20 January 2016

Nigeria: Opportunities From the Missing Budget Saga


THE revelation that the 2016 budget of the Federal Government got missing or had been faked is the latest political fascination to have enraptured the polity.

The budget which was presented to the joint session of the National Assembly before the end of year yuletide break reportedly grew wings in the Senate bureaucracy leading to an investigation by the Senate Committee on Ethics.

The President of the Senate, Senator Bukola Saraki while revealing the outcome of the investigations blamed on the Senior Special Assistant to the President, Senate, Senator Ita Enang for the rumpus.

It is remarkable that when the furore was first raised many outside the National Assembly paid scant attention to it. The revelation by Senator Saraki of the faking of the budget document, however, gave the alleged matter credibility.

Remarkably, the Senate which has been the epicentre did not disclose what was faked or how it was faked. Senate spokesman, Senator Aliyu Abdullahi in a manner reflective of the crass dereliction of responsibility that is the manner of Nigeria's public officials, dismissed press enquiries seeking elaboration on what was faked.

Suffice to say that diligent effort by the media to confirm discrepancies between the original budget document as submitted by the President and the one that was reportedly circulated by Senator Enang.

How the "faked" document got its way into the Senate system should be a primary concern for the lawmakers as it reflects a breach in the process of law making.

We urge the Senate not to leave any stone unturned in its effort unearth the circumstances that led to the circulation of unauthorised copies of the budget and to what purposes. Those directly involved in the breach should be made to account for their actions.

Vanguard believes that this development underscores the need for an operative National Assembly Budget Office. It is remarkable that more than ten years after the idea of a functioning budget office was floated, the National Assembly is yet to get a Budget Office that could give the legislature a measure of independence from the presidency.

Such reliance by the legislature even for budget documents underlines the continuing subjugation of the legislative branch to the executive branch of government.

Even worse, the legislature is at the mercy of the executive in assessing the indices and parameters used by the executive branch in framing the figures of the budget.

Despite the furore over the missing or fake budget, Vanguard believes this is an opportunity for the National Assembly to get its acts together for good.


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