The Sun News

The budget rituals

In other nations the issue of budgeting is not as problematic and controversial as it has turned out to be in our nation. Budget is important no doubt and in serious societies it represents a near accurate representation of what the people should expect from their government in the coming year. It is not a ritualistic thing; it is dynamic because every calculation must represent the needs of the moment and the changing times. So the contents may vary but in most cases the process may be the same in the sense that there is a budget year respected by every government irrespective of their coloration or political persuasion. In those places there are times to present budgets.

In our own case everything is different and in most instances it is on the reverse. Budget processes, like I earlier observed, are simple and almost a routine but in our instance we are yet to agree on what a budget is let alone delineating the other things that should follow it including of course, an acceptable process. In this nation and at all levels, be it local government, state or federal, they hardly follow the budget and when at the end there appear to be huge failure, we are told these are no failures, that we ought to know that budget is a mere paper proposal which does not represent reality. Is this true?

Of course our Western trained and indoctrinated economists would say it is true. Then the question would be, do you draw estimates on a vacuum? If they do so with facts and figures, what accounts for the huge difference between work done and undone?

Why do we have to turn an appropriation into a law, if the process is devoid of sound rationalization and credible foundation? Shouldn’t it be made justiciable when our governments fail to implement a law which is what an appropriation bill becomes after rigorous debate and passage into law by the legislature? Every year we do budgets containing other sets of new projects. Nobody bothers to ask what was presented in the past, how much of it was realized fully, partially or not at all, and projects were not completed and funds not fully expended, what happens from there? We don’t care, all we hear are quarrels between the legislative and executive arms of government especially at the federal level (local and state legislatures are always victims of hijack) and before you say Jack Robinson, they muddle through the process and a budget is made.

Our budgetary process has become unnecessarily cantankerous and that is uncalled for. It is so because in our style we never get to understand anything before we dive into it. The worst is that all we do in public affairs must have a stamp of politics and business. We have this orientation that we must profit out of every engagement. This is the reason why the executive and the legislature are engaged in the criminal games of which of them would outdo the other in budget padding. Everything concerning our budget making has become cantankerous and unnecessarily controversial. It needs not be so but it has become because as in our character, we hardly sit down to digest anything and when we embark on our often mad pursuit, rationalization becomes the biggest casualty.

Budget implementation should be our concern. By now we ought to be very angry with the issue of 10 or 15 per cent budget implementation. It is a sure case of shortchanging the people. Before we zero in on the implementation assignment which I already said it is very important at this moment, that we must take another look at the manner budgets are formulated in this country. From experience most times the president, the governors, forget the local government chairmen, those ones are surrogates, they are not involved, they leave things to their ministers, commissioners and permanent secretaries to fashion out and in the absence of a blueprint, these officials go on a wild goose chase and the outcome is what we see, budget of huge capital outlay which in the end leave the country worse than before the budget was formulated. I don’t like foreign loans, history is a witness that it has never helped any developing nation with weak organization, forget what all these Western trained economists say.

Aburi conference: How it failed – Part 2.

In his broadcast to the joint meeting of the advisory committee of the Chiefs and Elders and the Consultative Assembly of Eastern Nigeria on May 27, 1967, Colonel Ojukwu said: “In Lagos, the permanent secretaries there studied the recommendations and, to their credit, brought out clearly and unmistakenly their meanings and implications.

Having seen these, however, they unfortunately went beyond their rights and duty as civil servants to advice against the implementation of the Aburi agreements. From there our difficulties started and have taken us to our present stalemate.”
Till today both sides (Gowon and Ojukwu till he died) interpreted what was agreed upon in Aburi in their own way. One of the problems at Aburi was that a portion of the meeting was not recorded. The military excused the civilians at a certain stage during the meeting and it was alleged that during this informal chat that Gowon made certain commitments to Lt. Col. Ojukwu especially on full regionalism.

Even till today judging by the decisions reached at the last National Conference, we are still arguing on confederation or federalism. As long as Nigeria remains one under federalism, the memo of Prince Akenzua which was a wakeup call on General Gowon and his efforts later will continue to be appreciated in no small measure. The nation remembers and the nation appreciates.

Concluded


Mr. Eric Teniola, a former director at the presidency, wrote from Lagos.

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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