The Nigerian Senate has stepped down the presentation of the report of Senate Committee on Appropriations on the 2017 budget, causing budget woes less than 24 hours to the expiration of the 2016 budget on Friday, May 5.
Reports from the National Assembly reveals that the event which had been listed on the order paper has been stepped down by deputy senate president Ike Ekweremadu during plenary on Thursday, May 4.
Senate leader Ahmad Lawan had last Thursday said the report would be laid last Tuesday, May 2 passed on Wednesday May 3 and transmitted to the President today Thursday. However, Senator Ekweremadu said the stepping down of the report was to enable members of the Appropriations committee in both the Senate and House of Representatives complete the harmonization of their report.
With this development, the country would be without a budget till next week when the 2017 Appropriations act would have another chance at being passed.
The Senate does not sit on Fridays or at the weekend. The Chairman of the Senate committee on appropriations Danjuma Goje has been quoted saying on Monday, March 28 that the law backing the 2016 budget, 2016 Appropriations Act, provides that the budget shall run for 12 months. “As far as the Bill that was signed into law by Mr. President is concerned, there will be no mop up on 31st March 2017 since the validity period for the 2016 budget ends midnight May 5th, 2017, ” said Goje.
A media outfit, Daily Sun had earlier raised the alarm, on Monday, May 1, about what the delay in the passing of the budget could mean for the country. It wrote: “A major constitutional crisis is looming over the 2017 budget, if the National Assembly fails to pass it on or before Friday.
“The 2016 budget, which has its lifespan, specifically the capital expenditure, will expire Friday, May 5, thereby, placing huge encumbrances to government spending.” It’s an indication that the development is unprecedented as the Federal government has “never experienced a shutdown since the beginning of the Fourth Republic as it has always wriggled out of budget crisis before the constitutionally approved period”.
The budget was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari five months ago in December 2016 but has been delayed at the National Assembly.
What will Nigeria do now? Daily Sun reports that President Buhari will now have to rely on a section of the constitution that has never been used before. Section 82 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, provides that the federal government can draw from funds in the Consolidated Revenue if the budget is not ready in time. The section reads: “If the Appropriation Bill in respect of any financial year has not been passed into law by the beginning of the financial year, the president may authorise the withdrawal of moneys in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation for the purpose of meeting expenditure necessary to carry on the services of the Government of the Federation for a period not exceeding six months or until the coming into operation of the Appropriate Act, whichever is the earlier. “Provided the withdrawal in respect of any such period shall not exceed the amount authorised to be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation under the provisions of the Appropriation Act passed by the National Assembly for the corresponding period in the immediately preceding financial year, being an amount proportionate to the total amount so authorised for the immediately preceding financial year.”
Despite that the drafters of the constitution have prepared for such eventuality as is being currently witnessed with 2017 budget, there is no doubt that for the first time in recent history, Nigeria is in a serious budget woes.