The 2016 budget and its attendant drama will go down in the annals history of Nigeria as one of the most controversial, debated and over-stretched financial document ever experienced within the political space of Nigeria. The financial outlay of government from abinitio was trailed with controversies; the process of reading and approval took forever and when the end seems near, assent on the document became an avenue for flexing of constitutional powers and counter-moves.
Nigerians that diligently followed the process of 2016 budget from the time of submission, to the duel stalement that ensued between the executive and legislative arms of government, to rejection and rectification of “gray” areas to the grand finale of budget assent will agree with me that the following five defining moments stood out.
Missing Budget: On Tuesday, January 12th, 2016; Nigerians woke up to the news that the just submitted 2016 budget had gone missing. As funny that it may sound, the rumour since it was not confirmed or refuted authoritatively by both concerned arms of government was allowed to fester. The missing budget episode went on for week while it was reported that lawmakers were trying to keep the matter under wraps because it will embarrass the presidency and the country. Even after the lawmakers were interviewed on the matter, they denied saying there was no missing budget. Ali Ndume, the Senate leader when interviewed denied that no budget was missing as Bukola Saraki, the Senate President visited the President based on how the passage of the budget can be fast-tracked.
Padded Up Budget: Just as the missing 2016 Budget was found, the budget padding crisis rent the air such that it was reported that the budget never really went missing but had undergone a padding operation by different ministries of government as well as legislative manoeuvring to increase the outlay beyond what was specified in the initial budget submitted. Consequently, President Buhari wielded the big hammer when he sanctioned and redeployed 22 top officials of the Budget Office for their role in the embarrassing budget padding controversy.
De-railed Rail Project: To further add salt to the injury of the 2016 budget after the padding controversy came the crisis of the removal of the Lagos-Calabar rail project and slashing the fund voted for the Idu-Kaduna rail project and the slashed fund used to reimbursed the untouched Lagos-Kano rail project. The removal of the Lagos-Calabar rail project coupled with slashing of the Idu-Kaduna project generated controversy with President Buhari declining to assent the bill until these issues are addressed and this dented the already tattered image of the National Assembly.
Three times Assent Denial: The 2016 budget was on record rejected three times and sent back by President Buhari to be re-worked on by the National Assembly. The ‘gray’ areas became an item for the executive to call the legislature to order and the National Assembly lacking justifications for these crises simply complied without making much fuss.
Victory at last: May 6, 2016 signaled the day that ends the crisis that engulfed the 2016 budget with president Buhari flanked by his vice, Yemi Osinbajo and other legislative dignitaries of the National Assembly; assented the 2016 budget with smiles and a public address of the awareness of the plight of Nigerians and the urgent need for the 2016 budget to be strictly implemented to the letter to bring about dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
After all, we all disagree to agree as regards to the 2016 budget but on other issues between both organs of government, this is just one of many disagreements.
Written by Dosunmu Moshood
Twitter handle: @msdoes