NIGERIA’S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, repeatedly, has said it has constitutional authority to determine the final shape of the country’s national budget for implementation by government. Nigeria’s executive and legislative arms, annually, wrangle over who has final authority on national budget. Each budget year, the unending question resonates: Does Nigeria’s National Assembly have the power to alter, even marginally or entirely, budget proposal submitted by Executive arm of government?
Considering the legal framework governing aspects of budgeting process in Nigeria, analysts and experts said it will amount to misconception to say the legislature has no power to alter budgetary estimates prepared and submitted by the executive for the purpose of making the budget a law by the legislature. While legislators insist they have constitutionally unrestrained function over the country’s national budget, and would not act as “rubber-stamp” to the executive on budgeting process in the country, politicians and lawyers, constantly are divided on the issue.
Leading factor of national budget delays in the country has been associated with executive and legislature wrangling. The national assembly insists that to get the national budget right, executive arm of government needed to defend the budget proposals from its Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, of government. This involves, in most cases, public hearings. MDAs response to defend their budgets at the national assembly has been that of lack of interest or disregards for the process.
Never has it been as confrontational, in what seems pride of supremacy by both arms of government — the present executive and legislature — as it was during the process of legislating the 2018 budget by the national assembly. Major hindrance in completing work on 2018 national budget by the national assembly was failure by MDAs to defend their budget. President Buhari intervened to get MDAs to be rightly disposed on their scoff, and appear before the national assembly to defend 2018 budget.
Wednesday, June 20, while signing 2018 national budget into law by President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the usual budgetary drama resonated. Sounding in what seems the usurpation of executive powers by the national assembly, Buhari said the national assembly slashed N347 billion allocated to 4,700 by the executive, and inserted 6,403 projects at N578 billion. Projects which were denied funding or reduced funding by the national assembly’s insertion, according to President Buhari, are “critical projects which government may find difficult, or likely impossible to implement”.
According to President Buhari, funding provisions made for Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge and Ancillary Roads, East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project, were slashed by aggregate of N11.5 billion. ” Similarly, provisions for some ongoing critical infrastructure projects in the FCT, Abuja, especially major arterial roads and the mass transit rail project, were cut by a total of 7.5 billion Naira”.
Buhari said the provision made for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for United Nations Building, Abuja, was cut by N3.9 billion from N4 billion, leaving it with N100 million. He said the cutting would make it impossible for government to meet its obligation to the United Nations on the project.
Provisions made in the budget for Strategic Interventions in health sector – to upgrade some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs, establishment of chemotherapy centers and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of N7.45 billion.
Planned Security Infrastructure for 104 Unity Schools across the country was affected by N3 billion cut, “when the security of students against terrorist acts were major concern of government”. Provision made for National Housing Programme was cut by N8.7 billion, while funding for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment was cut by N5billion, at a time government said “it is working with Labour to address compensation-related issues”.
Provision made for Export Expansion Grant, EEG, and Special Economic Zones and Industrial Parks – which government said was part of key industrialization initiatives was cut by N14.5 billion. Funding for the completion of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was reduced to N500 million from N2 billion. President Buhari said this would delay the completion of the project.
Take-off grant for Maritime University in Delta State was cut to N3.4 billion from N5 billion. Government said this is a key strategic. The president said some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been “properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute”.
Buhari said: “About seventy 70 new road projects have been inserted into the budget of the Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. In doing so, the National Assembly applied some of the additional funds expected from the upward review of the oil price benchmark to the Ministry’s vote. Regrettably, however, in order to make provision for some of the new roads, the amounts allocated to some strategic major roads have been cut by the National Assembly”.
Buhari said many of the new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to the budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required. “As it is, some of these projects relate to matters that are the responsibility of the States and Local Governments, and for which the Federal Government should therefore not be unduly burdened”.
“Another area of concern is the increase by the National Assembly of the provisions for Statutory Transfers by an aggregate of 73.96 billion Naira. Most of these increases are for recurrent expenditure at a time we are trying to keep down the cost of governance. An example of this increase is the budget of the National Assembly itself which has increased by 14.5 billion Naira, from 125 billion Naira to 139.5 billion Naira without any discussion with the Executive”.
President Buhari said he intends to move very fast on the issue of national budget. He plans to return the country to the annual budgetary circle of January to December. Fast as the president may wish to move, depends on how fast he also intends to mend fences and improve the executive and legislature relationship; which is the budgetary approving authority of the country – Nigeria’s national assembly.
Persisting on the argument on the power of Nigeria’s national assembly to alter budgetary estimates prepared by the executive in the light of experts analysis and legal framework governing budgeting process in Nigeria could be an obvious misconception of the functions of the national assembly on budgetary matters.