(By Nasiru Suwaid)
“Basically, that is what happened with the 2013 budgetary processes and as it is usual with our model of legislative procedure, the National Assembly always finds it expedient to pass the law deeply into the incoming year, either due to the complain of late submission of the budget document or an acclaim of non cooperation from the executive arm of the government.“
It is particularly a confusing scenario, whenever you asked anyone within the shores of Nigeria, either amongst the synthesized breed of cerebral economist managing our economy or the ordinary home economist struggling to manage the financial demands of her kitchen, whether we have an operative budget and especially, not as a yearly cumulated expenditure document or an aggregated financial profile or proposal of the current fiscal projections of the subsisting year but a parliamentary law authorizing the expenditure spending of the current financial year, usually called the Nigerian Appropriation Act 2013. Of course, most of the Nigerian citizenry were aware of all the procedures and processes that took place, from the presidential official correspondence, seeking the approval of the National assembly for the president to appear before the legislature and deliver the budget proposal document for the incoming year, to the actual annual ritual of an epochal speech in a joint session, which is followed by the usual debating sessions, cumulating into its passage as a law requiring the assent of the president.
Basically, that is what happened with the 2013 budgetary processes and as it is usual with our model of legislative procedure, the National Assembly always finds it expedient to pass the law deeply into the incoming year, either due to the complain of late submission of the budget document or an acclaim of non cooperation from the executive arm of the government. Indeed, this is the norm with the administrative management of the Nigerian state in the current fourth republic, beginning from 1999 to date, where despite having the operators of the economy, originating from global financial institutions and organizations famed for sermonizing about fiscal discipline, the Nigerian budgetary law has always being implemented in breach, because the usual terminal assessment report only gives average percentage qualification to the implementation process of a parliamentary Act requiring diligent and proactive effort at enforcing the law.
It is patently amusing to many a citizen, the operative trait guiding the habitual nature of the personalities managing our economy, in one angle is the clear insistence on strict deference by the National Assembly, to the fundamental characteristic determinants guarding its originating authenticity as being from the executive branch of the government or simply put, certain fundamentals of the budget proposal, such as $75 dollar crude oil bench mark should not be touched, inordinately breaching that trite doctrine of the separation of powers, which never envisages any of the three arms of government, encroaching on each other’s power. On the other hand is the executive assenting of the documented law, pending which it is implemented in breach or as according to the whimsical dictates of the originally submitted budget proposal, that indirectly discountenances the legal weight of a budget as a parliamentary law, which cannot be tempered, altered or amended except at the altar of the people’s parliament.
The subsisting yet defective operative norm in the country is a very late budget, implemented as according to the whims of the proposal bill, as though it has not being altered and authenticated, during the constitutional process of the passage of the law and as duly accepted by the president, despite the reservation and the acclaim that amendment would be initiated, during the assenting process of signing the bill into an Act of the parliament. But, the mere fact that the president agreed to sign the budget law, override any disagreement with the contents in the implementation process, subject to the time when an initiated alteration deed, reaches the fruition process of an amended law due for assent, which by virtue of such act of signing affirmation, enables the president to be subjected to his original proposal, now enjoying the eminent status of a confirmed law. It is worth noting that it is even counterproductive illegality for the executive branch of the government, not to implement its personally initiated law.
Indeed, the circumstances is akin to a law that is applied selectively, with the part that is most desirable easily gaining enforcement, though, the most appropriate example being a citizen choosing which part of the law he or she is to obey, not as an act of seditious dissention but a preferential choice of what we are capable of subscribing to as free citizens of an utopian state. Thus, it is a similar scenario which happened last week when the Minister of State for Finance Dr. Yerima Ngama, stated that the 2013 budget is un-implementable or simply put, the Appropriation Act 2013 could not be enforced, by no less an institutional personality than the executive arm of the Nigerian government. And despite the robust denial by the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, it seems the just resuming plenary session of the Nigerian senate, did not believe the rebuttal nor appreciate the medium or method of denial of the ministerial pronouncement, thus they demanded the appearance of the ministers in person.
It is a valid question to be asked, by the Nigerian economy stakeholders and the rest of international financial community, as to whether the law assented to as Appropriation act 2013 to by the president has any correlation with documented being implemented as Nigerian budget 2013 and could such gross illegality be the hallmark of a truly performing economy.
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