Osinbajo: 2016 Budget Will be Operational in Few Days

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  • Udoma placed on standby to receive clean budget copy from National Assembly monday
  • Ezekwesili slams president for rehashing 1984 ‘command and control economics’

IIyobosa Uwugiaren, Tobi Soniyi , Chineme Okafor and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said the 2016 budget would become operational in the next few days, an indication that the grey areas in the budget estimates may have been resolved and President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to assent to the appropriation bill soon.

Osinbajo, who disclosed this yesterday at The Platform, a non-denominational conference, sponsored by the Covenant Christian Centre in Abuja, said once the budget was assented to by Buhari, government would immediately go to work, completing power projects that were left uncompleted by the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

THISDAY also learnt from a presidential aide that Buhari would sign the 2016 Appropriation Bill into law this week as the National Assembly is expected to conclude work on the controversial document today. The source said Buhari would give assent to the budget latest Wednesday.

Buhari, last Tuesday night held a closed-door meeting with the leadership of the National Assembly to find a final solution to the 2016 budget impasse. Consequent upon this meeting, a 20-man committee, comprising 10 members from the executive and 10 from the National Assembly, was formed to review the entire budget.

THISDAY gathered yesterday that members of the joint committee from the National Assembly, headed by the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Yusuf Lasun, are expected to finish work on the budget today. The committee would then give room to members of the committee from the executive, headed by the Minister of National Planning/Budget, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, to take a second look at it before presenting the document to Buhari for assent.

“From the report we received today (Saturday), it is clear that members of the National Assembly have almost done with the budget. In fact, 80 per cent of what the president wants corrected have been done. And we have been told the clean copy will be ready tomorrow (Sunday).

“As a result, the president has asked us to be on standby, in case the National Assembly members finish working on the budget, so that we can take a second look at it before presenting it to the President for signature. I can tell you the President is in a hurry to resolve this issue once and for all,” the presidential aide told THISDAY.

Asked why it is taking a long time to resolve the budget impasse, the presidential aide said the distortion of the budget by Senator Danjuma Goje and Hon. Jubril Abdurahaman, Senate Committee Chairman on Appropriation and his counterpart in the House respectively, was huge.
According to the source: “Even Senate President Bukola Saraki and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were embarrassed by the action of Senator Danjuma Goje and his counterpart in the House, Hon. Jubril Abdulrahamn.

“Two of them virtually re-wrote the entire budget, and smuggled in many constituency projects that were not in the original bill, for their personal interests. That is why both of them – the appropriation committee chairmen, were forced to issue a joint press statement last week to suggest the way forward.

“Many Nigerians thought it was because of the Lagos-Calabar railway project that the President refused to assent to the budget. No, it went beyond that. In an attempt to pad the budget, they also did a wrong calculation; they overshot the total budget – what they designed – with N50 billion.”
The presidential aide, however, added that President Buhari had moved beyond the current controversy surrounding the budget, and is in a hurry to resolve the issue finally.

According to him, “the President thought by now we would have gone far in the implementation of the 2016 budget in the first quarters because some of the projects are time-bound. And it is also affecting the preparation for 2017 budget. By our calculation, we are expected to present the 2017 budget bill to the National Assembly first week of September.’’

Buhari, who received the 2016 budget passed by the National Assembly few weeks ago, declined to give assent to it, claiming it was distorted by the National Assembly. He later returned the document to the Assembly, saying some grey areas needed to be reviewed.

The President had earlier on Tuesday met separately with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dogara, before an enlarged meeting involving the President of the Senate and other principal officers followed.

After the meeting, which was held at the Presidential Villa, in Abuja, Senate President Saraki and Minister Udo Udoma, spoke briefly with State House correspondents saying the executive and legislative arms of government had now found a way of resolving all the grey areas in the budget.

Osinbajo, who spoke on the theme: ‘What do we have in our hands, tapping into dead capital’, criticised Nigerians, most of whom now have mixed feelings about the ‘Change Agenda’ of the federal government, saying they were unnecessarily impatient with an administration that was working behind the scene to correct the ills that had been inflicted on them over the years.

