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Super Tucano aircraft, budget defence… Five actions that delayed passage of 2018 budget

 

 

A budget of N8.612 trillion for 2018 was presented to the joint session of National Assembly on November 7, 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari.  Six months after (183 days), the budget is yet to be passed by the lawmakers – the longest delay in the passage of budget since the past 10 years.

Here are the factors that caused the delay in passing the budget.

PRESIDENCY MISSED DEADLINE

A day after Yemi Osinbajo, the then Acting President,  signed the 2017 budget into law, the Ministry of Budget and National Planning officially kicked off the preparation of the 2018 budget proposals in order to meet up with the October target of submitting the document to the National Assembly.

While signing the 2017 budget, Osinbajo said that the executive had resolved that the 2018 budget would be laid before the legislators latest by October to enable them to conclude work on it by December so that it could be signed into law at the beginning of the year.

The executive did not meet its own deadline because the budget was presented to the National Assembly in November.

POOR IMPLEMENTATION OF 2017 BUDGET

On December 19, 2017, senators lamented at the poor implementation of 2017 budget by the various Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs). The lawmakers threatened to stop the consideration of 2018 budget until the 2017 budget implementation reached at least 60 percent.

By December, the lawmakers had complained that performance of 2017 budget had not reached 20 percent in most MDAs.  Majority of the senators who spoke at the plenary suggested that the lifespan of the 2017 budget be extended to March 31, 2018.

Mustapha Dawaki, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations, said in March, that National Assembly had written to Ahmed Idris,  the Accountant-General of the Federation, to extend the 2017 budget lifespan to May 31, pending the passage of 2018 budget.

The executive eventually extended the implementation of 2017 budget to June 5, from  March 31 deadline earlier given to MDAs by the Ministry of Finance.  While the 2018 budget is yet to be passed, the 2017 budget is still being implemented.

MDAS SHUNNED BUDGET DEFENCE

Earlier in March, the Vice-President and Ben Akabueze, the Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, blamed the National Assembly for the delay in the passage of 2018 budget. Osinbajo said the President presented the budget on time but the lawmakers had failed to pass the budget.

In response, the lawmakers blamed the delay on the refusal of MDAs to defend their budgets. Both chambers of the National Assembly complained that the MDAs have refused to appear before the various standing committees to defend the details of their budget.

Subsequently, at the end of a meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly on March 16, President Buhari ordered ministers and heads of departments and agencies to appear before the National Assembly to defend their 2018 budget estimates.

PURCHASE OF SUPER TUCANO AIRCRAFT

President Buhari in a letter last month to the National Assembly disclosed that the sum of $496m had been withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account for the purchase of military aircraft

The money was paid to the United States for the 12 Super Tucano aircraft, without the approval of lawmakers as required by the constitution. Buhari then sought the approval of the National Assembly to include the money in the 2018 appropriation bill which is still under consideration by the lawmakers.

The lawmakers have maintained that the new budgetary request would contribute to another setback for the passage of 2018 budget.

EXECUTIVE-LEGISLATURE RIVALRY

The obvious rivalry between the executive and legislature has affected important decision making, including the passage of 2018 budget.

The lawmakers have accused the presidency of not respecting the decision of the National Assembly and had vowed to retaliate in equal measure. For example, the decision to retain Ibrahim Magu as the Acting Chairman of Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) despite his nomination being rejected twice by the Senate has caused bad blood between the two arms of government.

Since then, the Senate had vowed not to confirm any appointment by Buhari until the President removes Magu. For example, Bolaji Owasanoye, a Professor of Law who was nominated by Buhari for the chairmanship of Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) but has been awaiting confirmation from the Senate since August 2017.

Meanwhile, the leadership of both chambers of National Assembly have promised that the budget will be passed by this week.

“By next week, everything about the budget will be treated and passed,” Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman of the House, said last Thursday.

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