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Following the 2019 budget signed into law by Buhari, one needs to determine if the budget is feasible or not. In order to achieve this, we must critically examine the process in which the budget was rectified by our legislators. You will recall that the President, who appeared to have assented grudgingly, observed that the lawmakers reduced some of the proposals he presented and increased others adding that they also introduced fresh allocations.
According to him, the adjustment would make the implementation of the budget difficult. But added that he would engage the leadership of the ninth National Assembly to review the budget.
He said: “You will all recall that in December 2018, I presented our 2019 budget proposal with the theme ‘Budget of Continuity.’ Our goal was to use this budget to move the economy further on the path of inclusive, diversified and sustainable growth.
“Back then, I proposed a total expenditure of N8.83 trillion to the National Assembly for appropriation targeting strategic and impactful projects and initiatives.
“However, the 2019 Budget I will be signing into law today provides for aggregate expenditures of N8.92 trillion. This is an increase of N90.33 billion over our submission.
“This increase reflects changes introduced by the National Assembly. In some areas, expenses we proposed were reduced while in other areas they were increased. There were also certain areas where new additions were introduced into the budget. More details of the approved budget will be provided by the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning.
“Of course, some of these changes will adversely impact our programs making it difficult for us to achieve the objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Although I will be signing this bill, it is my intention to continue to engage the National Assembly to ensure we deliver on our promises. I will, therefore, be engaging with the leadership of the ninth National Assembly, as soon as they emerge, to address some of our concerns with this Budget.”
The president said the government will also look at how to improve the budget process so that, amongst other things, its consideration processes sped up and return the country to the January to December fiscal year timetable.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the signing ceremony, Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said the disagreement between the executive and the legislature will continue to occur because the lawmakers must do their job.
He said: “Well, I have told you that the job of the National Assembly is not to agree with the executive, I don’t think any congress in the world does that.
“By the constitution and design, the executive informs us what they intend to do and the representatives of the people in the National Assembly decide what is a priority since they represent the people. It is going to be a nutty area but we will continue to define the relationship between the executive and the legislature.
“Whether it is Britain or the US, where it is, there is always a strain on this issue of the budget because it deals with high stakes distributional issues as to who gets what, which part of Nigeria gets this and that.
“So, it will continually be an issue. We should not be defined by those issues. Rather, we should define those issues by forming a consensus that is the path to progress and we will continue to do that.”
Dogara said the executive must submit a budget on time to the legislature if the January-December circle is to be met.
He added: “Above all, what I heard him say is the issue of aligning the appropriation from January to December just like the case in the private sector.
“I think that can really be achieved but it must start with the early and timely submission of the budget to the National Assembly from the executive.