LAST week was quite eventful for Nigeria and the challenged economy. The Manging Director of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Ms Christine Lagarde, held extensive meetings with the nation’s political and economy elite. Amongst them were the Governor and executives of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, Budget and Planning Minister, Mr. Udo Udoma, the leadership of both chambers of the National Assembly as well as chief executives of commercial banks in the country.
She also held closed door sessions with both the President, Muhammadu Buhari and the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Though Ms Lagarde had her first visit to Nigeria four years ago, this second visit appears to have made the first uneventful on account of the bold imprint she may be leaving behind as she concludes her visit today. A take-away in the four-day policy visit was Ms. Lagarde’s allusion to a further discussion involving the IMF on the 2016 budget.
Responding to questions on the 2016 budget, otherwise known now as 2016 Appropriation Bill, she had said that a team of IMF economists will be in Nigeria next week to review and audit the Bill and have a good discussion with the fiscal authorities “to assess whether the financing is in place, whether the debt is sustainable, whether the borrowing costs are sensible and what strategy must be put in place in order to address challenges going forward.”
Ordinarily there would have been no concern over this comment, especially given the backdrop of other beautiful comments she made, but the fact that a bill presently before the National Assembly would be subjected to deliberation by authorities outside the legitimate and sovereign framework is unsettling enough to warrant questioning of the engagements of the government with the IMF and other such powerful entities outside Nigeria’s known authorities.
Already Nigeria’s social media networks have been lit up by rumours of impending withdrawal and amendments to the Bill by the executive before the law-makers can carry out their constitutional legislative duty.
Our advice would be that while IMF, for all its good intentions may make suggestions to the fiscal authorities and even the National Assembly on the budget bill already in the process of being enacted into law nothing should be done to alter the procedure regardless of the importance of such a suggestion.
Any attempt to allow an interruption of the constitutional Appropriation Bill process in this engagement with the IMF can only further undermine the country’s sovereignty and obviously put the country in a position of subservience IMF.
We believe that the IMF meeting ought to have taken place before now but for whatever reason it was belated with regard to the 2016 Appropriation Bill timeline. This drawback should not be exacerbated further.