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NASS, FG and budget implementation brouhaha
Before proceeding on its eight weeks annual recess on July 19, the Green Chamber of the National Assembly (NASS) threatened to impeach President Goodluck Jonathan, if upon the return of the members in September, the 2012 budget was not fully implemented.
Though the impeachment decision was not reached by a resolution of the House of Representatives, the lawmakers, however, were apparently infuriated over the non-release of funds by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the national economic team, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to the MDAs. They scored the Federal Government far below average in all sections as far of the 2012 Appropriation Act was concerned, in line with the oversight claimed to have been done by the various committee chairmen.
Initiating the debate on budget implementation, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, the House Minority Leader, suggested that if the economy is not appropriately oiled by September, they may be left with no choice than to commence impeachment process against Jonathan in accordance to the provisions of the Constitution. Gbajabiamila, in his contention stated that “the President had come to the floor of the House with a budget which he called transformation budget but it is a budget of abracadabra and voodoo.”
Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, John Enoh, revealed in the course of the sitting that of the N304 billion and N375 billion expected to be released to the MDAs for the first and second quarters, only N104 billion and N104 billion were respectively released as at the end of June.
The Finance Minister, in countering the legislators, said the budget performance rate was 56 per cent, while arguing vehemently that there is nowhere in the world budget implementation can be achieved 100 per cent as directed by the parliamentarians. Okonjo-Iweala claimed to be speaking from her broad experience.
While the exchange of punches between the Green Chamber and the Presidency was still going on, the Senate joined the fray by threatening to arrest the coordinating minister of the economy, who had failed to appear before it to answer questions in respect of the true state of the 2012 budget implementation. Not even the presence of the one-time Senate President and now Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, who led the delegation, could sway the obviously incensed Senators, as they equally faulted claims by the minister, maintaining in their own case that the budget performance level is as low as 21.56 per cent.
However, upon her eventual appearance on August 2, 2012, Okonjo-Iweala, insisted before the Senate Committee on Appropriation that the implementation level of the 2012 budget stands at 56 per cent. She contended that the public had been fed with erroneous figures on budget implementation. According to her, government had released the first and second quarter recurrent budget in full, while the third quarter allocations would be released in two weeks time from the day of her appearance. The Minister blamed a section of the media for the misinformation, saying that while government had released N1.6 trillion of the recurrent votes, it had also released N404 billion of the N1.3 trillion capital votes.
While some have described the rift between NASS and Federal Government as a good development for the growth of democracy in Nigeria, there are those who see the lawmakers as simply playing to the gallery. They wonder, for instance, how the Lower Chamber would expect a 100 per cent budget implementation in September for a budget that was signed into law in April.
This position of the House Members is seen as diametrically illogical by some analysts, even though they have continued to receive accolades from most Nigerians for bringing to the fore the poor level 2012 budget performance.
Poor budget implementation, in the views of many, is one problem that seemed to have been facing the country for quite a long time. Nigerians, it is believed, have never been fortunate to enjoy proper implementation of the budget. This, according to opinions, appears to explain the reason why the country has not been able to attain any meaningful socio-economic growth and development.
It tells why our roads, have continued to remain deathtraps, where many Nigerians fall prey on a daily basis, because our leaders have failed to do the right thing. It also tells why our health care delivery system has remained in shambles, such that the so-called leaders do not seek medical services in the country, but would have to be fled abroad anytime they have health challenges.
Former Governor of Yobe, Abba Bukar Ibrahim, had said in an interview, while bewailing the problem of budget implementation in Nigeria that no federal budget had ever been designed to ameliorate the sufferings of the ordinary people.
The ex-governor, now Senator representing Yobe East in the Senate said: “I have never been satisfied with any federal budget. No federal budget has been satisfactory even right before Jonathan became President. It didn’t start with him. Nigeria has never had a people-oriented budget. It has always been designed for the elite.”
The Senator lamented that even when members of the Federal Legislature made some contributions while scrutinising the budget before its passage into law in the interest of the masses, the executive will fail to ensure its implementation. He noted that “a situation where budget performance is 70 per cent; the 30 per cent which is left is where the interest of the common man lies, but they will never implement it. The 70 per cent performance is just to cater for their own interest.”
An economist, appointed World Bank Country Director for Nigeria on March 20, 2008, Mr. Onno Ruhl, who was asked what he thought could be accountable for the low records of budget performance year-in, year-out in Nigeria, Ruhl said: “a number of problems, first, I think not everybody in Nigeria is aware of what it takes to implement a capital budget – building a road, bridge or power plants - sometimes the policy makers and legislature don’t quite realise what it takes.
Sometimes, what happens is projects get put in the budget without the necessary preparatory work.”
Jegede, a media practitioner, writes from Abuja.Share