Nigeria may implement her worst budget in 2013 – Falana

Lagos Lawyer, Femi Falana

The lawyer condemned the Federal Government for failing to fully implement budgets.

Lagos Lawyer, Femi Falana, has warned that Nigeria may implement its worst budget this year if the National Assembly and the Executive do not move quickly to resolve the contending issues affecting the 2013 Appropriation Act.

Mr. Falana, who was one of the guests speakers at the mid-term assessment of the 7th Session of the House of Representatives on Thursday in Abuja, said that its dangerous that the implementation of the 2013 approved budget is yet to commence few weeks to the end of June, and five months to the end of the budget year.

“Having signed the Appropriation Bill into law, the National Assembly should reject the deliberate ploy to delay the implementation of the 2013 budget. Since the budget “crisis” has to be resolved not later than June 30- and we are at the tail end of the second quarter of the year- if we move to the fourth quarter and we have not sorted out the budget for the year- and five months later in November, all unspent funds would be returned to the treasury- what do we expect? This year, if we are not careful, we would witness the worst implementation of the budget of our country,” Mr. Falana said.

While commending the lawmakers for last Tuesday’s decision to reject an attempt by the presidency to re-write the 2013 budget by insisting on the full implementation of approved Appropriation Act, he urged members of the House to remain vigilant and to reject any move to introduce changes to the 2013 appropriation bill, which has since been signed into law.

He condemned the government for always claiming to have fully implemented the budget when it has only achieved an average of 50 to 60 per cent, describing such practice as “illegal, barbaric and primitive” and a confirmation of the culture of impunity in the country.

“Claiming to have implemented the budget by about 56 or 60 per cent is illegal,” he said. “What the Executive is telling Nigerians is that it has partially complied with the law. A law should be fully implemented after the budget defense. The Executive cannot say it has fully complied with law 40 or 50 per cent. It is either it is 100 per cent compliant or nothing.”

On efforts to compel the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to submit its budget before the National Assembly for approval to facilitate fiscal transparency and accountability, Mr. Falana said they should not be deterred, as they are not doing anything out of the ordinary by performing their legislative function, pointing out that even the Federal Reserve of the United States subjects itself to be audited by the U.S. Congress.

According to him, while not exposing CBN to political control, the House may wish to fashion out an auditing process by which its books of accounts may be subjected to periodic auditing by an agency to be established for that purpose or by the Federal Ministry of Finance.

He urged the House to expedite action on the proposed Bills on unemployment and poverty alleviation, saying millions of the country’s estimated 167million people are not productively engaged, with 112.6 million living on less than N170 a day while over 120 million others are living in darkness and 55 million cannot read or write.

“That is why armed robbers, militants, terrorists are having a field day. Yet the managers of the ‘kalokalo’ economic system continue to reel out figures of growth in the face of excruciating poverty. If poor states at the very bottom of the statutory allocation table can pay monthly stipends to thousands of unemployed youths and senior citizens, the House should sponsor a social security law without any further delay to compel government to at least pay social benefits to undergraduates,” he said.

He drew the attention of the lawmakers to several billions of revenue funds generated by various ministries, department and agencies of government, which are not being paid into the Federation Account annually.

Mr. Falana cited the example of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, JAMB, which realized about N6.9 billion through the sale of admission forms to over 1.725 million Nigerians student this year at about N4, 000 each, out of which only 520,000 candidates were eventually given admission, pointing out that last year it sold to 1.5million students and 1.49 million the previous year.

He said in the last four years, JAMB made about N24 billion from the sale without being accountable to anybody, despite that the government always budgets for that exercise every year.

“I am happy that unlike some other people who are celebrating darkness, instead of uninterrupted electricity supply; systemic corruption, instead of probity; security of life and property, instead of safety of our people, the House has decided to present the mid-term report to find out where they are coming from, to see how they can move very speedily in the next two years to take Nigeria out of the miasma of corruption and abuse of power,” he said.

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