As the National Assembly resumes from Christmas and New Year recess, it should ensure that the 2018 budget is passed on time and its impact felt by the people in course of the current fiscal year.
Bearing in mind that the 2017 budget did not do well, the National Assembly should let Nigerians feel the impact of this year’s budget so as to fulfill the objectives of the government as rolled out by President Muhammadu Buhari in his New Year message. Buhari had presented the N8.612trillion 2018 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly (the Senate and the House of Representatives) in Abuja on November 7, 2017, with an appeal to the legislators to consider the budget expeditiously.
The President had specifically requested that the 2018 budget be passed and assented to by him before the end of the year (2017) to allow its implementation to take effect from January this year as part of the plan to return to the January-December budget cycle.But this was not possible as, according to the National Assembly, some chief executives from the executive side were not giving maximum cooperation to it to do its job.
“For the budget, what we are trying to say is that it is serious enough for all these executives to honour the National Assembly with their presence so that we can look at these issues critically. In doing so, they will be honouring the request by their principal and our overall President and Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari”, spokesman of the Senate, Senator Aliyu Sabi-Abdullahi had said.It is obvious that with this development, there is no way government’s plan will return to the January-December budget cycle at least for now..
However, the Senate has passed the 2018 Appropriation Bill for second reading and referred it to the Committee on Appropriations for further legislative action before adjourning the plenary to January 19, 2017 to accommodate the Christmas and New Year holidays. But Senate committees were on duty from January 9 to continue work on the defence of the budget by the ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs..Since the federal lawmakers had resumed, Nigerians expect greater collaboration between the executive and the legislature not only for acceleration or quick passage of the budget but to let it have positive impact on Nigerians.
The National Assembly should look at the bill thoroughly before it is passed for President’s assent. A situation where the budget is passed by the lawmakers only for the President to send it back to the legislature because of one question or the other should be avoided.Doing this will further result to unnecessary delay in the passage of the budget, which means that its implementation to address certain challenges confronting the people will be delayed and will not make Nigerians reap the much-expected dividends of democracy.
This is because unnecessary delay in the passage of the budget will definitely delay the release of capital allocation for the execution of capital projects, and this may eventually unleash untold hardship on the people who are the ultimate beneficiaries of such projects. Realising that budget is financed through several sources like taxes and levies, we urge people to be alive to their responsibilities by promptly paying their taxes because oil and gas alone cannot be relied upon to finance the budget. Also, we cannot rely largely on external borrowings to finance our capital projects.The country should also look inwards instead of incurring huge debts on borrowings, which generations yet unborn will be repaying.
The National Assembly should also make sure that this year’s budget is devoid of inflicting untold hardships on the people considering the fact that already, there is suffering in the land compounded by the bad state of both the federal and state roads across the country.Where it is necessary to increase the budgetary allocations, the National Assembly should do so and it should avoid allocating money to projects that are not absolutely necessary and will not impact meaningfully on the people.We advice both the Federal Legislature and the Executive not to let the controversy that surrounded the passage of the 2017 budget repeat itself. A situation of robbing Peter to pay Paul in the budget should be avoided this time round.
Nigerians were living witnesses to accusations and counter-accusations over last year’s budget in which the allocations to some capital and meaningful projects like Lagos-Ibadan highway construction was not up to the ones given to the constituency projects of the federal lawmakers.The delay in the passage of last year’s budget coupled with unnecessary political bickering and other extraneous factors, we believe, contributed greatly to the abysmal performance of the 2017 budget.
This, we advocate, should not rear its ugly head in this year’s budget and the national interest should be above selfish interests of individuals in order to grow democracy and to let the already impoverished people reap more dividends of democracy and heave a sigh of relief.
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