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2016 budget: Beyond signing to full implementation

The 2016 federal appropriation bill was finally signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, May 6, 2016,  thereby  bringing to an end, 135 days of controversies, horse trading and out- right blackmail which characterized the  budget tagged budget of change.   
Sadly, the Nigerian economy will struggle hard to play catch up with its implementation coming clearly five months into the year amidst undue controversies, hurdles and supremacy war between the executive and the parliament.
It can therefore be argued that at the heart of the face-off between the presidency and the legislature over the 2016 budget went beyond the protection of the interest of the common man.
When Nigerians were about to clap with both hands for the eventual signing of the budget, they got a rude shock when Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma said the budget will not be implemented  to the later due to its late delivery.
But  we strongly disagree with  Udoma. We abhor any excuse on why the budget would be considered dead on arrival. If there are to be blames for the delay in the signing of the budget, the same government which Udoma represents should take them. This budget which was prepared by the APC -led government and passed by APC- controlled National Assembly must be fully implemented.
The 2016 budget of N6.08 trillion as proposed then by the presidency represents the highest expenditure outlay that Nigeria will ever embark upon since independence in 1960. It was adjudged the most ambitious. That was then. The budget broke the three- year circle where it would be laid before the joint session of the National Assembly not by the president.
There was the thinking, then, that the capital expenditure which peaked at N1.8 trillion marked a significant leap of over 300 per cent increment from the 2015 vote of N557 billion. It was something to cheer. This alone, brought   with it the hope of a quantum leap in infrastructure upgrade. Stakeholders had subsequently demanded then that the 2016 budget must not be mismanaged on the alter of party politics and related negative tendencies which Nigerian politicians are known to have treated important national issues with.
Unfortunately, that warning appeared to have been ignored. Close to six months after the budget was presented to the Lawmakers and five months into the 2016 fiscal year, this year’s appropriation bill was never made functional; no thanks to the political maneuvering involving the executive and the legislative arms of government. And Nigerians who filed under the rain and scotching sun to vote these politicians to power are today the beast of the burden created by the casual life style, impunity and arrogance of the political class.
How could we have forgotten in a hurry, the gory stories of a missing budget, the importation of mind blowing amounts of money into the submissions of Ministries, Departments and Agencies under the fashion of budget padding, ministers disowning their own budget proposals and allegations of lawmakers redrafting the contents and spirit of the 2016 budget.
The end game came for the budget when President Buhari abandoned the signing of the budget and jetted out to China on one week state visit insisting that he would not accent to the proposal except the lawmakers reverted to the original draft submitted by him.
It however came as a relief that two weeks of fence mending meetings, setting up of committees and shifting of positions by the gladiators succeeded in convincing the authorities on the need to seal and deliver the 2016 budget to dejected Nigerians.
Now that the budget has had the ink from the president, the big challenge is for all actors to hit the ground running in ensuring that intentions of the budget did not end on the paper upon which they were written.
We say this against the shocking revelation that none of the federal government budgets have scaled above 30 per cent implementation in the last 17 long years.
All facets of governance have been at stand still. Most contractors had pulled out from sites even though Works, Power  and Housing Minister, Raji Fashola has appealed to them to move back with promise of paying part of the monies owed them by the federal government.
The second quarter of the year has started counting.   Our demand is that Nigeria must move forward. There is suffering in the land considering that government, at least in the Nigerian contest is the highest spender.
Other stakeholders in the Nigerian project should no longer be comfortable with the present posture of looking the other way as politicians play games with the common good. This year’s budget impasse must mark an end to such irrelevances if the country must move forward.
The present administration of Muhammadu Buhari should accept the responsibility of among others, to stimulating growth in the economy. This can only be done through the effective and conscientious implementation of budgets. Now that the budget has come into effect, all hands must be on deck to ensure the maximization of the time left for the implementation of the budget.

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