â€¢ Says Appropriation Bill ready for passage by Nâ€™Assembly
By James Emejo in Abuja
As the lifespan of the 2016 budget elapsed last Friday raising concerns of possible government shutdown, a member of the House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Gafar Amere Akintayo (Osun,Â APC),Â has said the late passage of the 2017 budget is unlikely to result in the shutdown of government or collapse of the economy.
He further argued that the countryâ€™s recent slip into recession had nothing to do with the delayed passage of the 2016 Appropriation Bill.
A human rights lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), last week, warned of a constitutional crisis and imminent grounding of government should the lawmakers fail to pass the 2017 Appropriation Act.
Experts also believe that the delayed passage of the 2016 budget was largely responsible for the countryâ€™s slip into recession last year.Â
But the lawmaker saidÂ it was erroneous to blame the recession on the May 6 passage of last yearâ€™s budget because there is an existing constitutional provision authorising government agencies to spend an amount not more than the estimate of their previous yearâ€™s budget whenever thereâ€™s delay in passage of the appropriation bill.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, he further pointed out that though a delayed passage of the annual budget could prevent new projects from being financed, â€œthe non-passage of the budget cannot actually lead to recession.â€
Akintayo,Â argued that â€œblaming the issue of recession on the delay of budget is a wrong perception because by law and by our constitution, even if the budget is not passed,Â thereâ€™s an enactment where the government can still spend not more than the estimate provided in the previous budget.â€
However, such provision of law to spend before the budget is passed mainly applies to recurrent items and not the capital component.
He said it was also part of the reasons why the lifespan of the budget was recently lengthened to to a full year in order to accommodate emerging scenario.
According to him,Â the countryâ€™s slide into recession was basically caused by unavailability of funds largely occasioned by drastic fall in oil price as well as crude oil production cuts following the restiveness in the Niger Delta- and not lateÂ passage of the budget.
Nevertheless, he said the budget was currently ready to be passed by the National Assembly this week.
Asked if the non passage of the budget would not portray the country in bad light in the international community, Akintayo said: â€œLegally,Â it may affect the countryâ€™s views abroad as running without a budget could be worrisome given the countryâ€™s commitments with multilateral organisations.
â€œBut, constitutionally,Â there wonâ€™t be any problem because the instrument legalising the way of spending of government without a budget is in place.â€