The 2018 budget leaves a sour taste after being signed by Buhari 7 months after it was submitted. Yesterday President Buhari blamed the Legislative arm of Government for the delayed signing of the 2018 budget. The House of Representatives themselves have blamed the executive for the delay. And that’s how we have the blame game all over again.
It really is a shame how every year, we have the blame game, a cacophony that is indication that our leaders thrive in the confusion they have created.
We are however not here to discuss the blame game. We are more interested in how Baba threw the Legislators under the bus when he stated that the cuts they made in the budget would have impacted on the economy more as the projects they were meant for are critical projects.
President Buhari let Nigerians understand that the National Assembly had on their own accord cut off N347 billion meant for critical projects and inserted their own projects worth N578 billion.
This sparked a debate which we have every year again as to the extent of the powers of the legislators regarding the budget. I will be quoting Femi Falana (SAN) and Chief Sebastine Hon (SAN) interviewed last year by Punch who have different views as to this.
Chief Sebastine was of the opinion that the legislators by virtue of sections 59 and 81(1) have all rights to “edit” the budget, whilst Mr Falana believes that due to a lacuna, the National Assembly is not to just rubber stamp the budget as presented, but adding projects of theirs is outright unconstitutional.
What we are presented with therefore is the fact that our legislators are empowered by law to make their additions and subtractions from the budget. It is therefore the duty of the Ministers, Directors et al to lobby and make the legislators see reason as to why their various estimates are approved.
If a minister has failed in that regard, the blame shouldn’t be ascribed to the legislators who are maybe not convinced by the need for such amount as contained in the budget.
It is however against the law for legislators to “determine a project”, estimate what it would take to have the project completed and input such into the budget. These constituency “projects” are a sham and all tools should be employed to ensure that such never again happens trough a constitutional reform.
As stated by Mr Falana it is a lacuna and this lacuna will continually be exploited every year except we put an end to it via a much needed reform. Hoping that our legislators tow a moral path is obviously too much to ask for.