Budget 2018, Buhari and the National Assembly: Issues & Matters Arising! –Ishola Adebayo

June 22, 2018

President Muhammadu Buhari despite having presented the 2018 Budget of Consolidation on the 7th of November 2017 to a joint session of the National Assembly; It took not less than seven months for the nation’s budget to be finally assented to by Mr. President. The expenditure plan as passed by the lawmakers, was sent to the Presidency on May 25, 2018 after the N8.26 trillion estimate sent in by Buhari was jacked up to N9.12 trillion, representing an increment of N508billion.

Amid expression of grief and outright displeasure, President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, 20 June, 2018 in Abuja signed the 2018 Appropriation Bill into law. “I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented,” he told the nation in a speech that evidenced bottled up anger, he added: “Notwithstanding the above stated observations, I have decided to sign the 2018 budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.”

The reaction of the National Assembly to the veiled presidential indictment was swift and concise that same Wednesday with the Senate Deputy Majority Leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah, who was at the signing ceremony, saying the legislature did its job in the national interest, explaining that not being a rubber stamp of the executive, its estimates could not have returned to it without adjustments.

According to a similar post made by an online TV, not only did it take the lawmakers longer than expected to pass the budget, the final outcome was not what was expected said President Buhari.

“When I submitted the 2018 Budget proposals to the National Assembly on 7th November 2017, I had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year,” he said. Regardless of the setback, the President is determined to continue working with the National Assembly to improve the budgeting process and restoring Nigeria to the January-December fiscal cycle. This, he explained, is because although the Federal Government’s budget represents less than 10 per cent of aggregate yearly expenditures in the economy, it has a very significant accelerator effect on the financial plans of other tiers of government, and even more importantly, the private sector, which mostly operates on a January-December financial year.

The president had presented N8.6 trillion estimates with $45 per barrel of oil bench mark price to the National Assembly in November last year, but the federal legislators increased the figures to N9.1 trillion having revised the oil price benchmark upwards to $51. The president had hinted his objection to the upward review, preferring that the upward swing in oil price and its attendant extra cash to the national treasury ought to be used to reduce the budget deficit rather than increase expenditure since the shortfall was going to be financed by borrowing any way. This conceptual disagreement had tactically delayed presidential assent to the appropriation bill. But fearing that the impasse could slow down the already sluggish economic recovery, the president’s economic advisers urged him to sign the money bill with a caution.

However, some Nigerians have reacted saying that President Muhammadu Buhari should not have signed the 2018 budget, which he did amid claims that the National Assembly “tampered” with the document.

Buhari had lamented that the 2018 Appropriation Act, which he signed into law on Wednesday, would be difficult — if not impossible — to implement because of the alterations members of the National Assembly had effected on the document he submitted to them on November 7, 2017.

He also accused them of injecting 6,403 projects of their own totaling N578bn into the national budget, while making cuts amounting to N347bn in the allocations to 4,700 projects as submitted to them. Projects from which cuts were made include the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, totalling an aggregate of N11.5bn. They accused the ministries and federal agencies of frustrating the passage by failing to submit the breakdowns of their budget proposals, forcing a presidential order to that effect.

Nigerians have since taken to Twitter to express their views, as they confronted their elected officials via Buhari’s verified Twitter handle —@MBuhari. Below are few of the documented tweets:

“I’m disappointing in you sir, people voted you to bring divine change not acting weak with hardened criminals. — Lefty against rogues. ”. --(@kakra68) June 20, 2018

“Since the budget has been signed, what is the moaning about then? Scared of failure? Your claims can’t hold water because if you are sure that the budget was tempered with unreasonably then you should have not signed up. Deliver what is the budget and stop playing future excuses”. -- (@YoungerClue) June 20, 2018

Irrespective of the political imbroglio from both the execute and legislature that marred the passage of the 2018 budget, Nigerians are more concerned and believed that since the budget has now been passed and assented to, very soon they would begin to experience development in service delivery across the country.