On Tuesday, 7th of November 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR presented the 2018 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly. This was in keeping with the provisions of the Constitution which requires the legislature to pass all bills including the Appropriation Bill. However the National Assembly has not pass the bill, almost after four months it was presented. This delay is one that is bound to have grave consequences for the governance process and ultimately the economy of the country.
The use of the phrase “Delay of the 2018 Budget Appropriation Bill” as we are all aware that the passage of the Act involves both the executive and legislative arms of government and that the current delay in the coming effect of the law has been attributed amongst others to the failure of the two arms of government to work in synergy in the overall interest of the citizenry.
When there is a delay in signing of the budget, it affects economic growth and many jobs would be lost, thereby saturating the labour market and endangering the economy. The implication is that government may not be able to spend or execute 40 percent of the capital expenditure. There would be low aggregate of income as government borrows to pay salary; and it may not be able to spend 50 percent of the budget of 2018. This will make the full implementation of the budgets unrealistic. Another negative effect of delayed budget is that it discourages foreign investors from coming in to invest and that could make them to divert their investment capital to other countries.
One cannot but wonder why there is annually a delay in the process of passing the budget in Nigeria. In 2017, the budget for that year was not signed until May 11 although it was presented in December 2016. Ideally, the process of the passage of the budget should be seamless as stated by the Central Bank in one of its publications as follows:
“In Nigeria the fiscal year begins on January 1st and ends December 31st. There is, however, no time limit for the National Assembly to consider and approve the budget set before it, although, there is a time limit for the President. This process starts in June with the issuance of a Call Circular from the FMOF to MDAs to submit their expenditure proposals, which are set within the spending limits. A draft Bill is prepared by October by the FMOF and sent to the NASS through the Presidency. Technically, before the legislature’s December recess, the Bill could be passed with any agreed amendments. The President could then be able to authorize the Bill to become law in January. A clause also allows the President to spend from the previous year’s budget, which has to be within the time limit of six months, although there has to be an awaiting appropriation act for the current fiscal year.”
To prevent the unsavory effects of the constant late passage of the Budget, Nigeria may borrow a leaf from other countries that have evolved efficient ways of passing their budgets.
The current situation has not been helped by argument on both sides of the executive and legislature as to the extent to which the National Assembly can tinker with the bill sent to it by the executive. Such unnecessary issues only serve to bring about further delay and as current events show are not in the best interest of the citizenry.