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Monday, 04 December 2023 08:03

[OPINION] Where is the 2024 Budget? - Kalu Aja

The budget is an Appropriation bill; the bill’s sponsor presents it to the Legislative Assembly for consideration and debate and, if passed, becomes an Act.

The actual budget is NOT supposed to be in the boxes; it is transmitted to the National Assembly like all bills are also delivered to the National Assembly. 

Using budget boxes in Nigeria is simply copying the practice of finance ministers in a Parliamentary system carrying red boxes to the Parliament.

The figure shows Mr. Sunak, former Treasury chief of the United Kingdom, with his red box containing the budget he presents to the UK House of Parliament. 

Figure 1:  Rishi Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer 

A box of papers or the personal presentation of a budget by the President is a waste of presidential time. Have you seen Biden carry documents to Congress himself?

Similarly, did the President physically transmit supplementary or other bills to the NASS himself? All that is required is for the budget to be sent to Congress for consideration. 

The 2024 budget was presented in person by the President on November 29th; in his budget speech, the President commended the National Assembly for their “swift consideration and passage of the 2023 Supplementary Appropriation Bills.” However, I have yet to be able to get a copy of the budget the President presented. 

Being a proposed bill that details how my tax revenues will be spent, I googled to get a copy of the 2024 budget line-by-line appropriations. I looked at the National Assembly website and found a so-called “bill tracker.” I searched for the 2024 budget but could not find any. The website’s NASS X (Twitter) feed confirms the President submitted a budget amidst “fanfare and admiration.” But still, no actual budget link is offered. 

Side note: the NASS website needs to be updated as it has NOTHING on the 10th Assembly apart from pictures of leaders of the Assembly, but I digress.  

The next place I looked for details on the 2024 budget was the website of the Federal Budget Office; this is the ministry that prepares the budget; again, no copy of the 2024 line-by-line appropriation bill.

The Federal Budget Office website contains the President’s speech, the PowerPoint presentation by the Hon. Minister of Budget and Planning, and the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, there is no line-by-line breakdown. 

To put this mildly, the largest economy in Africa does not have a line-by-line federal budget. It is not an oversight or error; it is also not on a flash drive issue; A flash means it is digital; if it is digital, it should be uploaded. The line-by-line breakdown of the 2024 budget is simply not ready.

 

The Nigerian economy needs the clarity and direction a federal budget presents. A budget apart from figures shows investors the core areas of focus of the government and aids long-term planning. 

There is another explanation for the absence of the line-by-line breakout of the 2024 budget: the Executive has chosen not to release the line-by-line budget breakdown, to shield it from public scrutiny.

This default to opaqueness will be an unfortunate retrogressive step in public accountability.

So let us hope that a flash drive was presented but the officer in charge of uploading the digital budget is busy in Dubai or on a holiday and we will get the details on Monday.

 
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