By ‘Tunde Babalola
There are indications that activities of the Federal Government may have run into a shut-down as the impasse over the 2016 budget lingers and given the expiration of the 2015 budget circle by mid-night Thursday March 31st.
This is not ‘April Fool’ as some may think because today is the usual fool’s day, Frontiersnews investigations Thursday night showed that President Muhammadu Buhari is not in a hurry to sign the 2016 budget which was passed by the National Assembly on March 23 after two earlier postponements of deadlines on the grounds that it was undertaking ‘data cleansing’ of the bill submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari on December 22, 2015.
Although, the number one information manager of the country – the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, denied knowledge of any disagreement between the executive and the legislature over the president’s assent to the budget during Mohammed’s visit to the management of Leadership newspapers on Thursday, the president on the same day in far away USA promised to scrutinize the budget before signing while exchaniging views Mr. Kerry, US secretary of state.
Nigerians with discerning mind also remembered that Mohammed had earlier denied “Budget Padding” repoets before the President made an open confession of it.
Other credible reports say the President has refused to assent to the bill because what was transmitted to him were highlights and not the details, insisting that he would only sign after studying the entire document as passed by the lawmakers.
However, the National Assembly on Wednesday through Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Mr. Abdulmumuni Jibrin, countered that there was nothing wrong for the President to sign budget before full details are transmitted, noting that the full bill would be sent within two weeks.
Incidentally, on the day Jubrin was making the position of the National Assembly known to newsmen, President Buhari embarked on a foreign trip to the United States of America to attend a nuclear summit.
But as this ‘dilly-dally’ continues, fears are rife that activities of the federal government may grind to a halt since the 2015 budget circle which was extended to March 31 expires 12 midnight.
On the basis of this, a vacuum for public sector funding would have been created beginning April 1st till whenever the budget imbroglio between the Executive and Legislature is resolved and a new fiscal year is commenced to provide legal backing for any spending post March 31.
Every government expenditure is constitutionally required to be backed by an Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President or vetoed into law by two-thirds of members of the legislature in the case where assent is withheld.
It would be recalled that the National Assembly had extended the life of the 2015 budget to March this year following the late presentation of the 2016 appropriation proposals by the President. This was done to allow government business continue to function unimpeded since the original life span of the 2015 Appropriation Act ended in December.
But the 2016 appropriation bill has been enmeshed in one controversy or the other with multiple reports of padding of figures, misplacement of overheads and unjustifiable allocation of funds in non-priority sectors by officials of the Budget Office as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Similarly, it was of public knowledge that the said reports had greatly embarrassed the President who had few weeks ago, sacked some officials of the Budget Office of the Federation after vowing to punish those responsible for the show of shame the budget had become.
It would be recalled also that the budget was said to have gone ‘missing’ in the Senate at a time but the issue was resolved following claims that the Special Adviser to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang had swapped the bill presented by Buhari with another copy ostensibly on instruction from the presidency.
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