The Rift Over 2016 Budget


The 2016 budget currently awaiting presidential assent is, perhaps, one of the most controversial public document in recent history.
Regardless of its late submission, issues of disappearance, multiple versions, withdrawal and substitution, as well as padding trailed the N6.06 trillion appropriation bill.

Other noteworthy controversies were the denial of some ministers of several components of the document and movement of allocations by the National Assembly to projects not initially captured by the Presidency.

In a show of statutory might, both arms of government have bickered over the irregularities, sparking an intense rift which has elicited arguments for more time to amend grey areas before presidential ascent.

This is happening four months after the document was submitted to a joint session of the National Assembly.
Both chambers of the Assembly had conscientiously scrutinised and passed the budget a fortnight ago, leaving out the Lagos-Calabar rail project which was an addendum by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, to the appropriation committees.
As expected, the Presidency was duty-bound to query any missteps in a budget that it is saddled with the responsibility of implementing; but the public dimension such a query has taken suggests a complete lack of synergy between the executive and the National Assembly.  

Given the onerous task government has towards revamping the economy and easing the suffering of Nigerians, an interface between the two arms of government is vital for a quick harmonisation and passage of the appropriation bill.
While it is agreed that there is an obvious breakdown of the appropriation machinery of the public sector, which requires urgent reformation to spare the nation the embarrassment of squabbling over a routine task such as an annual budget, the show of absolute powers by one arm of government in deciding the final outlook of a national budget is completely unjustifiable.

This state of affairs is an apparent disservice to Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of current harsh economic realities.
Although the House of Representatives has expressed willingness to rework the budget, the position of the Senate which favours a supplementary budget or an amendment after presidential assent is more germane, to avoid further delay as the second quarter of the 2016 fiscal year is already on.

Going forward, both arms of government must lay side political differences and build synergy on matters of national interest, instead of the individualism that has characterised their approach to the 2016 budget.
In addition, an urgent reform of the appropriation organ of government is vital for a seamless adoption of budgetary processes; preparation and submission to the National Assembly.

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