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Budget before politics, please

THIS 2018 will be a year when governance takes the back seat to make way for political party conventions, congresses and campaigns. Professor Mahmood Yakubu’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has already showed its enthusiasm for the intense politicking that lies ahead by proactively publishing the programmes and timelines for the impending general elections. Indeed, INEC has brought forward political activities. This has grave implications for the time left for meaningful governance.

A major abnormality of our renascent democracy is that the Nigerian political elite, in or out of government, has perfected the tendency to allow politics override the need to get the budget passed speedily in the year leading to general elections. Given the ugly experiences of the 2016 budget year which resulted in the 2017 budget not being signed into law until June, last year’s budget remains largely unexecuted and a lot of it will drag into the current year. It will be most unfortunate, and indeed self-destructive, if the National Assembly fails to quickly pass the 2018 budget before its members hit the road for the campaigns.

The APC Federal Government must eschew the rancour and uncertainty among its constituent interests and close ranks not only to ensure the speedy passage of the budget but also the continuous delivery of democracy dividends even when the main political campaigns start. President Muhammadu Buhari can achieve this if he adopts the option of dissolving his cabinet, sending career politicians to the campaign field while appointing apolitical technocrats in their places to continue work on the major priorities of the Federal Government.

The closing of ranks cannot be over-emphasised. If the Federal Government sets a joint Legislative-Executive committee to harmonise every possible area of friction that could lead to undue budget delays, it is very possible for the budget to be ready early in February 2018. Such a committee has become even more imperative in view of the threat by a leading legal mind, Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), to drag the National Assembly to court and stop the consideration of the 2018 Budget over alleged contraventions of parts of the Constitution. It is pathetic that we can no longer package a national budget without so many loopholes that militate against its easy passage being spotted.

We plead with our political leaders and other stakeholders in the interest of  this country to put the development of our country above politics to avoid plunging the 2018 Budget into chaos of immeasurable proportions. Politics is a means to an end, and not an end in itself.

This year will provide an opportunity for well-meaning Nigerians to show that we can surmount the obstacles in getting the budget expeditiously passed and governance to continue even while political activities are in high gear.

 


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