When President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2018 budget estimates to the national assembly in November, he told them that he hoped they could ensure speedy passage before the end of this year. Even though the 2017 budget was not signed till the second quarter of the year and its implementation so far has been poor, Pres. Buhari said he wants to normalize the budgeting cycle to begin from the start of the year.
On Tuesday, senators said the president’s dreams are not feasible because the executive has shown a lack of seriousness in doing its job. Senators took turns to criticize the executive for the budget performance, which they say is between 15 and 20 per cent so far. They said Buhari has not kept his own end of the bargain in which he promised that at least 40 percent of the budget will be implemented before the end of the year while the other 60 percent rolled over into 2018.
Consequently, senators said passing the 2018 budget before the end of this year is no longer feasible.
The condemnation of the executive cut across party lines. In fact, it was led by senators of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
- Senate President Saraki led the charge: “Sit up!”
“The executive really needs to sit up,” he said. “The budget has not been implemented. We cannot be magicians. We just have to work and give a good budget to Nigerians. If they have refused to roll over the 2017 projects into 2018, it is a disaster. We have to work with what we have.”
He was particularly displeased with unnamed members of the executive who have traveled while the budget defence is ongoing. “It is very disheartening and disappointing because we know how much we have put into the budget process. How can anybody who is responsible travel at this period when the budget defence is ongoing?”
- Deputy senate leader, Bala Ibn Na’Allah: “Troubled waters ahead”
“When we suspended plenary, it was with the idea that the committees will swing into action so we can have a tentative date to pass the budget. From what I have seen, we might run into troubled waters.
“The President told us that the 2017 budget was going to achieve at least 60 per cent performance. Today, that has not happened. We need to lay this issue and discuss it. Let us put the facts before the Executive and show Nigerians the difficulties we are facing.”
Na’allah was of the view that the executive was still using a military-era template which will continue to pose challenges.
- Senator Barnabas Gemade: “Suspend budget deliberations”
“What we have seen is far from the 40 per cent capital project implementation we were told. In many MDAs, budget performance is hovering between 12 to 15 per cent. In early November, the borrowing plans were brought and we approved it. They said they were going to release more funds. As of now, we cannot say if that is true.
“In defending the budget, MDAs are supposed to bring their 2017 budget performance to committees. When you look at the budget proposals brought here, many things captured in the 2017 budget were not rolled over. Committees and MDAs need to do some work.
“We have to set a date for the implementation of the 2017 budget based on the borrowing plans we approved. I therefore propose that we set March 31st for the 2017 budget to be implemented before we can start working on the 2018 budget. We need to guide against abandonment of ongoing projects.”
- Senator Solomon Adeola: “This is abnormal; the executive is unserious”
“How can we approve the 2018 budget without knowing the performance of 2017 budget? This is abnormal. From the recent budget defences, it is obvious that MDAs are not ready. Year in, year out, the budget performance is low,” he said.
He made reference to a senate committee’s decision to ask the minister of power, works and housing to excuse a committee before which he was defending his ministry’s budget last week due to his perceived lack of preparedness.
“He did not come with the necessary documents to defend the budget of his Ministry. We need to show to Nigerians that the National Assembly is ready to approve the budget. Remember how the Executive submitted the MTEF and withdrew it again. It submitted it and withdrew it. It shows the lack of seriousness on the part of the economic managers of the country.”
- Senator Matthew Urhoghide: “This executive is not serious”
“Last week, the Minister of Finance announced that N750 billion had been released. If this money has been released, MDAs are yet to get this money. With the envelope budgeting they are doing, we do not know what has been given to MDAs.
“I want to say that every consideration about the 2018 budget should be put at bay. This executive is not serious. Let them tell us what they have done with the 2017 budget. The budget presentation is an annual ritual that is not benefiting anybody.”
- Senator Mohammed Hassan: “They are not doing their job”
Referencing the fact that the Ministry of Power included N8.5 billion in its budget for counterpart funding of the Mambila Power projected when the National Assembly had already approved a loan of $5.5 billion which the presidency said would be used for the counterpart funding of the same project, he said the executive isn’t doing its job.
“Many of us have been made to do the work of the executive. We need to set up a small technical committee to come up with a standard format on how to handle the 2018 budget. It is very important to do that.”
Senator Dino Melaye: “Boju Boju document”
“The budget we received was a ‘boju boju’ budget. Why do we package a 2018 budget that was garnished with deception? Enough is enough. We must ensure that the 2017 budget is properly implemented. What they have brought to us is just a proposal. We need to give Nigerians a budget that will benefit Nigerians.”