Democracy is the best form of government. It is a huge improvement on dictatorship. Democracy embedded in rule of law and separation of powers ensures good governance that ultimately leads to prosperity for all. Separation of powers is a fundamental principle of the Nigerian government, whereby powers and responsibilities are divided among the legislative branch, executive branch and the judicial branch.
These tasks are assigned to different institutions in a way that each of them can check the others. As a result no institution can become so powerful in a democracy as to destroy the system. A too powerful National Assembly or the Executive is not in our national interest. However, a weak National Assembly or weak Executive or Judiciary is also not in the interest of the country.
The challenge we face in our country today is the growing inability of these various arms of government to work together for the general development of the country and the welfare of its peoples. This month, May, is about to run its course and the 2018 Budget of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is yet to be passed into law. Budgets are fundamental to the development of any nation.
It is one aspect of governance which can bring discord between the lawmakers and the executive. It is also where leadership is shown by both arms of the government, who must eventually reach consensus on what is needed or not to drive the development of the country.
The President Muhammadu Buhari administration presented the budget to the National Assembly since November last year. The aim of the government was to ensure early passage of the Appropriation Bill by the lawmakers to fast track development in the country. Since the presentation of the budget the lawmakers have queried sections of it, but it appears that there is no urgency on their part to accelerate the passage of the Appropriation Bill into law.
This is happening in a country where the budgets are rarely implemented up to 50 per cent even when the budgets are passed on time. It is the budget that drives the economy. Businessmen, contractors and others whose activities stimulate the economy all depend on the budget. But the lawmakers and the executive seem not to care. After all their salaries, emoluments and other pecks of their offices are paid whether the budget is passed or not. They have chosen to forget the ordinary Nigerians on whose behest they were sent to Abuja.
The National Assembly has tried to exonerate itself from the allegation of deliberately delaying the passage of the budget. The House of Representatives recently explained the delay in the passage of the 2018 budget. The Chairman, Committee on Rules and Business, Rep. Emmanuel Orker-Jev said the situation was because the National Assembly insisted on proper scrutiny of the proposal.
He said that Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) had refused to go before relevant committees of both chambers of the assembly to defend what they put in the budget. However, the Budget Office of the Federation debunked claims that the 2018 budget has not been passed because some details required for its passage were not submitted.
Director General of the Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze, reportedly said that media reports suggesting that 2018 Budget was submitted to the National Assembly without details from some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) were inaccurate. Mr. Akabueze said that on November 7, 2017 when President Buhari laid before the National Assembly (NASS) the Executive budget proposals for 2018, it had “all the usual details required by the National Assembly to process the budget.” Despite the back and forth over who is responsible for this unfortunate situation, there appears to be a silver lining on the horizon.
This is because of the recent assurance by the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki that the budget would no longer be delayed. He gave the assurance while mandating the Goje-led Appropriation Committee to tidy up its report for final submission to the Senate for deliberations. Similarly, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has assured that all MDAs would submit their expenditure estimates soon in line with budget guidelines and in compliance with the accounting year.
He reportedly expressed deep concern that the budget is not yet passed, seven months after it was submitted to the House by Buhari. He urged for the passage of the budget so that the President can assent to it for implementation to commence. Aside the delay in the passage of the Appropriation Bill which is definitely impacting the country negatively, there is also the growing security challenges in the country which needed the cooperation of the executive and the lawmakers to address it headlong.
The synergy between the executive and the legislature is seemly lacking. The National Assembly appears frustrated as some heads of the security agencies (under the executive) sometimes ignore their invitation to come and explain what they are doing about the killings. The situation is not helped by the fact that the killings across the country continue unabated.
This is not acceptable to Nigerians, and should not be allowed to fester by our elected leaders. The primary responsibility of any government is the protection of lives and property of all people living within its borders. When this core responsibility is negated, all other achievements of government become meaningless. It is only the living that can enjoy development. Let the executive and legislature put politics aside and Nigeria first.
– Aluta Continua