The Centre for Social Justice has proposed areas that President Muhammadu Buhari needs to urgently review to enable the newly constituted Executive Council of the Federation function effectively.
The Lead Director of the group, Eze Onyekpere, said the President needs to urgently amend key laws that would enable the newly created Budget and National Planning as well as Ministry of Power, Works, and Housing deliver on their mandates.
Mr. Onyekpere said with the decision to bring the Budget Office of the Federation under National Planning to establish the Ministry of Budget and National Planning, the President must amend some laws that gave specific tasks to the Minister of Finance for the new Minister of Budget and National Planning to function within the confines of the law.
He identified these laws to include the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Finance (Control and Management) Act.
The FRA assigns some specific duties to the Minister of Finance, namely preparation of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and collection of estimates of revenue and expenditure of scheduled corporations.
The law also empowers the Finance Minister to prepare Budget Disbursement Schedule: powers related to approval and restriction of budgetary commitments, and budget reporting obligations based on monitoring and evaluation and the attainment of fiscal targets.
Mr. Onyekpere also said the Finance (Control and Management) Act, which vests on the Finance Minister the power of preparation of budget estimates, before presenting same to the President for approval before sending it to be laid by the President before the National Assembly, should be amended.
“A number of roles being performed under that Act by the Finance Minister will now revert to the Minister of Budget and National Planning,” he said, pointing out that their amendments should have preceded the movement of the budget function to National Planning.
Although the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, 2016-2019 under the FRA is not ready, Mr. Onyekpere pointed out that it should have been ready on or before the end of the second quarter of 2015 for the endorsement of the Executive Council and later forwarded to the NASS for its approval.
He said in view of the fact the MTEF was not ready and has not been sent to National Assembly, the budget, which should come from the MTEF, would be presented to the lawmakers late in the year; and the new Minister must move fast to ensure that the preparation of the MTEF and the budget were not delayed.
Mr. Onyekpere criticised the creation of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing, saying the merger of the three powerful ministries, into a super ministry may make or mar the Buhari administration.
“The absence of power and adequate energy facilities has been recognized as holding back Nigeria’s economic growth and development. The challenges in that sector are enormous and could take the full time of a Minister and Minister of State,” he noted.
He said despite being the biggest economy in Africa, Nigeria was generating and distributing less than 4,000 megawatts (MW), compared to South Africa, the second largest economy in Africa, which produces over 40,000 MW of electricity.
In the works sector, he said the roads are decaying, requiring the attention of a full time minister to fix existing roads, build new ones and drive reforms including the Federal Road Fund Bill which provide sustainable funding to the sector.
On housing sector, Mr. Onyekpere said a deficit of over 17 million houses, which has defied all previous efforts to provide adequate housing, must be under the supervision of substantive minister on its own.
He wants the government to amend the Land Use Act, which is still hampering housing and commercial transactions, while the National Housing Fund has refused to mature in over 23 years of existence.
“The President still has the opportunity in these early days to split the Ministry and appoint more ministers. The idea of saving money by merging Ministries may not hold water if the administration lives up to its anti-corruption posture. The opportunity for review of the present position of the Federal Government is still available,” he said.