2016 Budget: A Budget That Never Was | Independent Newspapers Limited
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2016 Budget: A Budget That Never Was

Posted: Mar 4, 2016 at 6:11 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

 Friday Ekpo

Budget by its ordinary meaning is a plan and control on how much a person- natural or legal, a country or a state intends to spend. By that meaning, a budget is a document of intent that helps a person or an entity to live within its means. Once the expenditure exceeds the budgetary income, deficit is recorded.

On the other hand, if the target is met with less than budgetary revenue, surplus is recorded. For a country, a budget presentation session by a President is always looked forward to with great expectation. Public
and Private sectors, workers, contractors and indeed ordinary citizens are all interested in knowing what their government has in store for them through the budget. Such is the importance of budget to different segments of the society that when 2016 budget proposals waspresented and laid before the joint session of National Assembly by President  Buhari on 22nd December, 2015, so much hope was raised and enthusiasm rekindled as the budget itself was tagged “Budget of Change”.

Any fear of having an unseen, devilish hand distorting the budget was allayed by the smooth talking Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun. The real change has come (or so we believe) even though we forgot to ask which direction – backward or forward. Barely three weeks after submission, was it widely reported that the 2016 budget as submitted by His Excellency had gone missing from the Senate. A lot of people, who never saw anything good in the Senate said that the it was at it again trying to “rubbish” the “good work” of Mr. President.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu was quick to distance the Presidency from the seeming pranks played by the Senate. As the ding dong affair continued, the President finally sent a letter with the “corrected” version of the budget to the Senate. He was however silent on how he got the budget out of the Senate for correction. The worst was yet to come. At the budget defence sessions before the Legislators by the Ministers and heads of agencies and parastatals under them, news of budget padding, criminal distortion and fraudulent additions began to filter out. So much that some Ministers began to disown the proposals as presented to them by the various committees. The Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole for instance had to disown his ministry’s budget at the defence session saying it was a mark departure from the one he submitted.

The stench of this budget which daily oozes out of the National Assembly’s various defence sessions is yet to abate. Besides the padding, which the President said he never heard of, in all his public life until now, the budget in its actual allocations tends to take care of the officials of government – Presidency to the National Assembly members much more than it plans to alleviate the sufferings of the generality of citizens.

So it came to be that, the budget that “held” so much hope at its presentation has suddenly dashed that hope, leaving Nigerians in a state of despondency and disillusionment. But come to think of it, who is to be blamed for the “mutilation” of the 2016 budget? Most APC apologists have said that Civil Servants working with the Ministers should be blamed. To these people, I asked – why? How can the very Civil Servants whom the President worked with to sanitize, sanctified and purified for six months, while running the country as sole Administrator turn out this dirty? Was it not the Civil Servants the President praised as real workers while the Ministers were noise makers? It surely must not be the same Civil Servant.

For those who say it is the Ministers that should be blamed, I again ask – why? The first sets of Buhari Ministers were sworn in on November 8, 2015. What strategic planning and critical thinking would a Minister have to be able to raise a budget lacking in spot and without blemish in less than two months? Therefore the totality of the blame for mutilation and injury sustained by this year’s budget should be squarely laid before Mr. President.

You cannot present what you are not sure of, that is my considered opinion. It is also my considered opinion that the first budget defence ought to be done before the President by the Ministers and their agencies’ heads to afford him the opportunity to know the proposals of each Ministry and agency before presenting it to National Assembly.  As it stands now, 2016budget will be passed just as the usual ritual not because it holds so much hope for Nigerians. It is the greatest National embarrassment the country had witnessed in recent time.