Six months after President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly and a month after it was passed by the both houses of the Assembly, the 2017 budget has been finally signed into law.
In this period, the budget was subjected to numerous intrigues, delays and controversies that were unnecessary and diversionary. It started from the snail-pace at which the budget screening was being conducted, to the alarm raised by Senator Danjuma Goje, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations that the budget documents were seized by the police in a raid on his house, to the controversy over who will sign the budget between President Muhammadu Buhari who is on medical leave and Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
The delay was so long that the 2016 budget effectively expired on May 5 without another budget to take its place, putting the legality of government spending from that period under serious question marks. And like we have pointed out before, the delay in having a budget could put government programs and projects in jeopardy due to delays in funding and could hamper Nigeria’s economic recovery.
Issues around budget drafting, screening and approval are sadly, fast-becoming a trademark of the Buhari administration. In 2016, the imbroglio around it introduced into the Nigerian political lexicon the new term of “budget padding”, which was blamed for the late passing of the budget.
It is expected that the executive and legislative arms should come together, and also individually explore what the bottlenecks are that prevent the speedy drafting, screening and passing of appropriation bills. This is necessary in order to prevent these problems from recurring and being a huge cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress.
Now that the budget has finally been signed into law, the Federal Government must expedite its implementations and the release of funds for projects. Most importantly, it must start work on the 2018 budget and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) which is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly minimum of four months before the budget in line with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA).
There is a lot riding on the implementation of this year’s budget as well as that of 2018, as these are the last two years of full governance before politicking for the 2019 elections comes into play.
We cannot afford to keep losing momentum or not even building one in the first place to such delays.