Is Government Shutdown Imminent in Nigeria?

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    Midweek Politics 

    Can the federal government literarily become broke because of the refusal of the National Assembly to reconvene despite pleadings from the executive arm? Asks Segun James

    Given his known avowed taciturn mannerism, Senator Ita Enang, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, does not frequently court the media. Since Enang is not given to flippancy, not a few took his hint seriously. He had warned that Nigeria might face total government shutdown if the National Assembly did not reconvene to consider matters of urgent national importance.

    The National Assembly went on recess on July 24th and was to reconvene on September 25th to deliberate on the budget proposal for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Supplementary budget submitted by the federal government.

    Enang said the assembly also needed to approve request for foreign loans for the country- funds from which government planned to bankroll the capital budget of 2018.

    According to Enang, “we are still appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene; you remember that we passed the budget with the understanding that a great amount of the money will be gotten from foreign loans. Although, it was approved that there would be a loan, the amount that would be gotten was not approved; the Fiscal Responsibility Act requires that the President should specifically state the amount he wants to get from foreign loans and present it before the National Assembly. That letter has been presented before the National Assembly and it has to pass that amount before it could be obtained from the foreign financing institutions.

     “This is what we are asking and if does not happen, in the next few months, we will have a complete government shutdown because what we are receiving from the Federation Account as Federal Government share the capital component is not enough to sustain even 15 per cent to 20 percent of budget. So, there may be a complete government shut down and I know Nigerians will not like it; that is why we are appealing to the National Assembly to reconvene,’’ he said.

    Despite the urgency of the call, the leadership of the National Assembly was not moved. An attempt to reconvene the principal officers led to a controversial blockade of the National Assembly by the DSS. At the moment, the date of reconvening the federal legislature is a matter of conjecture in different quarters. The relationship between the 8th National Assembly and the executive has been anything but cordial.

    The total budget for 2018 is N9.1 trillion, up from N8.6 trillion. The two chambers of the National Assembly raised the budget by N5oo million.

    The budget as passed by the two chambers also has N530.4 billion as statutory transfer; N2.2 trillion for debt service; N1,95 trillion as fiscal deficit.

    The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said the Federal Government will borrow N1.6 trillion to finance part of the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget.

    Udoma said N793 billion would be borrowed domestically, while N849 billion would be borrowed from foreign sources to finance the budget deficit.

    Most Nigerians have a vague or no idea of what a ‘government shutdown’ is, given the way government is run in the country.

    Nigeria has never experienced a government shutdown. But what should Nigerians if government shuts down?

    The closest that the country has come to a government shutdown was in 2014 when former President Goodluck Jonathan and legislators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were locked in a war of words over the then opposition party’s directive to its members to shut down the affairs of the Federal Government. The APC House of Representatives members vowed to heed the party’s directive.

    The APC’s threat followed the crisis in Rivers State at that period, as both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were locked in battle over the control of the politics of Rivers state. The situation forced the presidency to threaten that appropriate sanctions would be applied to any effort to derail the normal working of government.

    What is a Government Shutdown?

    A government shutdown occurs when the National Assembly doesn’t approve a federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year and nonessential functions of government close down due to lack of approval. The shutdown stays in effect until a compromise is reached and a budget bill is passed.

    Mr. Abraham Ogbodo, Editor of the Guardian Newspaper, opined that a government shutdown would not make much difference to the average Nigerian. According to him, Nigeria has been on government shutdown for decades.

    He said Nigerians have practically lived without government since independence in 1960. “That adds up to 58 years of managing on our own without government. I really do not want to sound too alarming. Let us say we had had government up till 1983 when the military, for the second time, torpedoed an elected civilian regime.”

    This sentiment was shared by Mr. Doueyi Fiderikumo, a legal practitioner who opined that that the federal government was spending huge sums of money which were not budgeted for without waiting for the National Assembly approvals.

    He wondered why government would suddenly ‘shutdown’ because the assembly was on recess, adding that the federal government’s sudden romance to do ‘the right thing’ was suspicious in view of the crisis between the leadership of the National Assembly and the executive.

    This position was also shared by Alhaji Kunle Akangbe, a Lagos-based financial consultant. He said that since what would be affected were non-essential activities, the impact of a shutdown would be minimal in a society like Nigeria.

    Akangbe wondered who would determine what ‘non- essential services’ is. He insisted that the only way such would make any meaning to Nigerians was if all government activities were shutdown and government workers of all categories stayed away from work.

    QUICK FACTS:

    • Government shutdown occurs when legislators don’t approve a federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year and nonessential functions of government close down due to lack of approval
    • The total budget for 2018 is N9.1 trillion
    • Federal Government will borrow N1.6 trillion to finance part of the N9.12 trillion 2018 budget
    • N793 billion would be borrowed domestically, while N849 billion would be borrowed from foreign sources to finance the budget deficit
    • Most Nigerians have a vague or no idea of what a ‘government shutdown’ is
    • There has never been a government shutdown in Nigeria
    • The closest that the country has come to a government shutdown was in 2014 when former President Goodluck Jonathan and legislators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) were locked in a war of words over the then opposition party’s directive to its members to shut down the affairs of the Federal Government.