At 58, Nigeria mires self in economic uncertainties

Nigeria, no doubt, has the global reputation as a country rich in natural resources.
That alone confers the nation a right to economic wellbeing, if only inclusive development goal and commitment to good governance are given.

But developing events have only placed the expected progress to the sidelines, with a fast rising slogan “huge potential” pasted on the country’s identity.

But a lawyer and civil society activist, Eze Onyekpere, said what the economy gets in return is all about self-inflicted economic disaster, because laws that work in other jurisdictions are subjected to ridicule, political gimmicks and ultimately ignored in this country.

For example, Nigeria has earned the notoriety for poor ranking in the international open budgeting index, as well as the locally developed budget index.

One of the measurements of these studies includes the level of participations of citizens.

But the other challenging tasks that have given the country the low score are the tardiness between presentation and passage of the budget.

The budget circle is a determining factor, for not only its performance, but also in mobilising the private sector, as well as other economic agents to influence various activities that support growth. These have defied “change”.

Fiscal responsibility

Statutes that mandate the meetings of governmental agencies and departments to be open to the public are referred to as sunshine laws.

In Nigeria, the Fiscal Responsibility Act is a body of sunshine laws. Even the Presidency does not respect this Act of parliament.

For instance, the budget implementation report of 2017, just came in less than four months to the end of 2018.

The development raises questions on the credibility of the 2018 budget items.

How did the budget crafters know what was not implemented in 2017 to ensure a representation in 2018 without the report?

Last year, Nigeria was ranked 142 out of 144 countries on the index of diversion of public funds on the World Economic Forum Index of official corruption. These are partly borrowed funds earmarked for projects.

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Yet, little has the authorities realised that project timing, with associated tardiness in the process has more to do with facilitation of treasury looting.

Where is 2019 budget?

The Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, provides that the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) shall undergird and be the basis for the preparation of the yearly budget and is expected to be ready before the end of the second quarter in June.

It is to be endorsed by the Executive Council of the Federation before being sent to the NASS for approval.

All these go to show the intention of the law for early budget presentation and approval.

So, where is the MTEF and 2019 budget proposal? This calendar has not been respected by the authorities in a long while.

The basic knowledge of law is that law is as an instrument of social engineering used to move society on the path of progress and sustainability and if the lawmakers have decided to amend sections 81 and 121 of the Constitution to ensure appropriate timeframes that accord with the Nigerian Financial Year Act for the budget, they are on point. But it looks like it will not be.

Where is budget timeframe bill?

An amendment, tagged: “Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 Fourth Alteration, No. 28 Bill, 2017,” proposes that instead of the old order, where thepresident and governors present the budget estimates at any time in each financial year, they would now be bound by a 90-day period to the end of the financial year. since 1999, the country has suffered from late passage of budget.

This amendment has secured the approval of both Houses of the National Assembly (NASS) and that of the required majority of State Houses of Assembly in accordance with section 9 of the Constitution.

But the President has withheld assent to same. Meanwhile, there are more questions than answers for the refusal.

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One is: Is it against national interest to pass budget early and run it from January to December?

Onyekpere said that Nigeria’s financial year is described in the Financial Year Act as the period starting from January 1 to December 31 of every year.

Besides, Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) defines the financial year as 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.

At the moment, NASS has not enacted any new date as the official beginning of the financial year, but in recent years, the financial year has been undulating and is more of a pendulum, depending on the time the lawmakers were done with the approval of the budget and when the President decided to assent same.

President Muhammadu Buhari had severally, including the 2018 budget signing speech in June this year, indicated his intention to return the financial year to the January-December timeline and even blamed the NASS for delayed approval of the budget.

But he has refused to commit himself and submit his intention to constitutionality, by signing the bill that will specifically put a maximum period for national budget to be signed into law. As at now, no one has fathomed a reason for the refusal.

Shaky diversification

Nigerian-born Dr. Philip Emeagwali, according BrainyQuote, once said that “Nigeria is a West African nation of over 100 million energetic people. It is endowed with lots of natural resources, but lacks human resources.”

The lacked human resources is not about certifications and exposure, but partly an obvious dearth of self and political will and ingenuity, needed to transcend seeming impossibility, particularly in the area of policy implementation, which “diversification” has emerged a victim and mere mantra.

A politically exposed person and economist, confided in The Guardian that the lack of real diversification in the country has only revolved around evolving efficient strategy, commitment and implementation.

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“It is the mediocrity seen around the corridors of power overtime, that only wants to eat and not concerned with the future of the country. Nigeria’s diversification setbacks are far from over.”

While the country’s Balance of Payments (BOP) notched up in second quarter of 2018, the inflows that drove up the numbers were dominated by the crude oil and gas market- a clear vulnerability to external shock and a confirmation of how shallow the country is in the diversification scheme, despite the campaign.

It would be regrettable to know that right in front of the nation’s major gateway- Apapa ports, export-bound non-oil commodities lose value due to unending gridlock, caused by combined lack of strategy, non-prioritisation of projects, poor enforcement of rules and ineffective implementation of plans.

The continued siege by the drivers of articulated vehicles is nothing short of dearth of ideas and tacit admittance by the country’s leadership at all levels. It betrays the acclaimed successes in the ease of doing business.

The “change” has failed to change the impunity that continues to eat deep into the country’s potential earnings, discourage small businesses, create losses for entrepreneurs, destroy the environment and the already eked out infrastructure.

The question remaining is: “If the government cannot build a place for the articulated vehicles, can they not also control them?

Can they not tell them to maintain orderliness and enforce it?” a small-scale exporter, Shobowale, queried.

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