AS AT APRIL 24, 2018, the year of huge political activities towards 2019 election, Nigeria’s national budget of N8.6trn for 2018 is yet to be approved for implementation. Nigerian Senate and the House of Representatives promised, on or before the 24th of April for the passage of the budget. But that is not to be.
There has been growing concern about what becomes of the 2018 budget, not yet passed into law, seven months after it was presented to the National Assembly, and in an election year. According to Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, political activities for 2019 general elections is scheduled to commence in August, 2018.
There are also governorship elections in Ekiti State scheduled for July 14 and Osun State scheduled for September 22, 2018. These political activities could be massive distractions to implementing 2018 national budget. In the meantime, the nation, at the moment, is reeling on gross economic and commercial low pace.
Outside political activities, citizens are getting more and more impatient with government for lack of active economic activities that will alleviate hardship. Government is also bugged down with reports of daily trails of killings from herdsmen, especially, in northern part of the country, and life and property are become unsafe.
Nigeria, presently, is seen as an impoverished nation – though Africa’s largest economy. The citizens suffer from high unemployment and lack basic government services, including portable water and adequate electricity supply. Most businesses and homes rely on private generators for power and purchase water privately.
Combined youth unemployment and underemployment rate in Nigeria soars around 50 percent in late 2017, attributed to economic recession, and described as the “worst” in 25 years. Nigeria came out of economic recession last year. Apart from the oil sector, growth in the economy has been unenthusiastic.
International Monetary Fund, IMF, March 2018, report, said of Nigeria’s over 180 million population, 63 percent are living below poverty level. Stared with reality of huge performance deficit, what would officials of the present government be tabling before the electorates as the basis for re-election?
Ben Akabueze, Director General, Nigeria’s Budget Office, gives glimpse of hope that public servants would still be pushing implementation of the 2018 budget through, against impediments of governance by electioneering activities to the run-up of 2019 general elections.
On the sidelines of World Bank and IMF spring meetings in Washington DC, United State, at the weekend, Akabueze told journalist that: “People have to run election on something. People have to go back to their constituencies and say what they have done. Therefore, I don’t think pursuing electoral objectives is inconsistent with the objective of implementing the budget because at the end of the day you have to show what you have done”.
He added: “Instead, the election should provide strong impetus for people to make an effort to implement the 2018 budget.” Akabueze is speaking from the side of working for government. The reality is that from August, when political activities commence, according INEC timetable, politicians, in the executive arm of government would be intensely engaged in politics against budget implementation.
Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SFG, at the National Assembly, January 2018, during the 2018 budget defence, told Senate Committee on Federal Character and Inter-Governmental Affairs that there could be distractions in implementing the national budget due to political activities that would commence in August, leading to 2019 general elections as released by INEC, if the National Assembly fails to speed up action on the budget.
Mustapha said: “I will make an appeal that the 2018 budget be passed on time. We do not have time. If you consider the time left for us as politicians and in line with the timetable released by INEC, you will realize that we have till November 2018 to do what we have to do”.
“By then, politicians will be engaged in political activities. There will be no time. I am appealing that we pass this budget on time. This is the last budget we will have to deliver on the dividends of democracy. For those of you coming back, promise will not work. What will work will be the scorecard”, he added.
Mustapha said: “I am begging that it should be passed as quickly as possible. I am also appealing to the executive arm to appear for budget defence. Intense political activities will begin this February and as public officials, we have to quickly deliver.”