Budget 2016: Buhari, NASS Set For Another Collision Course

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The Presidency and NASS once again are set for another collision path on the 2016 budget which is threatening to put pressure on the not so cordial relationship between the two arms of government. The 2016 budget tagged the budget of change is proving to be a jinxed budget going by the controversies surrounding the budget since it was laid by President Muhammadu Buhari to a joint session of the National Assembly in December last year. For the first time in the history of the nation, in a country where the ridiculous seems to be the norm, the 2016 budget was declared missing by the National Assembly. After a series of denials, accusations and counter-accusations by both parties, the budget was found after the Senate President, Bukola Saraki had accused the president andd special adviser on Senate matters, Senator Ita Enang of being the culprit in chief in the missing budget .

Political pundits posited that Enang was being used as a scapegoat in the missing budget scandal as it was very unlikely that Enang will withdraw the budget without the backing of some powerful forces in the executive. The missing budget scandal put a dent on the relationship between the Presidency and the National Assembly which was struggling to fit into a resemblance of normalcy after the leadership saga that rocked the National Assembly. It will be recalled that the emergence of Senator Saraki and Hon Yakubu Dogara as Senate President and Speaker against the wishes of their party, the National Assembly and the legislature were pitched against each other.Although in the build up to the leadership elections in the National Assembly, the President  maintained neutrality and declared that he is ready to work with whoever emerges as leaders of the legislature. However, the emergence of Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the opposition, PDP as the Deputy Senate President was seen as slap in the face of the ruling party who see is emergence as the height of political betrayal by the Senetors.
It’s instructive to note that relationships between the executive and legislature in developed climes are often described as a cat and mouse relationship as political pundits say that’s how democracy will thrive. An ideal relationship between the two arms of government, observers say is not healthy for the growth of democracy as the legislature is suppose to always keep the executive on their toes through their oversight functions.

