Nigeria’s Budget and fundamental incompatibility By Carl Umegboro

THE 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigbria, as amended, imposed on the people by military juntas preceding the ongoing democracy made general election a quadrennial event similar to that of the United States of America, and specifically pegs inauguration of governments on May 29 every four years too. Incidentally, it prearranged appropriation bill or budget after the civil year calendar; reckoned from January 1 to December 31 according to Gregorian calendar. By this conflicting arrangement, the federal and state governments present budgets to their respective legislative bodies at the end of every year for passage.
By synchronizing the civil year pattern rather than the nation’s or respective democratic calendar, most incoming administrations may continuously encounter crisis in the first year in office with usual laments of empty-treasury against outgoing administrations as witnessed over times, on account of continuum in government. This notion imperatively accounts for the strict reliance on independent financial-year calendar by financial and other corporate bodies for operations distinctive from civil year merely observed for record purposes.
Emphatically, any government that is scheduled to round off its tenure in May 29 has no business with appropriation bill for the residual periods of the year. A well-structured government should logically, correspondingly run its calendar alongside year’s budget from inauguration date and not necessarily adopting a civil calendar except if fittingly inaugurated in January. Apparently, this is a mismatch which over the years has frustrated new governments from starting strong after inauguration. The endless wailings by newly-inaugurated governments over empty-treasuries and consequently, patching up till the passage of another year’s budget, patriotically calls for sober reflection.
At the moment, the only government expediently albeit uncalculatingly designed to possibly escape the constitutional abnormally is the government of Anambra state on account that by its present democratic template, perhaps providentially, a new administration or democratic calendar begins in February. Thus, a new governor controls the budget from day one unlike many others alongside the federal government where outgoing incumbents get a full year appropriation bill despite few months left to sign out. Then, where the incumbent too ran but lost out, the rest will be history. The weird blow has always produced unchanged consequence; squandermania. Possibly, this accounted for President Muhammadu Buhari’s dirge on assumption of office over empty-treasury and couldn’t appoint ministers till end of that year. Ditto on some state governors. The arrangement unknowingly, buoy up re-contesting and outgoing governments operate profligately, diverting and writing-off allocations earmarked for new administration’s capital votes munificently than Father Christmas.
The remedy is simple. Appropriation bill should synchronically run as financial year based on respective inauguration dates as a substitute to civil year calendar. With the variation, no elected leader could trespass to allocation earmarked for incoming administration, be it at state or federal level. As long as May 29 remains the nation’s democratic calendar whilst appropriation bill runs in a civil year, it will continuously lead to catastrophe. The gaffe has depressingly affected both incoming governments from opposition and ruling parties but usually covered-up under ‘party-affairs’ especially where outgoing government contributed to the election victory of the incoming one. Incidentally, the helpless society at large suffers it in the long run.
Undeniably, any scenario where an administration secures a year’s appropriation bill but plunders it in its remaining five months, incidentally the fifth month of the whole year will certainly not augur well but put the incoming government in a tight corner in the remaining months except, to bank on supplementary budgets, that’s if the treasury is not in red. The political system should provide a template with realistic protective mechanism to public funds. To conclude, it is absurd and incompatible for a government to run a civil year against the democratic calendar. The political system had better adopt protective strategies than remedial approaches which impede developments and service delivery. As the legal regime is characterized by sundry lacunas and inconsistencies that make prosecution of corruption cases cumbersome, preventive mechanisms remain the pragmatic options in checkmating the shortfalls.
Umegboro, a public affairs analyst writes from Lagos, and reachable through umegborocarl@gmail.com or 07057101974 (SMS only)

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