BUDGET 2016: Controversy Upon Controversy
As more and more Nigerians groan under widespread hardship, rise in commodity prices, fuel scarcity and poor power supply, government, which is supposed to be the beacon of hope at times like this, seems to have lost touch with the reality of the times and its responsibilities to the masses, making things seem worse for citizens.
This has become more evident as the passage of the 2016 budget, which many expect will tone down the biting economy and set the stage for government spending and the injection of life into the various sector of Nigeria’s economy, is still being delayed by the actions and inaction of the Executive and the legislative arms of government.
When it comes to the 2016 budget, it has so far been a war of controversies and blames, from the initial drama of ‘missing 2016 budget’ to accusations of ‘budget padding’ by civil servants in the budget office, and now, more accusations of padding and alterations by the National Assembly.
More disturbing to the concerned Nigerians in all of these is the now characteristic lack of adequate and timely information from the presidency as to what the real issues are. So far, the NASS, through the Chairman of the House Committee on appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, has provided some clarifications into the controversy. Jibrin, in a series of tweets yesterday said reports that the National Assembly members pulled out the Lagos-Calabar Coastal Rail project from the budget was not true. He stated that the project was never included in the budget presented by the presidency, contrary to feelers emanating from the presidency just yesterday that they had indeed pulled out the budget item. Jibrin also stated that during scrutiny by the Appropriation committee, N54 billion was discovered to be floating and unallocated to any items in the Ministry of Transportation’s budget, this he said was among several other shortcomings that the NASS had to deal with in the document.
Following the public reactions generated by Hon. Jibrin’s tweets and a follow up appearance on Channels TV today, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transportation has in a press statement made a few hours ago and reported by Sahara Reporters corrected some of the issues raised by Jibrin, he said the Lagos-Calabar Rail Project was not originally contained in the proposal submitted to the NASS by President Buhari, but was subsequently added by the Minister of Transport as supplementary and was defended before the senate committee.
Controversies and counter-controversies has been the name of the game when it comes to the 2016 budget, even as ordinary citizens of Nigeria are mainly at the receiving end of it all. The economy has remained bleak and stagnant, even as activities in government ministries, departments and agencies have remained at their lowest ebb for months unending. Would there be a speedy resolution of the issues that seem to further pitch the executive with the National Assembly? Even more desired, would there be statements from the presidency to Nigerians on the most recent controversies? And ultimately, would the 2016 Appropriation Bill be signed by the president this week when he returns from China? Questions, questions, questions.