Home Column Budget feud: good for democracy

Budget feud: good for democracy

by Business News Report

Since the return to democracy, the PDP has been having its way because it has always had the majority members in the National Assembly. Previous experience has shown that the only perennial executive/legislative feud was over the benchmark price of crude oil that had produced no tangible results because the central challenge lay more on ensuring that projected mbpd is realised. Moreover, the sums saved in the Excess Crude Account are available for use either during the year or at a later date.

But the Fiscal Responsibility Act provides for the prudent management of the nation’s resources, ensuring long-term macro-economic stability of the national economy, securing greater accountability and transparency in fiscal operations within a medium term fiscal policy framework, and the establishment of the Fiscal Responsibility Commission to ensure the promotion and enforcement of the nation’s economic objectives and for related matters.

 The National Assembly in considering the nation’s annual budget in the past did not act according to the letters of the Act.

The ruling party, PDP, has always had its way because of its overwhelming majority then in both Chambers of the National Assembly. This majority that makes it boast of being the largest party in Africa made the PDP-led Federal Government complacent and most of the time, refused to listen to the yearnings and aspirations of the people for whom budgets are made in order to deliver the dividends of democracy. But with the political drama playing out with defections from PDP to APC, political gladiators are trying to find teeth with which to bite and hard too if only to support their position.

The decision of APC legislators to test the wheel of democracy by attempting to stall the budget should be seen as democracy in action though it is not based on any fundamental political philosophy.

In the United States of America, Republicans and Democrats tear at each other based on political philosophy. While the Republicans believe in lean government spending and a lower deficit, the Democrats believe in increased spending on social welfare to assist the lower and middle rungs of the society. In order to ensure that public funds are properly aligned to the needs of the people, the parties negotiate. It is in budget matters that the legislature of any country openly directs the affairs of government through provisions for public spending.

Budgeting is about resource allocation. Since resources are scarce, whatever is available must be judiciously expended. For a very long time, Ministries, Department and Agencies of government have used the envelop type of budgeting to under-develop the country leading to all manner of impunity by public office holders. There have been cases of double entry for the same project with different sub-heads. The legislature has never been able to stop the practice by diligently scrutinising the budget.

This time around, some are asking the right questions. If the budget is riddled with errors, such error of facts and figures must be corrected before the budget is passed. It is time the legislative arm of government came out strong to put a stop to the current impunity going on in government quarters. Funds should be allocated to institutions based on performance. Any public institution that has become a burden to the nation should be denied access to public funding.

The greatest challenge to the nation today is not so much of insecurity but that Nigeria’s public institutions are not functioning properly. This is so because most have become willing tools in the hands of those who occupy the office of president or governor to suppress dissenting voices.

The police, the armed forces, ICPC, EFCC, INEC, the judiciary and other democratic structures should be freed from the whims and caprices of the executive. The National Assembly will be doing the nation a lot of service if these institutions are made to be independent and act at all times in the best interest of the nation and not of the president or any governor.

If these institutions are made to function and act according to the provisions of the laws of Nigeria, most of the problems facing the nation would be solved. The police and other law enforcement agencies are not able to function because they have come to see themselves as institutions set up to protect the president or governor not the ordinary Nigerian. That is why there are high profile killings that never get resolved. That is why the high and mighty can get away with anything; that is why the relations of the mighty never do any wrong. That is why the president or governors’ wives are above the law.

That is why the wife of a sitting president can lock up a town without anybody raising an eyebrow. That is why they can order the Inspector General of Police around even without the permission of their husbands.

That is why the president’s wife who was not elected by Nigerians can look at a sitting governor of a state and order him to shut up in a public gathering. President or governor’s wife just happens to be the wife of the president or governor. Their role should end in the sitting room or bedroom or at staying beside their husbands at ceremonies. It is not in their place who becomes what in a sane and decent country. There is no constitutional position for the first lady either at the federal or state level, yet such persons do things as if they are above the law without the law enforcement agencies calling them to order. The big question is: do first ladies have immunity?

The National Assembly should go beyond saying they will not pass the police budget by actually initiating a bill to make all relevant agencies of government truly independent. Let it be that the president or governor can only appoint such persons but cannot relieve them of the position as they wish.

No matter what anybody says about Lamido Sanusi Lamido, he is making a point that a Nigerian can sit in an office and call other arms of government to give account of their stewardship to Nigerians. Yes, he may be wrong in some of his assertions, but the message is clear. Nigeria’s democratic institutions must be made to function independently. This is the only way Nigeria can move forward. By making public institutions work without interference from those in authority, Nigerians will be assured of fair play, justice and equity which the constitution has guaranteed all.          


Related Posts