Tasking National Assembly, APC on 2017 Budget
• ‘Legislators must understand the urgency in passing it into law’
• Nothing concrete will come out of the document, says PDP
Now that President Muhammadu Buhari has presented the 2017 Appropriation Bill, which he named “Budget of Recovery and Growth,” Nigerians are looking up to the legislators and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which controls the majority in the National Assembly, to ensure that the needful is done, and quickly too.
While some are skeptical about the sincerity of the lawmakers to appropriately debate the budget to ensure it meets the yearning of the Nigerian masses, others are waiting to see whether there would be a recurrence of what happened to the 2016 Budget, which was allegedly padded by some lawmakers in connivance with some members of the executive.
Indeed, many Nigerians were of the view that the allegedly padded 2016 Budget did not do much in alleviating the poverty situation in the country. It was noted that many people ended up being poorer under Buhari’s watch in the last 18 months.
Tasking the duo of Dr. Bukola Saraki and Mr. Yakubu Dogara, Nigerians urged the lawmakers to do their duties judiciously and to also place the interest of the larger population above that of their own, which was one of the reasons many people believed was responsible for the poor implementation and failure of the previous budget.
Former Senate Minority leader, Dr. Olorunimbe Mamora while speaking on the issue yesterday, said he would not totally blame the lawmakers for what happened to the 2016 Budget and at the same time would not expect similar or anything near it to happen to the new document “because the legislators themselves understand the reality on ground.”
According to him, “As a former lawmaker, I know that each and everyone of the legislators is as concerned with what Nigeria is going through like the generality of Nigerians. I am of the hope that this would force them to do the needful to the 2017 Appropriation Bill. We should not forget that it has not been passed into law and until that is done, we cannot call it budget.
“My admonition to them is to ensure the needful is done so that Nigerians could feel the impact of the implementation of the budget on time because time is of essence to all of us.”
In another reaction, a former member of the House of Representatives and spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), of Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff’s faction, Mr. Bernard Mikko said Nigerians should not expect much from the 2017 Appropriation Bill “because the APC has never been settled since it assumed power in 2015.”
According to him, “Why I said nothing extraordinary will come out of the budget is that up till date, neither the government nor the ruling party has been able to get to the root of the controversies of the missing 2016 budget and its alleged padding even when one of their own took the principal officers to the court on the issue.
“The President was heard singing a different tune to what the spokesman of the party and the leaders said in the National Assembly. At the end of the day, the party found a way to gag the whistle blower by suspending him.”
Mikko further buttressed his point saying: “The ruling party has never implemented or fulfilled any of the promises made to Nigerians since it came to power. I don’t have any expectation from a party that controls the majority in the National Assembly, submitted a budget only to return few days after to say same document was missing and thereafter we were told it was padded.”
The PDP spokesman said what is important to Nigerians is “how the government will address the issues of ravaging and rampaging poverty that has reduced many people to nothing but refugees in their own country. Let them address the issue of foreign exchange that is rising almost on daily basis and the unemployment rate that is galloping under the APC.”
Mikko also said that the controversies that surrounded the 2016 budget was part of the failure of the APC government to fight the corruption it promised to tackle adding, “I can say that it is only President Buhari that is committed to fighting corruption and not members of his party. It is not our duty to advise them on how to run their government. The party should leave and give room for better options.”
It would be recalled that two strange developments happened after President Buhari presented the 2015 budget proposal to the joint session of the National Assembly on Tuesday, December 22, 2015.
Twenty days after presentation, the budget was reportedly missing. Two weeks later, Nigerians were shocked to hear the news that the document was withdrawn. The disappearance of the budget document was announced during a closed-door session at the National Assembly that lasted 90 minutes.
It was said that Senate Leader Ali Ndume made the disclosure during the closed-door session.
Few months after that, Nigerians were again bewildered about allegations of padding of the same document, when the erstwhile Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Jibrin Abdulmumin, who represented Bebeji/Kiru Federal Constituency of Kano State on the platform of APC, accused the leadership of the House and some others, of criminal padding of the document to promote selfish interests.
Abdulmumin categorically accused the quartet of Dogara his Deputy, Yusuf Lasun, House Whip Alhassan Doguwa and Minority Leader, Leo Ogor of involvement in the deal but excluded the other members of the body of principal officers.
The allegation, which sparked up controversies, forced Mr. President who described those behind the distortion of the budget as those with entrenched interests, to publicly condemn the development.
Although, some leading members of the APC, including the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed tried to dismiss the allegations, Buhari’s comment that the unauthorised alterations completely changed the document from the one he presented to the National Assembly, cast doubt on the sincerity of the party in handling the issue.
President Buhari had promised that those involved in the act would not go unpunished. He said he has been a military governor, petroleum minister, military Head of State and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund “never have I heard the words “budget padding.”
Not minding how the 2016 budget fared in the realm of implementation, Nigerians are hoping that the leadership of the APC, the National Assembly as well as the Presidency, would do the needful to ensure the 2017 Appropriation Bill was tailored towards addressing the present economic recession.
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