The House of Representatives has assured Nigerians that the house would pass the 2019 budget upon resumption of plenary by Tuesday, April 2,
The speaker of the National Assembly Yakubu Dogara said they would not rubber stamp the N8.83trn 2019 budget saying, “We hope to pass the appropriation bill as soon as we reconvene plenary.”
The Speaker who blamed the delay in passing the budget to late submission of the money bill by the executive arm of government, expressed regret that previous budgets had not scored up to 45 per cent performance.
He commended Ministries, Departments and Agencies that had so far showed up for their budget defence, even as he urged those yet to do so, “to hasten up to ensure expeditious approval of the budget upon resumption by next week.”
Dogara said that by constitutional design, the president’s role in drafting the budget estimates could not be assailed but the “power of the purse” was the function of the legislature.
He said, “That includes the fact that expenditure can only be made in consequence of express legislative authorization and the authority to create and collect taxes, borrow or raise money through loans when the need arises.”
Dogara also stated that Nigeria’s budgets over the years did not get the nation’s priorities right.
He said, “Over the years, the main problem with our budget as submitted by the executive is that it does not reflect national values and priorities.
“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.
“This by all standards is 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 potential cannot be released without effective budget planning and execution.”
“It is unfortunate, however, that many commentators always ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriation Bills as if we are meant to urgently rubber stamp whatever budget estimate that is submitted to us by the executive.
“If we fail to scrutinize the budget proposals, it will not only amount to abdication of our constitutional responsibilities as legislators but a betrayal of the mandate of our constituents.”
He cited the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, as providing that the Appropriation 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 Appropriation 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 stated.
The Speaker said the lawmakers took the bold step of addressing the challenge by passing a constitutional amendment bill which sought to compel the executive to submit the budget proposals to the National Assembly not later than 90 days to the end of the fiscal year.
He added that in another effort to improve institutional capacity of the parliament to process and pass budget expeditiously, the National Assembly Budget and Research Office Establishment Bill was passed, which was closely modelled after the American Congressional Budget Office.
Dogara said, “Unfortunately, I regret to inform this gathering that these laudable efforts and initiatives were thwarted when the President withheld his assent to these two important bills.”