On Monday, June 12, 2017, the 2017 Appropriation Bill was signed into law by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo weeks after the expiration of 2016 budget. The development has generated a lot of debate within and outside the country. Many have even given up hope on account of the absence of President Muhamnadu Buhari who returned to the UK weeks back on medical ground thinking the budget won’t be signed until his arrival. But their hope was brightened as the very much awaited assent to the budget was given by Osinbajo, laying to rest the speculations in certain quarters that the role is an exclusive reserve of the president himself.
Meanwhile, since the 2017 budget was signed into law late just as it happened in 2016, many Nigerians have argued that it’s not likely to have any positive effect on the country’s economy and governance as a whole as the year’s second quarter is almost gone already and no matter how speedy the implementation of the budget is, the government can’t accomplish all its expenditures for the year and the money allocated for such won’t be returned to the coffers of the government as well.
A political pundit who pleaded anonymity told ENCOMIUM Weekly: “The truth must be told. What’s happening now didn’t happen when Jonathan was there. How can the country’s budget, a piloting document to governance, be signed when the year is almost half. In your own calculation, what do you think will be achieved? Honestly, Nigerians have come to realise their mistakes for voting Buhari. Then, everybody adjudged him the best candidate because he’s a man of integrity, forgetting that integrity is not enough when it comes to ruling a country. The whole scenario has shown that Senate President, Bukola Saraki is in power, not Buhari.
“Last year’s budget document was controversially missing because of alleged padding. That alone took a while before it was resolved. It was later passed into law in May. Nigerians were gullible then, saying it was because the budget was missing, and that’s why it was delayed till May before it was signed. Now, it’s missing, Nigerians have started blaming the delay on Buhari’s ill- health. Left to me, if the president is sick, his vice can play his role. That’s what the Nigeria’s constitution says. But we keep beating about the bush, waiting till the last hour to determine the issues affecting over 180 million people. This year’s budget has been signed late again. That means, technically, nothing much should be expected from Buhari-Osinbajo administration this year again. Before we knoiw it, 2017 is gone.”
Criticising the scenario also, human rights lawyer, Moha’med Fawehinmi said, “There’s nothing much in that. All we need to watch out for now is how the budget will have expected impact on the masses for the remaining part of the year. Those in the National Assembly should be blamed for the delay. What have they been doing with the budget document all this while? Ordinarily,they should be made to refund all the salaries and allowances collected since January till the day the budget was finally signed because I can’t see what they have been doing since the document has been handed over to them. They only wasted the time doing nothing. They’re not supposed to be remunerated for the whole of the period. Anyway, let’s wait and see what will happen before the end of this tenure. But as it is now, many Nigerians are disappointed in this government already.
Also speaking in the same vein, Abuja based legal practitioner, Barr. Oluwatoyin Bamgbose-Falaiye said,
“The delay in signing the budget into law has grave implication on the economy in the sense that budget being signed by half of the year when viewed in relation to the government policies that makes it compulsory for every agency of Government to exhaust its budget latest by December 2017 will be expected to return such into Government coffers.
“This delay no doubt will create an expedited framework on the part of agencies of government in the use of resources appropriated to them, and this will no doubt aggravate the corruption that the Government is poised to fight. That is to say that the agencies will be tilted in spending the resources as they deem fit and in tandem with government policies with the focus being to exhaust without returning money back to Government.
“The implication of this is that it will deepen the recession that we already find ourselves in, and corruption is in no way abated because prudent spending of resources will no doubt be sacrificed at the alter of squander-mania.
“This will also no doubt have its grave implication on the GDP and per capita income of the nation; leading to an economy that is suffering from malnutrition.
“I am of the opinion that political idiosyncrasies should not be allowed to model financial issues as it appears to be in the present delayed appropriation if we are ascribing to ventilate our economy in the best interest of the governed as test of Governance worldwide is seen in due and proper care of the governed.”
- TADE ASIFAT