various versions of the fiscal document were said to be in circulation, followed by the delay in the passage of the document and now the withholding of the budget details, all at the National Assembly.
After passing the budget on March 23, it emerged that details of the appropriation bill were not submitted to the Presidency. It was only the executive summary that was submitted.

In retrospect, the passage of the fiscal document, which was submitted to the joint session of the National Assembly, was postponed trice.
In an interview, a ranking senator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the hitches trailing the budget were not unconnected with what he called the ‘new order ‘.
He said the tradition whereby various MDAs ‘oil the palms’ of committees overseeing them before approving their budget had been jettisoned.
“You know, before, there were always deals between the MDAs and committees but this time around, I doubt if there was anything like that. You can’t ask for bribe and they cannot give, “he said.
He expressed reservations over the delay in the provision of the details of the budget.
“I don’t think there was need for the delay in providing the budget details because my committee, like many others, worked jointly with our colleagues at the House of Representatives. So, what do they need the two weeks for?
“I have been at the National Assembly since 1999 but this is the first time that budget summary will be sent to the Presidency without the breakdown. This is why we are suspecting that they are trying to blackmail the president,” he said.
While urging his colleagues to stop playing politics with the budget, he said, “This budget is for the people of Nigeria, not for the president or the executive arm of government. Nothing is moving in the country because of the delay in the passage of the budget because businesses and other things depend on the budget,” he said.
Our correspondent reports that the ‘prime times’ of the lawmakers were during annual budget defence when they interacted with the MDAs.
At the peak of the budget defence, the lawmakers usually kicked over a memo issued to the MDAs from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), warning top civil servants against lobby for budget increase.
Before now, chief executives of MDAs normally ‘settle’ lawmakers and sometimes ‘build in the interests of the legislators’ in their budget proposals. Sources said through this method, the legislators made ‘stupendous’ money, far more than what they get as salaries, monies for constituency projects or traveling.
It was gathered that in past scenarios, senators strived to be members of various committees and ensured that they attended the budget defence of as many MDAs as possible.
“The fact is that each and every MDA came with a deal and at the end of the day, it was ‘win-win’ for all, everybody got money,” a source said.
Speaking on other issues surrounding the budget, a senator, who has been at the Red Chamber since 2003, said, “I had gone to Saraki (the Senate president) and explained to him the need to stop this game. It is not in the interest of him and his people. As far as I am concerned, all these things are not new…the Senate president is not on the same page with the Presidency. I remember during Jonathan era, there was a time when we had two versions of the budget. Mark went to him and the issue was resolved secretly,” he said

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