The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari over the 2019 and previous budget estimates and procedure.
Mr Dogara in his opening remarks at a public hearing on the 2019 budget said the budgets over the years have only reflected the selfish wish of its drafters.
He said the budgets have repeatedly excluded national values and interests.
He also criticised the late submission of budgets to the National Assembly by the Executive.
“Over the years, the main problem with our budget as submitted by the Executive is that it does not reflect national values and priorities. The budget, more often than not, only reflects the values and priorities of those who help the president in drafting it. The integrity of the project selection process has always been the bane of our national budgets. I regret to say that until we eliminate these problems, we will always have non-implementable national budgets which cannot be relied upon by policymakers in establishing spending priorities,” he said.
Mr Dogara bemoaned a situation whereby budgets only mutter less than average performance. He exonerated the National Assembly from delays in the passage of budgets.
“It is very painful that for some years now, our budget process has been an exercise in either or a combination of audacious optimism and/or hypocrisy involving key actors putting together a budget that they fully know will at best be implemented up to 45 per cent, which is by all standards below average.
“How many of us will be proud of a child who consistently performs below average in his exams? How many of us here are proud of our below average budget performance all these years? Our below average budget performance is the main reason why Nigeria has remained a major promise as our national potentials cannot be realised without effective budget planning and execution.
“The budget is the most important law that is passed yearly, consequently, no parliament anywhere in the world rushes it. Let me re-emphasise that this parliament can never be a rubber stamp and neither are we prepared to surrender our constitutionally assigned rights of checks on the Executive.
“It is unfortunate, however, that many commentators always ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriations Bill as if we are meant to urgently rubber stamp whatever budget estimates that is submitted to us by the Executive. If we fail to scrutinise the budget proposals, it will not only amount to an abdication of our constitutional responsibilities as legislators but a betrayal of the mandate of our constituents.
“Let me also add that it is very unfair for the Executive to consistently and repeatedly blame the National Assembly of delaying passage of the budget while failing to address the issue of late budget submission on its part. The Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, provides that the Appropriations Bill be submitted not later than September of the preceding year which will give the parliament ample time to process the document and pass it in good time.
Unfortunately, the 2019 Appropriations Bill was submitted on December 19, 2018, just 12 days to the end of the year and the earliest time an Appropriation Bill has ever been presented to the National Assembly in this dispensation was on November 7, 2017.”
He urged the executive to ‘honestly’ and ‘diligently’ implement the 2019 budget.
Earlier, the chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Danjuma Goje, said the public hearing was important to ‘promote an all-inclusive and active participation’ in the process of passage of the 2019 budget.
He noted that the public hearing, in its third year, had in the past birthed meaningful policies that added value to the budget.