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House/Executive budget face-off: Before the marching order expires

While  investigating on this report, a former Senator declined commenting on the subject. He cited the sensitive nature of the issue. Reasons: He is of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party,PDP and would not join issues with the Villa.  No doubt, he may have incurred the wrath of his party.

House of Representatives in session
House of Representatives in session

Quite typical of Nigeria, where party affiliations overrides critical national issues. But his sermon on how to report the Nigerian story, certainly corroborates with  the view of some analysts: Seek solutions and do not celebrate the problems.

This is why possible solutions on the current budget face-off, would not be reported without revealing the alleged executive excesses involved.. Charles Kumolu reports.

IN the early life of this administration, the Federal House of Representatives nearly passed for  House of scandals, no thanks to the show of shame that trailed the 628 million naira house renovation scandal.
Obviously, former Speaker Patricia Etteh, was the dramatic personae, just as she emerged the tragic hero, as she lost her speakership through it.

But some still believe that the integrity of the House was the main casualty. This was harped on the believe that public sympathy for the Lower legislature, was largely eroded.

Nevertheless, the combination of the efforts of the Integrity Group (anti-Etheh group) and intelligence of post Etheh leadership, helped in retaining some level of integrity for the House.

More solidarity was also earned last year, as it relates to the passage of 2009 budget.

For not hurriedly passing the 2009 Appropriation Bill, the lawmakers earned the admiration of many.
The quick passage of the bill by the Senate, however, unsettled some analysts, who fumed that it was done without proper authentication.

For the Lower arm of the National Assembly, its delay paid off, as loopholes were discovered in the proposed budget.
With this, some argued that the speed at which the Senate passed the bill, resulted to the nightmare that budget is becoming.

Apart from this, those who still claim the existence of disconnection between legislators and their constituencies, may commend the House on its recent position on budget implementation.

In what appears like a riot act, the House of Representatives, urged President Umar Musa Yar’Adua to fully implement the 2009 budget or he be impeached.

Hinging on what it described as “ poor and selective” implementation of the 2009 Appropriation Act, the House threatened to commence impeachment proceedings against Yar’Adua.

The government had recorded a budget deficit of N 17.394 billion in June 2009.
That may have made the  row assume another dimension, as the lawmakers shunned an invitation by the presidency to discuss how the troubled budget can be saved.

“What we want is for the budget to be faithfully and sincerely implemented,” Honourable Halims Agoda, who cast the first stone, had earlier disclosed to Vanguard Features,VF.

The House of Representative member, who represents  Ethiope Federal constituency, had expressed dismay at the invitation by the presidency.

He corroborated, the assumption of some experts, who argued that the kind of fellowship the presidency is seeking with the lawmakers, may not help the troubled budget.

“It is not the duty of the Special adviser to the president to hold a public hearing from the budget. It is a dangerous step and we need to discountenance that invitation and impression and impress it on the executive to implement the budget,” Agoda submitted in the House.

Agoda was not a lone voice on the matter, as Hon. Ugochukwu Agoma lent his voice on what is becoming a national headache.

Agoma, who is the House Committee Chairman on Gas Resources, regretted that at a period of total dislocation of all sectors, the executive is yet to find proper budget implementation imperative.

He argued that having frowned at the shoddy implementation of the budget, it would be unhealthy for the House to dine and wine with the office of the Special adviser.

Agoma’s lamentation that Nigerians are yet to have access to basic necessities,  painted the pathetic picture of the state of the nation.

The subbmition of the duo and the subsequent marching order, however, have captured the mood of many.
That is why, both critics and admirers of this administration, have continued to applaud the position of the lawmakers.

Consequently, this question of alleged insincerity on the path of the executive, have become a source of discomfort for many.

The Joint Committee on Appropriation and Finance had investigated the budget implementation by the President.   And behold, its findings to some extent, appear to have given credence to the issue of insincerity.

However, it is anyone’s guess the House’s decision as to whether it will carry out its threats in the event that Mr. President is indeed selective as alleged in the implementation of the budget.
The memories of fruitless impeachment threats are still fresh in the hearts of many.

But who knows, if as event unfolds, history might be rewritten.

Investigations by Vanguard Features,VF revealed that lawmakers may not have the moral courage to impeach the president, if the need arises.

Feelings that impeachment threat is not exclusive, to President Yar’Adua, have given credence to this (absence of moral courage) assumption.

“ I will emphasis that the House  has no moral courage to do that. They don’t have it. It is not only the House but the National Assembly as a whole, ” said  Bamidele Aturu.

The lawyer, who is a Haman Rights Activist, further said, “I don’t think the president has any right not to implement the budget. If there was a problem in the budget, he should have identified them before signing it into law.”

On the provoking issue of selective implementation, Aturu said, “If it is true that he is selective in implementing the budget, that is wrong. He should implement the budget fully so that we can have some difference.”

For Chief Omowale Kuye, what is obtainable in Nigeria now, is not budgeting, fuming that the real elements of budgeting is totally absent.

The former Director of Budgeting and Planning, however blamed the executive and the legislature for the budget face off.

“I delivered a paper on budgeting and proper implementation. And I believe it will address some of the contending issue of budgeting in this country. It is sad that what they are doing now is not budgeting. It is clear who should be the one to pass and who should implement the budget,” said Kuye, who served during the regime of President Ibrahim Babangida.

Speaking against the backdrop of the delay in budget passage last year, Kuye who holds an MA in Economic Planning & Budgeting from the  School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, University of Syracuse, noted that budget should always be passed on time for proper implementation.

“When much time is wasted on the passage of the budget, how would you expect it to be efficiently implemented. I am not saying that full implementation can be achieved easily. But the people who are supposed to pass the budget should have it done on time,” he added.

For Kuye, who served as Head, Budget Department Ministry of Finance (1979-85), there are certain fundamentals of budgeting that are not efficiently being applied in Nigeria.

“There are certain fundamentals of budgeting in economics that we are not properly utilising. When budgeting, the whole aspect of the economy should be considered,” he noted, adding that the fundamentals, “guides the direction the economy of a nation has to go.”

Still speaking on the needed essentials, he said government must always consider the unemployment and inflationary rate as basic fundamentals of budgeting.

“Look at unemployment and inflationary rates, they are all vital to budgeting. All the money in the economy wherever they are should be put in. That would produce long and short run effects. And it reduces the level of inflation in the long run,” said the former Chairman of ICON Limited (Merchant Bankers).

Kuye further revealed that an overheated economy, does not help budgets to be properly implement, even as he emphasised that Nigeria’s economy must cease from being overheated.

“The second one is that when you have an overheated economy, how would you expect your economy to work? With an overheated economy, it means that you have to be careful. When you consider the necessary essentials if you are budgeting in surplus, then the whole economy will respond, not only in monetary and inflationary terms,” Chief Kuye proffered.

Still proffering on how to sound a mortal blow on budget crisis, the former Permanent Secretary, Budget Affairs (1986-88), said, “with that, when you monitor the rate of inflation and you discover that it is tolerable, you then have to resort to budget balancing. It might be stable for many years, before it changes. But I don’t see it being practiced.”

Kuye, however, stressed on the need for the executive to perform its constitutional duty, even as he maintained that budget crisis is not exclusive to this year.

“The constitution gave the executive the right to implement the budget. And they also have the expertise to determine what money comes in and the ones that will be accruable to the economy. They determine the fiscal policy of this nation.

But we keep having difficulties in budgeting. It is sadden.  Is it only this year that we are experiencing this?” he asked


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