The 2016 Budget Controversy: Matters Arising | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The 2016 Budget Controversy: Matters Arising

Posted: Apr 11, 2016 at 11:21 am   /   by   /   comments (1)


By Roland Ibanga

There is no gainsaying that there is hardship in the land foisted by the harsh economic environment, resulting largely from our indiscriminate indulgences and worsened by the global economic downturn. At once, everything seem to be going from bad to worse; and being seriously hit by the pressure of all these, emotions rise, tempers flare and anyone in sight becomes the culprit.

Indeed, discerning persons know and would readily agree that what is going on now could not have been as a result of ten months of alleged incapacity, but a result of cumulative recklessness that had been the lot of the past. It is indeed the chicken coming home to roost after an adventure over the years with a reckless government, and a complacent and conniving people.

Unfortunately, the exhibition that led to this sorry pass is still on – playing politics with everything and spewing emotions and sentiments on every act. Shadow-chasing has become a way of life among the Nigerian masses whose sense of judgment is teleguided by politicians, confused by the elite, beclouded by their misery and given exaggerated impetus by the media. Reason and reasoning are now very scarce commodities as interests; intrigues and mischief mount the grandstand.

The 2016 Budget for instance, has been embroiled in controversy from the outset. It was primed to be, to achieve certain predetermined aims. It was pushed into controversy deliberately for the sake of interests and intrigues. It was a child born into dirty politics and bureaucratic chicanery; not that it was in itself dirty. The controversy seems contrived; a product of mischievous scheming issuing from the bad blood between the two major political parties on the one hand, and the resultant war of attrition between the legislature and the executive on the other. Consequently, the budget became the theatre where the supremacy contest would either be resolved or sullied.

Why the budget? It is the economic policy tool of government. It is the one instrument that defines the policy direction of an administration in concrete terms, the success or otherwise of its programmes. It affects the people directly. If the budget is threatened, not just the government but the people will be tormented. And so it has been!

When the issue of “errors, omissions and padding” became a sing song, a good number of people flowed with the din, and the executive became the whipping boy for lack of capacity to deliver on its first major assignment. In climes where citizens are deeply interested in the affairs of their country, questions would have been raised as to the real nature of the errors, the extent of padding and the level of inconsistencies; but even if they were raised at all by an insignificant but rational number, their effort to seek answers must have been drowned in what now looks like emotional outbursts and mischievous chants of naysayers.

With the hilarious frenzy generated by NASS over “errors, omissions and paddings” of the budget up till March 6 when they were through with the details, one would have expected a significant difference in the overall figure between what was presented by the Executive and what eventually was passed by NASS. The N17 billion differences was said to be a 10% cut across MDAs. Does it mean there were uniform “errors, omissions and paddings” across all MDAs?

House of Representatives Appropriation Committee Chairman, Abdulmumin Jibrin had said the Executive should be “grateful” to the NASS because the envelope sums it proposed have been left largely intact; which means apart from the movement of figures within MDAs, which may have been done with vested interests in mind (particularly constituency projects) there is no significant difference between what was sent and what was passed eventually.

The question now would be: given all the chants about “errors, omissions and paddings” – what has really changed in the said controversial budget and the one passed (without the details) by the National Assembly?

The passed Appropriation Bill (without details) was sent to the President on March 23, 2016, for assent; and NASS claims there was nothing wrong with that, after all President Obasanjo in his days used to sign a blank cheque. But Obasanjo denied he ever did. In the same breath they admitted that President Yar’Adua after him, used to insist on the details before signing. So why did they continue with a rejected tradition?

***The legislators, individually and collectively, have continued to insist that they have a constitutional right to alter and reallocate provisions which, in their estimation, would benefit the people much more; ***so if that is as sacrosanct as expressed, why did they not quietly do that when the Executive presented the proposals to them, no matter how defective. Why did they have to raise such commotion in order to exercise a profound constitutional responsibility!

Disturbingly, these obvious contradictions in the actions and omissions of the National Assembly failed to elicit appropriate queries from the public space because intrigues and primordial interests, including the hate mentality, overwhelmed a dispassionate sense of reasoning and fair judgment.

The deduction here is that the uproar rather than being altruistic could have been a protest against the disruption of the status-quo by the Executive, a weapon of political bargaining and a cover for planned manipulation of allocations to serve primordial interests.

Comments (1)

  • Apr 13, 2016 at 5:32 pm EmmanuelUgah

    This is becoming drama, what should be of priority here? I thought it should be Nigeria, not the other way round.

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