By Yakubu Dogara

On behalf of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I have the pleasure to congratulate our dear President Muhamadu Buhari GCFR, for the successful presentation of the 2016 Annual Budget Estimates, being the inaugural budget proposal of the APC Federal administration. This is a clear demonstration of executive capacity which has put a lie to the widespread apprehension that the 2016 budget was going to be negatively impacted by the seeming delay in the constitution of the Federal Executive Council.

Indeed change has also come to the Executive: It was fast becoming a norm that the President seats in the Villa and submits the Budget estimates to the Parliament by post, thereby  shunning the opportunity which today’s occasion normally presents the President to interact with the legislature and also talk directly to Nigerians about the Budget. I was afraid that, with the revolution in science and technology now, the President, this time around, was going to either email or tweet the Budget estimates to the national Assembly.

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Let me also commend Mr President on the general structural improvements that are apparent on the face of the document, it gives a positive pointer to the quality of the contents. Of course I am not oblivious of the fact that a book is not judged by the quality of it’s cover.

Also worthy of commendation is Mr President’s anti-corruption war which is largely the reason why the country can afford the size of today’s budget proposal. It is important to hold firmly to the awareness that this war against corruption is not a tea party. Recently, there have been orchestrations in certain sections of the media subtly discouraging prosecution of the anti-corruption war. These tend to focus on the methodology of the war and other sectional, partisan or even primordial considerations rather than the devastating impact of corruption on the society.

Let me assure Mr President that the college of Nigerians favourably disposed to corruption is a small one, terribly small: indeed if a census were conducted, it would show that less than two percent of Nigerians have that disposition and that the real practitioners would number not more than one percent. Make no mistake, though few in number, they are very loud because they have the means. In accordance with the dictates of democracy they may have their say but the majority must have it’s way. It will therefore amount to despicable failure of governance to succumb to the shenanigans of this terrible minority by subjecting the fate of the 98 percent non corrupt Nigerians to their sinister designs.

For the avoidance of doubt, Mr President, distinguished colleagues, this is one war that must not only be won but must be won expeditiously and decisively if the change mantra is to deliver ultimately: It is a divine second chance for Nigeria to pull herself out of the vicious circle of debilitating poverty; inequality; squalor; unemployment; graft and insecurity, indeed it is the season for the enthronement of good governance.

While thanking Mr President for meeting the Constitutional requirement for the presentation of the budget estimates, I wish to reiterate that a well-crafted budget is not an end in itself, the real meat of a budget is in its implementation. While the National Assembly will endeavour to diligently scrutinize and pass the budget in good time to facilitate early commencement of its implementation. In this regard, and in order to aid Mr President to execute and implement the budget, it may be necessary to take a second look at the constitutional definition of Financial year. Section 318 of the Constitution defines a ‘Financial Year’ to mean ‘any period of twelve months beginning on the first day of January in any year or such other date as the National Assembly may prescribe.’ The National Assembly, going forward, may need therefore, to prescribe another date as the financial year in line with provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution, whenever the budget is not passed before January 1 in any given year.  The letter and spirit of the Constitution requires that the Financial year shall not be less than 12 months. The date of commencement of the financial year may change but not the 12 months period, it seems.

Consequently, if this proposal is accepted, it may become imperative that the 2016 budget may commence 12 months from the date it is signed into Law by Mr President. A budget may have a realistic chance of implementation when the Executive has 12 uninterrupted months to execute it. Mr President’s Change Agenda can only be realized for the benefit of the Nigerian people when his policies and programmes are faithfully executed. This proposal would need to be effected in full consultation with the Executive branch.

We wish to give notice that oversight will be diligent, thorough and intensive. Recent developments especially what is known as Armsgate have proven that oversight must include following not just project implementation but also the security and sanctity of unspent budgeted funds. On our part and in the spirit of change that has come to this Legislature, we promise Nigerians to hold Mr. President to every word, line and provision of the budget when passed and assented to.

To my colleagues, distinguished Senators and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, I appreciate your spirit of civic duty in suspending the scheduled recess to receive Mr President and the 2016 Annual Budget Estimates. The implication for us is that we are in for a working recess, as work on this Appropriation Bill must commence timeously.

Finally, on behalf of the National Assembly, we thank all Nigerians for the confidence they have continued to repose in the present administration and to assure that the National Assembly will deploy fully, its constitutional mandate to do only those things that will add value to governance in order to meet public expectation. With God on our side we shall surely succeed.

Thank you once again Mr President and thank you one and all for the success of this very important constitutional duty. I wish us all Merry Christmas and a prosperous New year 2016.

God bless you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

 

Vote of thanks delivered by Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara at the 2016 budget presentation by Mr. President Tuesday December 22, 2015

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