Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The National Assembly will receive the 2018 budget in October, the federal government restated Thursday.
Reiterating its commitment to the October timeline while briefing State House correspondents during a ministerial retreat at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja on the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and 2018 budget preparation process, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said the retreat focused on the government’s effort to align the growth plan with the 2018 budget.
With the theme “Building Synergy for Effective ERGP Implementation”, the retreat, according to Udoma, provided his team with the opportunity to brief the cabinet on the link between the ERGP and 2018 budget.
He also said the retreat provided the platform for the review of the plan’s implementation thus far, adding that the government was moving within the set goals.
The minister noted that in line with the agreement reached between the government and the National Assembly, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday will be submitted to the federal parliament in September, while the budget will follow a month after.
“It was basically about the ERGP and preparations for the 2018 budget and linking the plan with the budget, and we will be briefing cabinet members about the linkages between the plan and the budget.
“Basically, we have to keep on reviewing at every stage. So this was a review on where we are, what needs to be done and what steps we need to take in areas that we need to fast track. This was the purpose of the meeting.
“We are moving ahead in terms of the modalities that have been defined. This is not the time to actually say what stage we are and so on. We will be giving briefings on that.
“The National Assembly is on break, so nearing the time they will resume in September, the MTEF will be sent.
“But our goal is to follow the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which stipulates the timelines and we are trying to keep strictly to those timelines.
“So the budget will get to the National Assembly by October. That was our commitment. We will go all out to make that happen.
“We made a commitment that we will do that on our part and we intend to deliver on that commitment. This is a government that delivers on its promises,” Udoma stated.
In his remarks during the retreat, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said the federal government would no longer accept excuses that progress was not achievable in the country.
Osinbajo, who was reacting to the address by the guest speaker at the retreat, Dr. Idris Jala, a former top official of the Malaysian government, however, acknowledged that he was himself challenged by Jala’s speech.
The acting president said the excuses often given that some programmes would not work in Nigeria because of the “Nigerian factor”, or an apparent admittance of failure, would no longer be tolerated.
According to him, the onus lies on government officials to reject failure and imbibe the culture of discipline, observing that success and failure are two different entities, one of which individuals are duty bound to choose, pointing out that in the case of Nigeria, the only option was success.
“After listening to Dr. Idris Jala, all I can say is, as the opposition leader in Malaysia said, ‘This is what I have been saying for the past 50 years.’
“But seriously he is so right, the challenge is this: the discipline to be unreasonable on our targets and objectives; the discipline of attending the labs diligently and accepting to be locked in a room for as long as it takes to iron out what it is that needs to be done.
“I like the point also that Dr. Jala made that the excuse that it won’t work here because of the Nigerian factor, or some say exceptionalism, or the acceptance of failure before you even start, is certainly not tenable anymore.
“We simply have to accept that there is nothing Nigerian about failure, because as we know in our personal lives, failure and success are commodities on offer to everyone all over the world and every individual and every country makes a choice of which to buy and I will say on our behalf that we will choose success.
“Dr. Jala, I have heard motivational speeches, but this is one I think that challenges our whole legitimacy as persons entrusted with leadership. I think it goes beyond a motivational speech.
“I think it really challenges the core of our relevance as leaders and I am challenged and I know that many of us here are and I think that we will do what we need to do to make sure that we see through the labs that we have to identify specific areas where we will do these labs. We must see to it that this works,” he said.