The Appropriation Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives on Wednesday submitted the 2016 budget details to the Clerk of the National Assembly, Alhaji Salisu Maikasuwa, who will in turn forward it to President Muhammadu Buhari without delay.
President Buhari had maintained that he would not endorse the appropriation bill worth N6.06 trillion passed by the National Assembly on March 23 without receiving the details of the passed budget.
Honourable Abdulmumin Jibrin, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation who handed over the document covering 1,800 pages, to the Clerk, informed journalists that his committee, alongside its Senate counterpart, led by Senator Danjuma Goje, jointly concluded work on the 2016 budget details after an extensive work. Jibrin also ceased the opportunity to apologise to Nigerians for the delay in the passage of the bill saying:
“We do know what is going on, we share their pains. We are also living in this country, we just want Nigerians to understand that this year, it is a different budget. We have not had such a challenging budget before.”
In a statement titled “Transmission Of 2016 Budget Details To The Executive”, jointly endorsed by Danjuma Goje, Chairman of the Appropriation Committees of the Senate and the Chairman House of Representatives, Abdulmumin Jibrin, the committees appreciated Nigerians for being patient and understanding stressing that it took them extra weeks to get the details ready, not because there was anything inappropriate going on, but because it was necessary to ensure that all the inconsistencies, errors, omissions and padding in the document were corrected.
According to the statement:
“Being the most important economic policy tool of government, the budget provides a comprehensive statement of our priorities as a nation.
“And as representatives of the people, the National Assembly remains the appropriate place to ensure that the details of such a document best match our national goals and aspirations.
“Therefore, what we have been doing in these past few weeks is to balance the projections for revenue against the estimates for expenditure based on the reality of our situation today.”
In the statement issued by Honourable Jibrin, the committees revealed that there work the 2016 budget details was made very difficult as a result of the careless and unsystematic manner in which the bill was prepared by the executive such that many of the officials who came before the different committees practically disowned the inputs from their own departments and ministries.
He further disclosed that in most cases, and across various agencies, the bill that was formerly presented to the committee failed in several respects to connect with the policy thrust of the government and the needs of the Nigerian citizens, in addition to the fact that most of the figures did not add up. “It was one of the most controversial budgets that ever came to the National Assembly from the Executive,” he said.
The committees went on to explain that in the midst of their confusions, “President Muhammadu Buhari, who we must commend for showing leadership, intervened and that helped in resolving what had become a serious logjam.” Buhari’s intervention unfortunately, led to some officials in the executive branch being relieved of their duties due to the obvious lapses.
However, the committees acknowledged that the faults discovered while putting the 2016 budget details together were understandable being the first time the country would have a transition from the ruling political party to the opposition, adding that:
“We therefore believe that the executive will learn from the mistakes of this year, going forward. But we must also commend the leadership of the National Assembly as well as members of our own committees who have had to endure sleepless nights, especially in recent weeks.
“To the extent that the budget drafting phase is a long process, the committee stage provides the most significant opportunity for members of the public, including the media and civil society organizations to make their own contributions and we have taken into account all shades of opinions in arriving at the breakdown, which is now with the executive.
“Now that the 2016 budget has been passed, our next role is to add value to the process through legislative oversight functions that enable us to ensure adherence to priorities while monitoring effective allocation of resources. But there is a lesson that should not be lost on the executive given the current experience.
“We specifically urge the president to abide strictly with provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act which stipulates that the appropriation bill be presented early so that there could be sufficient time for interactive sessions between the executive and the legislature before the commencement of committee hearings.
“That way, we can avoid some of the controversies that dogged this year’s budget and add value to the entire process”.