11th October, 2012
By Aminu Tambuwal
On behalf of the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I wish to most sincerely thank you Mr. President Sir for making time to come to this hallowed Chambers and formally undertaking this very important constitutional responsibility of the laying of the year 2013 budget estimates.
The House of Representatives Legislative Agenda prescribes under its National Economic and Budgetary provisions that “the draft budget should be submitted AT LEAST three months prior to the start of a fiscal year” and already there is a Bill before the House for the amendment of Section 82 of the Constitution to conform with this. In this regard the laying of the 2013 budget estimates by Mr. President to this Joint Sitting today, reasonably meets these expectations.
I would have been done with my vote of thanks at this point except that the mention of certain salient points of critical importance to our collective resolve for good governance, is compelling. Mr. President Sir, given that the 469 elected members of the National Assembly have closer interaction with the nooks and crannies of the nation we are privileged to feel the people’s pulse more intensely and we feel same on behalf and for the benefit and guidance of all the arms of government. Surely Mr. President and his deputy, being the elected officials on the other side cannot be expected to be in 109 Senatorial Districts, worse still 360 Federal Constituencies. Therefore when we feel this pulse we are duty bound to communicate to you.
As I speak, interim field oversight reports from House Committees on the 2012 budget implementation are clearly unimpressive both in terms of releases as well as utilization and this is a great challenge to all of us. It is important to state at this point the clear provisions of Section 8 of the Appropriation Act to the effect that approved budgeted funds shall be released to MDAs “ as at when due”. This is sadly observed more in breach.
The Composition of the Public Procurement Council provided under the Public Procurement Act is very critical to budget implementation. The sanctity of extant legislations and respect for the rule of law are critical hallmarks of true democracy, we therefore once more call on Mr. President to expeditiously constitute this council so as to free the Federal Executive Council from the burden of contract administration, so they can concentrate on the more sublime issues of their constitutional roles and responsibilities. Incidentally, the present Constitution of the Bureau of Public Procurement has been identified as one of the bottlenecks to effective capital budget implementation.
It will be recalled that the 2012 budget contained a deficit and the main source of funding this deficit was domestic borrowing. Figures emanating from the Debt Management Office regarding domestic borrowing are however worrisome. At a whopping 33.6 Billion US Dollars government appears to be monopolizing domestic borrowing to the unhealthy exclusion of the private sector. This is certainly a matter of grave concern because global statistics on sustainable debt-GDP ratio percentages cannot continue to be used as guide for an economy that is not keeping pace with global trends.
In our effort to address this concern, only yesterday (Tuesday), in passing the 2013-2015 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), which is the basis for annual Budgets, the House resolved to raise the oil price benchmark from 75 US Dollars per barrel to 80 US Dollars per barrel with the objective that the difference of 5 US Dollars per barrel be channeled exclusively towards reducing the deficit in the budget and consequently reducing domestic borrowing for same purpose by 66%. This will make available these loanable funds to our private sector which will stimulate the economy and jobs creation for our teeming unemployed youths. The House of Representatives however observed two critical omissions on the MTEF namely:
•That the Revenue from Gas, running into billions of dollars, is not reflected, and
•External borrowing is similarly not reflected.
Another source of concern for the Legislature is the management of the excess crude revenues. Since 2010 the Appropriation Act has legislated that the excess crude component of the Federation Account be operated under separate records for purpose of transparency and accountability. Besides, Section 30 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act makes it mandatory for the Budget office to submit budget implementation Assessment reports to the National Assembly and the Fiscal Responsibility Commission on a quarterly basis and to publish same on Ministry of Finance Website. The President may be unaware that the National Assembly is neither availed evidence of implementation of this policy along with the records of Federal Government’s portion of the excess crude funds nor the quarterly implementation reports, as required under the two Acts. Mr. President may wish to give appropriate directives to ensure full and speedy compliance by relevant agencies.
The trend of Nigeria’s foreign reserves has taken an upward trajectory in recent months, on the back of steady production levels and robust oil prices. The latest figure for the country’s foreign reserve, as of 04 October 2012, stands at 41.48Billion US Dollars, a 26-month high.
Concerns are however being expressed regarding the management and accounting reportage of our foreign reserve stock as to whether the figures reported are cumulative accruing inflows only or are inclusive of interests accruing from the management process or attributed to other sources of accretion. This matter becomes urgent especially when accruing management fees thereof is not reflected in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
There must be transparency, accountability and probity in the management of our resources generally, given recent developments that indicate our exposure to unforeseen natural disasters. We certainly, for instance, cannot take the protection of our environment for granted.
Mr. President, on our part we wish to promise early passage and diligent monitoring. It is important to remind ourselves that Nigerians would want to see proof of that as quickly as possible. They no longer care for words, they insist on action. It is necessary that ministries, Departments, Agencies and all public functionaries concerned in the governance process are properly instructed on this fact so that they cease from considering beautiful excuses and explanations as achievements.
It remains for me to state once again that the pace of governance must take cognizance of the fact that the nation is grossly in arrears of its developmental potentials and expectations and accordingly a “business as usual” approach is totally unhelpful and unacceptable.
In concluding this short vote of thanks, Mr. President, let me restate our assurances that the National Assembly wants you to succeed and I say that for every legislator here today. The stakes are certainly high and as representatives of the people we know exactly how bad things are. We believe that this country can only benefit if we all work together to deliver our mandates. The National Assembly has no other motive than this.
I am compelled however to state that the National Assembly is becoming increasingly concerned about the disregard for its resolutions and public comments by certain functionaries of the Executive on same. I cite the Senate Resolution on the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the House Resolution on the state of insecurity of the nation, requesting Mr. President to visit and brief the House, the House of Representatives Resolution on the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), the concurrent Resolution of the two Chambers on Bakassi among others. This does not promote cordial relationship between the Executive and Legislature and consequently stability in the polity.
We must therefore, continue to work together to redeem this nation from the clutches of poverty and disease. The vaunted growth in the nation’s GDP must be reflected in the lives of everyone, not just a few people privileged to hold public office or those enjoying unfair public patronage.
Mr. President, once again, thank you for this visit and may the Almighty God grant you the wisdom of Solomon as you steer this delicate ship of state
God Bless Nigeria!
•Text of the vote of thanks by Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Speaker, House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the joint session of the National Assembly to receive the 2013 appropriation bill presented by President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan on Wednesday, 10 October, 2012.