National Assembly leaders seek budget reforms

Edwin Akwueh, Abuja

Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara.

The Nigerian government has been advised to send its annual appropriation Bill to the National Assembly by August, to enable the lawmakers do a thorough job before passing it for Presidential assent.

This recommendation was part of the outcome of the forum on reforming the budgetary process in Nigeria, as part of efforts to strengthen the relationship between Executive and the Legislature especially on budget matters.

In his recommendation, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu submitted that budget process would become more efficient when the time frame for the submission and consideration of the appropriation Bill was fixed for three to six months in the constitution.

Left to Right: Governor of Sokoto state and former speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal;Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara.
Left to Right: Governor of Sokoto state and former speaker, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal;Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremmadu and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara.

According to him, the practice of presenting the budget in December makes the entire process cumbersome and unacceptable by critics of the government.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara stated that the entire budget process must undergo a reform to make it more effective and impactful on the lives of the Nigerian people.

Specifically, Mr. Dogara said a critical look should be taken at the operation of Financial Year to ensure that its 12 month period is fully completed before another budget implementation begins.

He added that there must also be a conscious effort to complete ongoing projects before new ones are introduced in order to stop wasteful spending.

“Those who contend that the National Assembly cannot increase the budget but can only reduce it are trying to import the British parliamentary law into a presidential system of government. In the British parliamentary system, the Crown has prerogative over money supply and the legislature is specifically prohibited from increasing the budget. It should be noted that the critical difference is that Parliament under a parliamentary system includes all the Ministers unlike the presidential system where the Ministers are not part of the National Assembly. It is therefore the decision of the Executive that carries the day in Parliament as the Ministers are also leaders of Parliament.

This position is therefore justified on the basis of separation of powers which is inherent in a Presidential democracy as practiced in Nigeria. In addition, if the Constitution intended that the National Assembly should not have power to increase a budget item it should have said so,” the speaker said.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma who presented the keynote address, called on the lawmakers to give stronger support to the President to enable him implement laudable policies that will revive the economy.

Senator Udo Udoma urged members of the political class to put National interest ahead of other interests and collaborate with the President to rebuild and diversify the country’s economy.

Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Sokoto state in North West Nigeria, Mr. Aminu Tambuwal called for better planning and commitment by political leaders in the country so as to move away from routine during the budgeting process.

“This type of conversation is therefore critical to the efforts we must make to make budgeting process accessible to all and encourage more participation in this crucial national issue. It’s our firm belief that if more stakeholders can gain greater insight into the whole system of budgeting, and if the National Assembly as an arm of government can attain the dexterity demanded to examine the budget estimates submitted annually by the President, there will be less attrition and mistrust between the two arms of government”.

The forum on reforming Nigeria’s budgeting process, tagged the Gallery Colloquium, was organized by orderpaper.ng, an online publication that focuses on legislative activities.