Govt will be Grounded if 2017 Budget is Not Passed, Ozekhome Warns N’Assembly, Presidency


Paul Obi in Abuja
Human Rights Lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) thursday warned the National Assembly and the presidency of a constitutional crisis and imminent grounding of the government should federal lawmakers fail to pass the 2017 Appropriation Act.

According to him, the delay in the passage of the 2017 budget would eventually lead to complete government shutdown if nothing is done to avert the impending crisis.

He said: “Under section 82 of the 1999 Constitution, a lazy government may use, for the first six months before passage of a budget, a sum not exceeding the amount  used for the same six months period in the previous budget for  the preceding year.

“This means that after six months, and there is no budget, the government will be grounded if no new budget has been passed.

“Passing a budget is no rocket science or nuclear physics. It is one simple irreducible minimum of governance-to project ahead, expected income and envisaged expenditure.”
Ozekhome argued that “it’s a an embarrassing shame that our government, both executive and legislature, cannot synergise and pass a simple budget, a mere annual ritual, six months into a new budgetary year.

“Past governments of Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan were also extremely lousy and culpable in this disgraceful governance impunity.

“But the President Muhammadu Buhari  government has raised this bar of impunity as even its own budgets have either been missing, grossly padded, or outright corrupted with opaqueness and lack of sincerity as regards priorities in this era of debilitating recession, when Nigerians are literally feeding from dust bins.

“Humongous, phony and funny allocations are mindlessly repeated yearly on mundane things as cutleries, motor tyres, C-Caution signs, wheel spanners, rent in Aso Villa (never knew there are landlords and tenants in government seat of power ), fleet of convoy vehicles among others.

“All these are put at billions of naira in the last two budgets, while the critical sectors of energy, roads, aviation,  power, education, housing, health, water, infrastructure, youth employment and capacity building, gender empowerment, among others are left to suffer.”
The senior advocate added: “The question is, with the rains already here, when will the allocations in the  expected budget be used for beleaguered Nigerians? Even during undemocratic and unrepresentative  military regimes, we used to have five-year Development Plans that were fully gazetted in our laws.

“Here we are today, unable to pass a simple annual budget for only one year! It’s incredible how our leaders have really brought this country down to her kneels and prostrate on her belly.

“I feel so embarrassed having to discuss this kindergarten, very pedestrian and extremely mundane issue about passing an annual budget, a matter that ought ordinarily to be taken for granted.

“When, where, how, why did we get things so wrong? I am genuinely  confused, worried and befuddled about the future of this otherwise great and prosperous nation.”