PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari made good his intention to kick off the 2018 budget process by presenting the Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, 7th November 2017.
We give kudos to the President and the Executive arm of the government for improving on their lackadaisical performance on this most important fiscal and economic governance tool which had seen two consecutive years of major distortions in the national budget cycle, and the consequent abysmal performance in implementation.
His first budget as an elected President, the 2016 Appropriation Bill, was presented on December 22, 2015 while that of 2017 was presented December 14, 2016. Both came very late considering the legislative process required to see them passed into law. Presidential assent did not come till May 2016 (five months behind time for 2016 budget) and June 2017 (six months lag for 2017 budget).
We, however, opine that the best time to present the Appropriation Bill is early October to give the National Assembly three months to do their legislative due diligence, leading to a signing into law in December ahead of the new fiscal year for which the Appropriation Bill is meant. Such a good start, we believe, is crucial to a good implementation.
The distortion of the budget cycle is fallout of post-military adjustment to democratic appropriation of the national purse. After 19 years of democracy and nearly three years of President Buhari in office, we expect that the usual controversies between the Legislative and Executive branches will be minimised to give the 2018 budget a chance to bear fruits.
We advise members of the National Assembly that trying to frustrate the President from presenting the budget due to the poor implementation of that of the outgoing year is not an appropriate and matured thing to do. It does not serve any useful purpose, and there are other more productive ways of achieving the same objective.
We agree with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara that the parliamentarians have no legal right to stop the President from addressing the joint session of the House and the Senate in presenting the Federal budget.
Now that we want to readjust our budget cycle to run from January to December, it is a task, not just for the Executive but the National Assembly as well. Every impediment that could hamper the achievement of this objective should be put aside. Whenever any controversy arises the two arms of government should sit down and iron it out amicably without resorting to power show.
It is only when we successfully adjust our budget cycle from January to December that we can firmly ascertain how well a budget has performed.