Showing posts with label padding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label padding. Show all posts

Saturday, June 23, 2018

PMB: Why I signed 2018 budget despite NASS padding - ITREALM Online

I would like to thank the leadership of the National Assembly, particularly the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as all the Distinguished Senators and Honourable Members, for passing the 2018 Appropriation Bill, after seven months.
2. When I submitted the 2018 Budget proposals to the National Assembly on 7th November 2017, I had hoped that the usual legislative review process would be quick, so as to move Nigeria towards a predictable January-December financial year.  The importance of this predictability cannot be overemphasized.  
3. While the Federal Government’s budget represents less than 10% of aggregate yearly expenditures in the economy, it has a very significant accelerator effect on the financial plans of other tiers of government, and even more importantly, the private sector, which mostly operates on a January-December financial year.  
4. Notwithstanding the delay this year, I am determined to continue to work with the National Assembly towards improving the budgeting process and restoring our country to the January-December fiscal cycle.
5. I note, with pleasure, that the National Assembly is working on the enactment of an Organic Budget Law, so as to improve the efficiency of the nation’s budgetary process.
6. As I mentioned during the presentation of the 2018 Appropriation Bill, we intend to use the 2018 Budget to consolidate the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020.  
7. It is in this regard that I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented.  The logic behind the Constitutional direction that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that, it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.  
8. Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.  The National Assembly made cuts amounting to 347 billion Naira in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to 578 billion Naira.
9. Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.  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.  
10. Furthermore, many of these 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.  
11. 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.
12. Such examples of projects from which cuts were made are as follows:
·  a. The provisions for some nationally/regionally strategic infrastructure projects such as Counter-part funding for the Mambilla Power Plant, Second Niger Bridge/ancillary roads, the East-West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Itakpe-Ajaokuta Rail Project were cut by an aggregate of 11.5 billion Naira.
·  b. 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.
·  c. The provision for Rehabilitation and Additional Security Measures for the United Nations Building by the FCT, Abuja was cut by 3.9 billion Naira from 4 billion Naira to 100 million Naira; this will make it impossible for the Federal Government of Nigeria to fulfill its commitment to the United Nations on this project.
·  d. The provisions for various Strategic Interventions in the health sector such as the upgrade of some tertiary health institutions, transport and storage of vaccines through the cold chain supply system, provision of anti-retroviral drugs for persons on treatment, establishment of chemotherapy centres and procurement of dialysis consumables were cut by an aggregate amount of 7.45 billion Naira.
·  e. The provision for security infrastructure in the 104 Unity Schools across the country were cut by 3 billion Naira at a time when securing our students against acts of terrorism ought to be a major concern of government.
·  f. The provision for the Federal Government’s National Housing Programme was cut by 8.7 billion Naira.
·  g. At a time when we are working with Labour to address compensation-related issues, a total of 5 billion Naira was cut from the provisions for Pension Redemption Fund and Public Service Wage Adjustment.
·  h. The provisions for Export Expansion Grant (EEG) and Special Economic Zones/Industrial Parks, which are key industrialization initiatives of this Administration, were cut by a total of 14.5 billion Naira.
·  i. The provision for Construction of the Terminal Building at Enugu Airport was cut from 2 billion Naira to 500 million Naira which will further delay the completion of this critical project.
·  j. The Take-off Grant for the Maritime University in Delta State, a key strategic initiative of the Federal Government, was cut from 5 billion Naira to 3.4 billion Naira.
·  k. 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.
13. 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.  
14. 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.
15. Notwithstanding the above stated observations, I have decided to sign the 2018 Budget in order not to further slowdown the pace of recovery of our economy, which has doubtlessly been affected by the delay in passing the budget.
 16. However, it is my intention to seek to remedy some of the most critical of these issues through a supplementary and/or amendment budget which I hope the National Assembly will be able to expeditiously consider.
17. I am pleased with the success recorded in the implementation of the 2017 Budget.  A total sum of 1.5 trillion Naira has been released for the implementation of capital projects during the 2017 fiscal year.  In response to this and other policy measures implemented, we have observed significant improvement in the performance of the Nigerian economy.
18. To achieve the laudable objectives of the 2018 Budget, we will work very hard to generate the revenues required to finance our projects and programmes.  The positive global oil market outlook, as well as continuing improvement in non-oil revenues, make us optimistic about our ability to finance the budget.
19. However, being a deficit budget, the Borrowing Plan will be forwarded to the National Assembly shortly.  I crave the indulgence of the National Assembly for a speedy consideration and approval of the Plan.
20. The 2018 Budget I have just signed into law provides for aggregate expenditures of 9.12 trillion Naira, which is 22.6% higher than the 2017 Appropriation.  Further details of the approved budget will be provided by the Minister of Budget and National Planning.
21. I thank the Ministers of Budget and National Planning, the Budget Office of the Federation, and everyone who worked tirelessly and sacrificed so much to bring us to this day.  However, the job is only partly done.  
22. I am sure you will remain committed to advancing our Change Agenda, not only in the preparation of the national budget, but also in ensuring its effective implementation.
I thank you and may God bless Nigeria.