“People now wonder where is the ‘Change’ where is the change that formed the crux of our electioneering campaigns during the elections, but they fail to understand that patience is also a virtue that they must have as a people,” the vice president said.

“We have a leadership, a leader that is ready to challenge the rotten system, one that has said he is ready to kill corruption rather let corruption kill us.”
“We believe that though it may not be easy, though the early signs may be confusing and sometimes discouraging, there has never been a better opportunity than now to turn the country in the direction of success,” he added.

Osinbajo said now that it had been established that oil resources could no longer guarantee the sustenance of the economy, owing to fall in its price at the international market, the federal government would spearhead the diversification process where most states were found wanting.
According to him, such diversification will begin from key sectors of agriculture, technology and innovation as well as entertainment.

He explained the benefits inherent in the agricultural sector, noting that Nigeria required an average of 7 million metric tonnes of rice to feed its population, annually but that foreign exchange that went into rice importation was between N4billion to N5billion each year.
He said such statistics forced government to invest about N7billion in Kebbi State rice plantations, which he said currently produced one million metric tonnes of rice at an estimated value of N63 billion.

On power infrastructure, Osinbajo noted that it was somehow inconsistent for power tariff to increase when power services were poor but that customers must imbibe the atitude of regular payment of bills in order for the system not to collapse entirely.

Meanwhile, the former Vice President, Africa Region of the World Bank, Dr. Oby Ezekwezili, has lampooned Buhari for applying the same economic philosophy of command and control he used when he was military head of state in the 1980s.

Ezekwesili said at The Platform that the same policy adopted by Buhari then saw the country witness the worst era of economic development, adding that it failed woefully.

The former minister explained in her presentation that the same 1984 economic policy, which Buhari adopted, was what he had again chosen to use to govern Nigeria, saying that it was still failing now.
According to her, the philosophy failed to work in 1984 and resulted to high inflationary rates, dip in economic growth as well as jobs losses.

She added that the same policy could not possibly work in the current global economic phase which is much more integrated than it was then.

She stated that Nigeria’s economic growth rate was at 5 per cent and 7 per cent until 2014 when the oil price declined and Nigeria appeared to have been unprepared for the fifth time for an oil price shock.
“How terrible can that be? In the 70s we suffered the price shock, we went down, in the 80s, in the 90s, in the early 2000 we managed to buck the trend because in that era, a mechanism called the Excess Crude Oil Account became entrenched, even though unconstitutional, but it made common sense.”

The former minister of education under former President Olusegun Obasanjo added: “If the writers of our constitution were hostile to the culture of savings, common sense should know that we would say no to that. How can the constitution of a country find it offensive to save?

“When the oil price shock started in 2014 with oil price getting to the lowest level in seven years and losing its value as much as 60 per cent from the previous decade, it was clear that Nigeria needed an adjustment consistent to the approach and method of economic development that it had become used to, except that something fundamental happened.”

She noted that the fundamental thing that happened was that a new president was elected in 2015 but who has an implicit connection to the idea of collectivism.
“Our president has an implicit connection to the idea of collectivism, he believes that state command and control is an effective way of ensuring discipline, not that departs from the premise that economic principles have observed that the discipline of the market place is much more effective in the allocation of scarce resources for production and ultimately for distribution.

“We found ourselves in a command and control system here again, the foreign exchange market has diverged and distorted the incentives system for allocation of resources by citizens, by businesses.
“If the economic philosophy is command and control, it must be only defended on the basis of empirical and analytical evidence of how well it has worked, how well it worked in the past and therefore, how well we expect it would work now,” she stated.

She further said: “Well, during the first time of our president as Head of States in this country, the command and control approach was the economic principle that he led, I don’t think that many people have been able to tell Mr. President that during that era, inflation spiked, during that era, jobs were lost, during that era, the economic growth level dipped, that era wasn’t the best of eras in economic progress.”

“What did not work in 1984 cannot possibly be a solution in a global economy that is ever much more integrated,” she explained.​