The 2016 national budget was not only the first ever to be prepared and put forward for the upliftment of the country by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, but so far, it had turned out to be the most or one of the most controversial in the history of Nigeria.
It was obvious that immediately after being sworn-in on May 29 last year, as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Nigerian Army, Buhari swung into action not only to assemble his cabinet members, but to work on the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
He subsequently presented the Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly on December 22nd last year.
The President tagged the Bill: “Budget of Change,” signalling what could be a promising future for Nigeria; the Nigeria that was gradually sliding into economic morass, occasioned by decades of leadership failure, monumental corruption and mismanagement of the nation’s wealth by few powerful men and women around the corridors of power.
The president, while presenting the budget on the floor of the joint National Assembly, promised a full implementation of the Bill when passed, which is a departure from the hitherto culture of lack of proper implementation of the budget.
The leadership of the National Assembly promptly reacted to the zeal by which the President presented the budget by expressing readiness to do a thorough and speedy job to ensure its quick passage, even as they pledged their unwavering support to the President’s vision to transform the nation’s economy and rid the country of corruption and impunity.
Unfortunately however, a few days after the presentation of the Buhari’s “Budget of Change,” the nation’s media came out with breaking news that the budget had disappeared from the National Assembly. Many Nigerians were sceptical about what was seen as a bizarre revelation until when the two arms of government, (Executive and legislature) began their dramatic accusations and counter accusations.
From the disappearance, the story changed to Budget padding, which later snowballed into a new term of “budget cabal;” a new lexicon in the nation political history.
While the executive accused the legislature of padding the budget, the legislature in turn accused the executive of same and the nation was left in the state of confusion and hopelessness.
The cross-firing led the President to describe the situation as embarrassing for his government even as he promised to deal decisively with all those involved in the so called budget padding.
A week after the President expressed shock over the controversies that trailed the presentation of the Appropriation Bill, a major shake-up was made in the ministry of budget and national planning, as well as in other relevant agencies.
And after all the dramatic displays around the politics of budget padding between the two arms of government, on March 23, this year, the National Assembly passed the budget with unprecedented reduction in the original (executive) estimate and sent it to the President for assent without details. The President of course, smelt rat and insisted that the full details must accompany the draft of the budget before he would assent to it.
This soon generated yet another full blown clash between both arms of government. As President insisted, the details were eventually forwarded to the President. Yet, the details generated its own kind of controversy as unmanageable discrepancies were found. They included outright removal of allocations to certain projects, and appropriation of multi-billion naira for National Assembly bogus constituency projects which, according to the presidency, had no provision in the original proposal, amongst other anomalies.
The Presidency advised the leadership of the National Assembly to go back to the drawing board and do the needful for the betterment of Nigerians.
While all the controversies and dramas were playing out, the citizens were left in confusion and disappointment as a result of severe hardships that befell them.
Power sector nearly collapsed even as fuel queues returned to many cities and towns across the country; electricity supply reduced to 0.000MW while herdsmen embarked on rampage. In the socio-economic confusion too, the Kano market went up in flames, prices of food stuffs skyrocketed even as other difficulties surfaced.
Life, as Thomas Hobbes would say, became nasty, brutish and short for many Nigerians. But the president consistently asked Nigerians to remain focused and have faith in his administration’s commitment to reposition the country to a better place.
With the President finally signing the budget into law on May 6, the expectations and momentum is back and the business of governance is expected to kick off after long period of stagnation, so that the works of change would probably begin in earnest next week Monday.
It is imperative to remind the President that, Nigerians are still anxiously waiting to see improvement in electricity supply across the country, revival of steel companies such as Ajaokuta steel mill and many more.
Indeed, Nigerians are expecting to see the availability of easy access to loans from banks for the establishment of small scale businesses across the country. Nigerians are expecting to see the return of contractors on sites in most of the abandoned federal government projects across the country. Such contracts include Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road project which was awarded 10 years ago, and had remained uncompleted for all these while. There is also the second Niger bridge that has become a recurrent campaign trademark in every general election, amongst others.
Nigerians want to see massive recruitment of unemployed youths. And vulnerable and extremely poor country men and women are anxiously waiting to hear the first alert of the monthly stipend promised by this administration. And finally, Nigerians want to see the agents of Buhari change roll up there trousers and swing into action of revamping the nation’s infrastructure.
So God help them!