For the first time in recent times, the House of Representatives has taken steps towards doing the right thing. The delay in its passage of the 2009 budget despite the Senate’s decision to pass the same budget last December is quite justified.
Over the years, there have been a poor implementation of the budget and this has contributed to the growing level of poverty in the country. The poor or proper implementation of the budget affects the citizens either negatively or otherwise. Nigerian leaders of government are responsible for this shoddy implementation of the budget. They embezzle a large chunk of the monies that were meant for the development of the country. This act of corruption is exactly what the House of Representatives is trying to reduce with its insistence on properly scrutinizing the 2009 budget before its passage. It is a shame that the upper legislative chamber passed the 2009 budget last December without thoroughly looking at it. Nigeria cannot afford to continue with these inconsistencies in the implementation of the budget if she must move forward. The lack of accountability among the managers of the nation’s economy is taking a heavy toll on the progress of the country and it is a good development that the lower chamber has taken it upon itself to ensure that budget implementation process is improved.
No doubt, many public office holders and top civil servants are against the House of Representatives move to avoid the mistakes of the past budgets. This is because the measures taken by the lower chamber would reduce their chances of further looting the treasury but enough is enough!
Towards the close of last year, it was reported that some ministries awarded contracts for the purchase of certain items all in a bid to retain the unspent funds which the Federal Government directed must be returned. This confirms the notion that corruption has become the institutionalized culture of public life in Nigeria.
According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole, “25 to 30 per cent of the funds allocated for roads construction was actually allocated for roads that were already completed. This is to the tune of about N40 billion.” Indeed, the Nigerian situation is embarassing.
There have been shocking revelations on how several billions of Naira were misappropriated by public office holders and some civil servants. One of such is the case of unremitted N1.5 trillion generated by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) during the last regime. The present House of Representatives must however be commended at least for discovering these corrupt acts. Though, it is not enough to make these revelations but it is important that the misappropriated funds be recovered from the thieves and thereafter followed by a prosecution.
All the funds committed to the power sector did not yield any result because it was embezzled. In the same vein, the Federation Account was reported to have lost about N3 trillion in the last five years. This revelation was made by no less a person than the Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Dimeji Bankole.
I am glad that the recent disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Presidency is over the improvement on the budget implementation process. Truly, abandoning the implementation of unexecuted projects in 2008 would make nonsense of the 2009 budget process. The House’s insistence that the 2008 capital vote which were not used should be rolled over to the 2009 budget makes a whole lot of sense.
The effect of the poor implementation of last year’s budget is bad enough hence the 2009 budget cannot be passed in a haste with inconsistencies. Problems that may mitigate against its implementation must therefore be avoided. And as the House of Representatives suspend plenary session to conclude work on the 2009 appropriation Bill, there is no doubt that the outcome would lead to about 50 per cent implementation of the budget as against 20 per cent in 2008. The lower chamber has shown that a lot can be achieved by the legislators if only members of the National Assembly would effectively carry out their oversight function.