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REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, AT THE OPENING OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BUDGET HEARING ORGANISED JOINTLY BY THE COMMITTEES ON APPROPRIATIONS OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AT THE SENATE CONFERENCE ROOM 002, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA, WEDNESDAY, 27TH MARCH, 2019.

by / Wednesday, 27 March 2019 / Published in Blog, Latest posts

REMARKS BY THE SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, AT THE OPENING OF THE 2019 NATIONAL BUDGET HEARING ORGANISED JOINTLY BY THE COMMITTEES ON APPROPRIATIONS OF THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AT THE SENATE CONFERENCE ROOM 002, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY COMPLEX, ABUJA, WEDNESDAY, 27TH MARCH, 2019.
 
PROTOCOLS:
 
It is my pleasure to address you at the opening of this 2019 National Budget Hearing  jointly organized by the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Permit me to welcome all stakeholders to this important event.
 
2.  We are all aware of the importance of a well-formulated Budget to effective service delivery by Government.  Indeed, the Budget represents the main bond between the Government and the people. Today’s exercise forms a very important segment in the making of the Appropriation Act by the National Assembly. This interactive session is in line with the Constitutional responsibilities and Legislative Agenda of the National Assembly which is aimed at making the budget process more inclusive and transparent.
 
3.  The public and indeed stakeholders gathered here, must never feel that the budget does not reflect their values, or that the process is too cumbersome for them to understand, or that they cannot make any difference in the process. This is why Parliament, in its wisdom, created this opportunity for a public and stakeholder dialogue on the budget. Therefore, we must not miss this opportunity to critically appraise the document that is before us and proffer useful tools that will help reshape the budget into a document that captures national values and priorities. This is the task before all of us today and believe me we can make a difference if we are determined to re-write the wrongs of the past.
 
4.  By our constitutional design, the president’s role in drafting the budget estimates cannot be assailed but the “power of the purse” is the function of the Legislature. That includes the fact that expenditure can only be made in consequence of express legislative authorization and the authority to create and collect taxes, borrow or raise money through loans when the need arises.
 

Over the years, the main problem with our budget as submitted by the Executive is that it does not reflect National values and priorities. The budget, more often than not, only reflects the values and priorities  of those who help the president in drafting it. The integrity of the project selection process has always being the bane of our national budgets.  I regret to say that until we eliminate these problems, we will always have non implementable national budgets which cannot be relied upon by policymakers in establishing spending priorities.

 

It is very painful that for some years now, our budget process has been an exercise in either or a combination of audacious optimism and/or hypocrisy involving key actors putting together a budget that they fully know will at best be implemented  up to 45% which is by all standards below average. How many of us will be proud of a child who consistently performs bellow average in his exams?  How many of us here are proud of our below average budget performance all these years? Our below average budget performance is the main reason why Nigeria has remained a major promise as our national potentials cannot be released without effective budget planning and execution.

 

The budget is the most important law that is passed yearly, consequently, no parliament any where in the world rushes it. Let me re-emphasize that this Parliament can never be a rubber stamp and neither are we prepared to surrender our constitutionally assigned rights of checks on the Executive. It is unfortunate, however, that many commentators always  ignorantly accuse the National Assembly of delaying the Appropriations Bill as if we are meant to urgently rubber stamp whatever budget estimates that is submitted to us by the Executive. If we fail to scrutinize the budget proposals, it will not only amount to abdication of our constitutional responsibilities as legislators but a betrayal of the mandate of our constituents.

 
8. Let me also add that it is very unfair for the Executive to consistently and repeatedly blame the National Assembly of delaying passage of the budget while failing to address the issue of late budget submission on its part. The Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007, provides that the Appropriations Bill be submitted not later than September of the preceding year which will give the Parliament ample time to process the document and pass it in good time. Unfortunately, the 2019 Appropriations Bill was submitted on December 19, 2018, just 12 days to the end of the year and the earliest time an Appropriation Bill has ever been presented to the National Assembly in this dispensation was on November 7, 2017.
 
9. Similarly,  we took the bold step of addressing this challenge by passing a Constitutional amendment Bill which sought to compel the Executive to submit the Budget proposals  to the National Assembly not later than 90 days to the end of the fiscal year and also to limit expenditure that can be incurred in the absence of the  Appropriations Act from six (6) months to three (3) months.
 
10. Furthermore,  in yet another effort to improve institutional capacity of the Parliament to process and pass budget expeditiously, the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) establishment Bill was passed into law. It was closely modeled after the American Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Unfortunately, I regret to inform this gathering that these laudable efforts and initiatives were thwarted when the President withheld his assent to these two important Bills. Consequently , efforts to enact a Budget Process Bill which will spell out  timelines for every activity concerning the budget is stalled because it would be ineffective to enact a law that will run contrary to Section 81(1) of the Constitution which allows the President to submit the Budget estimates, “AT ANYTIME” before the end of the financial year.
 
11. Since this is the last Budget in the life of the 8th National Assembly and time is not on our side, we will like to make haste slowly. Heads of MDAs can help in this noble effort by making appearances, in good time, before their relevant committees  to defend their estimates as some have started doing. What happened last year when some heads of MDAs refused to appear before their relevant committees to defend their estimates until a presidential directive compelled them to, must never repeat itself this year. We hope to pass the Appropriations Bill as soon as we reconvene from suspension of plenary.
 
12. I would not conclude until I have urged the Executive Arm to be prepared to muster the will to honestly and diligently implement this year’s Budget when passed into law and improve on the abysmally poor budget performance rate that has been the hallmark of our national budgets for many unbroken years.
 
13. In closing , Permit me to charge the joint Committee to work assiduously to ensure that they deliver a working document that we will all be proud of.  I wish us all, very smooth and result-oriented deliberations.
 
14. Thank you all. God bless you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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