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*PMB during the signing of 2018 Appropriation bill into law

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Budget padding scandal: No-one should be a judge in his own cause

Very few Nigerians will be amazed by the way the House of Representatives handled the allegations of budget padding and abuse of office which Abdulmumin Jibrin, former Chair on Appropriation, levelled against a fraction of the House leadership including the Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun, Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, Chief Whip, Alhassan Ado Doguwa, as well as 10 other members of the House. To ensure that the issue remains on the plate, Jibrin has been consistent in issuing statements through both the traditional and new media which clearly identify Dogara, Lasun, Ogor and Doguwa as the main targets of his charge. And to press the point, he rightly labeled the clique the QUARTET. 
But even in this atmosphere of suffocating change, nothing seems to have changed in the National Assembly, at least not in the House of Reps. Instead of investigating his allegations, the House in its typical, ever-evolving Machiavellian antics that the Nigerian populace has witnessed since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, presented a dubious resolution summoning Jibrin, himself the hunter as Professor Olatunji Dare, the ace satirist, would have characteristically put it, to appear before an ethics and privileges committee. Talk of the hunter being hunted. It’s as if there are no more people with conscience in the green chamber.

And the “honourables” scheming to nail Jibrin at all cost executed their act with a well-choreographed carnival-like fanfare, prancing about the floor without shame, hugging and back-slapping, each brandishing green scarves with the inscription: I Stand with Dogara. In the end, what ought to be a solemn occasion for demanding answers to the issues raised by Jibrin in the interest of public good, was turned into a grand spectacle of pure self-service and reckless endorsement of corruption.
Though originally well-spoken of by the public, the lawmakers by determinedly choosing the option of closing their eyes to the accused and turning the heat on the accuser shot themselves in the foot. That ugly display on the floor of the House has further reduced their worth in the eyes of the people.
And Dogara should know better. An experienced lawyer that he is, the Speaker knows the meaning of the well-worn Latin phrase deployed in the second leg of the title of this piece. Translated in English it means that, “No one should be a judge in his own cause.”  It’s a legal principle that forbids any person from assuming the role of a judge in a case in which he/she has an interest. In this particular case of budget padding and corruption in the House, Dogara, the Speaker of the House is one of the accused persons; to that extent, he is an interested party.
If the House must then investigate as it should the allegations against him and others, the logical step to take is for him to step down from his position as Speaker and allow for a colleague to be elected as Speaker for the purpose of presiding over the investigation. If at the end of investigation he is acquitted he returns to his seat as Speaker. It’s such a simple process that anyone who is not aiming at covering up would easily accede to in order to preserve honour and integrity. But by refusing to step down and subject himself to investigation, the Speaker leaves one with no other option than to deduce that he has something to hide or, at best, that he is indeed guilty of the allegations against him.
Anyone would be forgiven for drawing this conclusion, given the desperation with which Dogara exploited his position as Speaker to finagle a resolution of the House glossing over the budget fraud and corruption allegations involving him, and instead recommending his accuser for a most ridiculous trial for all kinds reasons including “campaign of calumny and infringing on the integrity of the House as an institution.”
But rather than denigrate the House of which he is a proud member as claimed by his traducers, the former chairman of appropriation merely stated the facts. And countless times he has challenged any member of the House who has evidence of malfeasance, corruption or abuse of office involving him to make them public. Up till the time of writing this piece, no one has picked up the gauntlet. 
In fact, the Speaker being one of the accused worsened his case with the clear violation of a sacred legal maxim through that House resolution presided over by him, and directing his accuser to appear before an ethics and privileges committee made up of members appointed by him. There can be no better example of sitting as a judge in your own cause. This is against the principle of natural justice, equity and good conscience.   
Besides, there is no way Jibrin will not be found guilty if he appears before the committee headed by Nicholas Ossai, who on July 26 told Premium Times that it was wrong for Jibrin to claim that the 2016 budget was “padded.” According to the report, Ossai said the budget was only “amended.” He was also quoted as saying, “In legislature, you don’t talk about padding. Budget is an appropriation bill and is like other bills that you amend. You know in bills you talk about clauses. Every head in the budget is a clause. So, legislators have power to amend it.” How would he now get justice before a man who has made this one-sided statement?
Still, this country has Jibrin to thank for his unprecedented revelations. Now, the depth of the rot in the House of Reps is in the open. Rather than applaud and encourage those working to crucify him, it will serve this country well to focus on his message and squeeze adjustments from it. It is the way to go if Nigeria is serious about entrenching transparency and accountability in public governance.
*Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on

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