The Return Of Budget Padding

By: Felicia Esame
Published: January 2, 2022

Many things may not be clear about the teal state of the Executive-Legislators relationship currently, but ardent watchers of the polity will agree with me that the honeymoon is over. Although the president of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan and speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila still carry on l nothing has happened, this is understandable as the duo would find it difficult to explain the frosty relationship with the president they have defended with vigour and tenacity.

The 2022 appropriation act has opened another Pandora box of budget padding as the president expressed reservations about the documents sent to him from the parliament.

The president, on Friday, signed the N17.13 trillion 2022 budget into law, different from the proposed budget of N16.3 trillion.

The first allegation came to public light when Honourable Abulmumin Jibrin, the then House Committee Chairman on Appropriation, blew the whistle of padding in the 2016 budget.

Jibrin, in 2016, alleged that Yakubu Dogara, the then speaker of the House of Representatives; his deputy, Yusuf Lasun; House whip, Alhassan Doguwa, and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, had inserted projects worth several billions of naira into the 2016 budget. Jibrin later added another lawmaker, Abonta Abonta, to the list.

Among the many allegations was the introduction of “about 2,000 projects … amounting to about N284 billion” into the 2016 budget by members of ’10 out of the 96 Standing Committees of the House.’

In the case of the 2022 budget, the president was concerned about the changes to the original budget proposal in the form of new insertions, outright removals, reductions and/or increases in the amounts allocated to projects, reduction of the provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects and the introduction of 6,576 new projects into the budget.

One of his major grouse was that the 469 lawmakers that make up Nigeria’s Senate and House of Representatives inserted over 6,000 ‘new projects into the budget he submitted in October.

“Provisions made for as many as 10,733 projects were reduced while 6,576 new projects were introduced into the budget by the National Assembly,” Mr Buhari said in his speech at the ceremony.

The president also expressed, it was not just that the lawmakers made the insertions and also made ‘worrisome changes to the budget, “most of the projects inserted relate to matters that are the responsibilities of State and Local Governments, and do not appear to have been properly conceptualised, designed and cost.”

The battle between the executive and the parliament is not new, and there seem not to an insight. However, for the kind of harmonious relationship believed to be existing between the 9th National Assembly and the presidency, there shouldn’t be a naked dance in the market square.

I still find it embarrassing that the president complains about the decision of the parliament especially on appropriation bills, when it is obvious that the legislature is a bigger partner in the business of democracy, especially when the parliament work in unison.

Curiously, I wish to observe that the executive and its handlers are not a saint and nothing absolves them from budget

Truth be told, the lawmakers are not finding things easy as MDA’s are watching the body language of the presidency to deal with them. The president should also understand that this is an election year and the lawmakers are striving to look for every means to raise money for elections.

While I cannot justify whatever projects were inserted by the lawmakers as it may be marred with poor implements, it is not strange that lawmakers fixed preferred projects in the budget, therefore, the outburst would be unnecessary if the going was good.

The president should be a democrat and learn to work with the position of the parliament. He should also remember that selective implementation of the budget is an offence and the lawmakers are not ready to smile about certain things in an election year.




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