However,  the independence of the legislature is seen as a mirage by keen observers of the polity  as often the legislature is often the “Ying” to the executive “Yang “ in the country. Monitors reveal that efforts were made by both parties to smoothen the relationship between the 8th National Assembly and the Presidency after the leadership saga. After some weeks, the efforts began to pay off as the National Assembly began to enjoy some form of cordial relationship with the Presidency. As Nigerians were coming to terms with the missing budget scandal, the budget padding scandal dominated the media waves as it was discovered that some suspicious allocations and projects were smuggled into the budget. The budget padding scandal resulted to the federal government relieved the Director General of the Budget of his duties with President Buhari vowing to punish the perpetrators of the padding scandal. After weeks of horsetrading, the National Assembly, last week passed a N6.06 trillion 2016 budget into law, following a motion by the Chairman, Joint Committee on Appropriations, Senator Danjuma Goje, seconded by Senator Andy Uba, thus reducing the President’s proposal by N17 billion. While the President proposed a budget of N6.07 trillion, the National Assembly slashed it to N6.06trillion.
The highlight is as follows: N351bn for statutory transfers, N1.4trn for debt service, N2.6trn for recurrent expenditure, and N1.5trn as capital expenditure. The N17 billion reduction in the aggregate expenditure of the budget was taken from overhead votes component of the N2.65 trillion recurrent expenditure of the budget which has now been reduced to N2.646 trillion. N2.2trillion fiscal deficit was retained. Also retained, were the parameters of $38 per barrel oil price bench mark for the budget, 2.2million barrels of oil production per day, exchange rate of N197 to a US dollar and deficit GDP of 2.14 per cent. Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief when the budget was passed as then can the change agenda  Nigerians voted massively for begin to manifest. However, a new twist emerged during the week as it was discovered that the 2016 budget which was passed by the National Assembly last week has suffered another setback as the legislature sent highlights without the budget details to the President .
The failure of the National Assembly to send the budget details has put President Buhari in a spot and has for now withhold his assent to the bill. A top Federal government source who spoke to selected journalist on the condition of anonymity, disclosed that the President is withholding his assent  because he does not know what is contained in the details and what adjustments the National Assembly must have made to the proposal sent to them. The source said, “The President has just received the transmission of the Appropriation Bill 2016 Budget from the National Assembly and is very anxious to sign it into law, but the National Assembly only sent in the highlights without the details of the budget. “As result, the President has been handicapped in signing the Bill because he does not know what is contained in the details and what adjustments the National Assembly must have made to the proposal sent to them. “
“Although he is anxious to sign the document so that implementation of the provisions could start immediately and ease the tension in the economy and polity, he is afraid he may later discover, when the details are sent, the what is contained therein is not implementable. “
According to the source, President Buhari wished  the National Assembly could send in the details speedily so that it could be considered for assent. He also added that Ministers are also eager that the budget be signed so they could start implementing their programmes, but they are unable to push the President to sign what has been transmitted because they also do not know what is contained in the details. “They are particularly worried that the year is gradually aging and the provision of the law in respect of spending the previous year’s budget is not helping matters because of the low Capital provision for 2015.”“Because of the low provision made last year for capital expenditure, spending 50% of that provision for the first half of this year will make no impact on provision of infrastructure. He also noted that the Budget Office cannot also work on the Budget for implementation because it is the details, and not the highlights, that they convert into implementable templates for the respective MDAs.
This development he contended ,confirms speculations that the National Assembly either did not complete work on the budget or are playing politics with the documents which affects the life of both the country and its citizens. “The National Assembly may just have passed the bill to pass the buck to the executive and escape the wrath of the public which was gradually suspecting it of sabotage.” The passage of the budget may now be extended to next week as President Buhari is  attending the Nuclear Summit in Washington DC, and is expected back on Sunday. Reacting to the allegations,  Abdulmumin Jibrin, chairman, House of Representatives committee on appropriation said the national assembly is still working on the details of the 2016 budget even after passing it last week. But in a statement on Wednesday, Jibrin said “there is nothing abnormal” for the president to assent to the bill before receiving its details. The lawmaker explained that there were inconsistencies and anomalies in budget, hence the need for a thorough job to be done on it. “We wish to make the some clarifications, following media reports suggesting that withholding of assent to the 2016 appropriation bill by the presidency is due to the failure of the national assembly to send the budget details to the presidency alongside the appropriation bill,” Jibrin said. According to him ordinarily, the national assembly should not have responded to the issues raised, but they are duty-bound to put the issues into perspective and put records straights even though they doubt very much if the presidency will issue such statement knowing full well the challenges the budget has faced so far. He explained that the general public should note that the MTEF and 2016 budget proposal came to NASS very late. Jibrinn recalled  that a lot of dust was raised over different versions of the budget circulated in the national assembly. Further, some ministers disowned the content of the budget during defence before NASS. He contended that amid these inconsistencies and discrepancies, the NASS had been deeply engrossed in perfecting the anomalies, ironing out of the wrinkles and stretching the twists inherent in the 2016 appropriation bill. He said“In order for the nation to move forward and avoid stagnation of administrative processes, the tradition is that the bill is passed and forwarded to the presidency for assent, while the lawmakers continue to work on the details. There is nothing abnormal about this practice and yet nothing abnormal about a president assenting a budget before or after seeing the details. In any case, the budget details are usually sent within a week or two after passing the budget. “In view of the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding that characterised the 2016 budget, it would be unpatriotic of NASS to forward the budget details without being extra-careful, meticulous and cautious in discharging its duties. This is to ensure we do not make same mistake that the executive made. “The appropriation committee needs to scrutinise the original proposal sent by the president vis-à-vis the reports of various standing committees of the house of representatives and the senate to arrive at a clean copy of the budget details. This will in no way affect any envelop already passed or the aggregate expenditure. He reaffirmed that the NASS holds the president in high esteem and will continue to support him adding that  there were several instances where they  demonstrated their support to the present administrations in the past. At the risk of sounding immodest, he further explained that  the NASS approved the President’s Special Advisers without hitch, approved ministerial nominees without rancour, approved supplementary budget without delay and displayed a rare show of patriotism in the receipt and passage of the 2016 MTEF and budget. Jibrin argued that the 2016 budget is the most challenging budget the NASS has ever passed in its recent history. Taking into account the many controversies and omissions, particularly in NYSC, prisons, pensions, personnel shortfalls, among others, the budget failed in many respects to connect with the policy thrust of the government. “The NASS appropriation committees worked round the clock to address some of the omissions, bring up to date allocations in the budget towards the policy direction of Mr. President, particularly issues relating to security, anti-corruption and economic diversification. “Given the foregoing efforts, it is therefore unfair for accusing fingers to be pointed at NASS when the presidency defers or delays assent to the budget. Nowhere in the world that a budget is presented to the parliament, and expect it to be passed warts and all without subjecting it to the rigours of scrutiny, debate and painstaking processes and inputs of the parliament. Jibrin added that the NASS will continue to exercise its constitutional duty of appropriation to the latter, while recognising the President’s power to withhold assent, the NASS is also constitutionally required and has power to veto saying But they don’t want that to happen and  don’t see this happening in this case. please share, like and follow!