Nigeria may return to the January to December budget cycle, if the current National Assembly sustains the present momentum, on its desirability to have the budget proposals on time from the executive arm of government.
Both the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, appear to be on the same page on this matter, and have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that the 2020 Budget was ready before the federal lawmakers resumed from their current recess next month. Indeed, both have been canvassing the need to return to the old budget cycle.
To underscore his seriousness on the issue, Lawan had told every minister-designate, after their confirmation hearing penultimate week, that they should cooperate with the National Assembly by ensuring early submission of their budget proposals after their inauguration; so that the lawmakers too can work on them and ensure early passage. Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, echoed a similar determination by the National Assembly to pass the budget on time.
“We expect the executive to work on the budget on time so that they can lay it before the National Assembly on time, latest before our resumption in September or in the first week of October.
“Once we receive it, we will start work on it and we should be able to pass it latest by the middle of December,” Adeyeye said. We urge those involved to take to Adeyeye’s admonition that “the relevant ministries, departments and agencies of government should start engaging members of the committees in charge of their oversight, in the budget formulation process” to facilitate the process of budget defence.
To Nigerians, who have been used to frosty relations between the National Assembly and the Executive arm of government, whether over budget or other matters, particularly during the eighth National Assembly, the rapprochement between both arms of government must have come as a bold relief. This is because Nigerians are like the proverbial grass that suffers when two elephants fight whenever budgets are delayed.
Early submission of budget proposal gives adequate room for thoroughness in the requisite oversight from the lawmakers. Another advantage of early budget passage is that it ensures better, if not full implementation, of the budget. When budget cycles become unpredictable, it makes planning difficult, not only for the government but also for the private sector that wants to know the direction of the economy as it concerns their respective sectors.
We urge the executive to take advantage of this new dawn. But then, we are afraid the expectations of the National Assembly may not be met considering that the ministers may not be sworn in until August 21, going by information from the Presidency. While we agree that the process of constituting the Federal Executive Council (FEC) this time around is a marked improvement on the 2015 experience when ministers were not sworn in until November of that year, about six months after the president was sworn in, and about eight months after the former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat in the election, the point is; it is still getting late for the early passage of the budget that the present National Assembly envisages.
By now, the respective ministries, departments and agencies should have prepared their respective budget proposals, only waiting for the ministers’ concurrence. Henceforth, however, we expect the ministers and the Budget Office and other relevant ministries to work together towards getting the document ready for early presentation to the National Assembly. This is the only way to guarantee full implementation of the budget for the country’s socio-economic development.