James Emejo in Abuja
Chairman, House of Representatives North-east Caucus, Hon. Mohammed Monguno has carpeted the executive arm of government over the dismal implementation of the 2017 budget, which stood currently at only 10 per cent.
He said he does not believe there had been acute revenue constraints to the extent that the budget could not have achieved at least 50 per cent implementation.
Nevertheless, he urged lawmakers in both the upper and lower chambers to consider and approve the 2018 Appropriation Bill which was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National Assembly last week.
He said lack of implementation remained a major challenge in the country’s budgeting system, as the 2017 budget has currently achieved only 10 per cent implementation.
Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, he said the parliament should take the words of Buhari, who in his budget speech vowed that about 50 per cent of the 2017 budget will be implemented by December while the remaining 50 per cent will be rolled over to 2018.
Lawmakers had raised concern over the fate of the 2017 budget in the light of the new spending proposal by the president, fearing that the current budget could be abandoned by the executive, a development which could put them at loggerheads with their constituencies particularly as another election year draws near.
Capital releases, especially those for constituency interventions had not been forthcoming.
But, Monguno, who is also Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture and Production Services and a highly influential lawmaker within the north east caucus of the House said the fact that the current budget would be rolled over to next year should allay concerns of “premature death”.
Nevertheless, he said approving the 2018 budget by December when the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) is yet to be approved posed a major challenge for lawmakers, but he appealed to his colleagues to ensure all hands on deck in approving the budget by December.
He further tasked the executive arm of government to make conscious efforts at implementing the 2017 budget to the letter as this is the only way Nigerians could enjoy the dividends of democracy.
He said the zonal intervention projects must be considered and implemented as it is part of the budget as well as a means through which rural dwellers could feel the impact of government directly.
He said: “The non implementation of the zonal intervention budget cannot be divorced from the general non implementation of the budget because it’s still part and parcel of the budget.
“We are urging the executive that as they are implementing other projects in the budget, the zonal intervention projects also form part of the budget and it’s the law of the land therefore, and should be implemented. It’s something that directly touches on the people in the rural areas or the people we are representing.
“And one misconception Nigerians have about this zonal intervention fund is that it’s not something that’s being given to us in cash. We only nominate projects and it’s the executive that implements this projects; we only nominate the type of project and the location of the projects; it’s for the executive to now implement the project.”
He said: “It’s the people that directly benefit from the projects because some of these constituencies, for the whole of our four-year tenure, the vast majority of the constituencies will not benefit from a single project directly from the federal government.
“It’s only through the implementation of the zonal intervention funds that some of the people in the rural areas will now feel the touch of the federal government. If not because of the zonal intervention or constituency projects, there are some areas in this country that the whole of the four years, they’ll not benefit from a single kobo worth of projects coming from the federal government but only through the constituency projects.
He also blamed the executive for delayed passage of the annual budget.
According to him: “You know, sometimes, the delay in passing the budget lies not only with the National Assembly; sometimes, we pass the budget, take it to the executive which will further subject it to another scrutiny which will take another one month, before they bring it back to the National Assembly with certain observations.
“So sometimes, it’s not even the fault of the National Assembly: sometimes the National Assembly will approve the budget, take it to the executive for assent and they’ll subject it to another layer of scrutiny which will take another one month or even more before they bring it back for reconsideration. So, these are some of the things that constitute a clog in the wheel of speedy passage of the budget.”