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: â€œUnder 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 amountÂ used for the same six months period in the previous budget forÂ the preceding year.
â€œThis means that after six months, and there is no budget, the government will be grounded if no new budget has been passed.
â€œPassing 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.â€
Ozekhome argued that â€œitâ€™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.
â€œPast governments of Obasanjo, Yarâ€™Adua and Jonathan were also extremely lousy and culpable in this disgraceful governance impunity.
â€œBut the President Muhammadu BuhariÂ 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.
â€œHumongous, 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.
â€œAll these are put at billions of naira in the last two budgets, while the critical sectors of energy, roads, aviation,Â power, education, housing, health, water, infrastructure, youth employment and capacity building, gender empowerment, among others are left to suffer.â€
The senior advocate added: â€œThe question is, with the rains already here, when will the allocations in theÂ expected budget be used for beleaguered Nigerians? Even during undemocratic and unrepresentativeÂ military regimes, we used to have five-year Development Plans that were fully gazetted in our laws.
â€œHere we are today, unable to pass a simple annual budget for only one year! Itâ€™s incredible how our leaders have really brought this country down to her kneels and prostrate on her belly.
â€œI 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.
â€œWhen, where, how, why did we get things so wrong? I am genuinelyÂ confused, worried and befuddled about the future of this otherwise great and prosperous nation.â€