How bad politics puts the Nigerian economy in distress
The Nigerian economy, certainly, has become a weeping child and an endangered species bayed about ferociously and gnawed deeply not only by a monstrous recession but also by a mindless and bad politics. The style of politics being played in the current dispensation may have put the economy in jeopardy. The politics of hate, even among politicians of the same party, as exemplified by the impasse between the Executive arm of government and the Legislature, seriously constitutes a clog in the wheel of progress of the country. Although internal wrangling has been part and parcel of many administrations since 1999, at no time has it been as suffocating as it is now.
Analysts have said that with the lingering squabbles between the Presidency and the leadership of the National Assembly, the politics of pull-him-down-syndrome, lack of interest by government in pursuing and completing projects started by previous administrations, and the politics of settlement and of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as it were, the economy cannot do better than its current state, unless the ills are addressed.
As the face-off between the Executive arm of government and the Senate deteriorates, delay in the passage of the 2017 budget will hinder Nigeria’s chances of getting out of economic recession, analysts have warned. The inability of the Senate to pass 11 economic recovery reform bills would further hinder Nigeria’s chances of exiting the current economic woes.
President Muhammadu Buhari had presented N7.298trillion 2017 budget estimate to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 14, 2016. Recall that the 2016 budget, which was passed by the National Assembly on March 23, 2016 and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on May 6, was plagued by being declared ‘missing’ and padding.
However, while many experts had hoped that the 2017 appropriation bill would be passed on time by the legislative body, the face-off between the two arms of government saw the relegation of governance to the backstage even as politics occupied centre stage.
Danjuma Goje, chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations, says that the budget will be passed before May, almost two months later than the March 30 deadline given by Senate President, Bukola Saraki. Speaking to National Assembly correspondents, Goje said parliament may be compelled to extend the validity period of the budget, in the event that it is unable to pass the 2017 Appropriation Bill on or before the midnight of May 5, 2017.
He explained: “Last year, when we were producing this 2016 Appropriation Bill, we realised that at the end of each year, there were usually requests for an extension of the budget from the executive. To avoid that, we decided to incorporate this new thing.”
According to Goje, “In the 2016 Appropriation Act, which President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, clause 11 of it says that ‘in line with the provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as amended, this bill will run for a period of 12 months, starting from the day it is assented into law’.
“President Buhari signed this bill into law on the 6th of May, 2016. This means this budget will run from that date up to the midnight of 5th of May, 2017. Unless of course if the Act is amended or altered as deemed fit by the National Assembly.
“As far as the law is concerned, there is no need for any extension or mop up by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The mop they usually do will now be illegal. Except the National Assembly, in conjunction with the executive, amend this law, this is the position of the 2016 budget.
“We do not have to extend the 2016 budget. If May comes and there is need to extend, then we can do otherwise. I believe before that date, the 2017 budget will be passed. For now, this is the position of the law.”
This implies that Nigeria’s Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, which has several critical implementation components, contained in the 2017 budget will be delayed. The National Collateral Registry Bill and the Credit Bureau Services Bill which the National Assembly had promised will be passed by the end of April to ease access to credit. It is part of 60-day ease of doing business initiative of the Federal Government.
The Federal Government has also expressed concern that delays in the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly may stall the implementation of its Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), even as it attempts to tie exiting country recession by end of the year to early passage of the budget as well as the full implementation of the ERGP.
Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma, said: “The 2017 budget is structured to get the economy out of the recession before the end of this year. So that is why we are anxious to get the budget passed so that we can begin the implementation and begin to take all the steps we need to get the economy out of recession”.
Delayed passage of the budget means that businesses waiting on the 2017 budget to rev up their operations for the year would now have to wait much longer. Another casualty from the delayed passage of the budget is the 11 economic reform bills, which Saraki had promised would be passed alongside the 2017 budget.
The economic recovery bills include: the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, National Development Bank of Nigeria Bill, National Road Fund Act (Amendment) bill, Federal Roads Authority Act (Amendment) bill and National Transport Commission (Establishment) Bill.
Others are: Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill; National Transport Commission Act, 2001 (Amendment) Bill; Warehouse Receipts Act (Amendment) Bill; Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) (Amendment) Bill; Investment and Securities Act (ISA); Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill.
Experts say the 11 priority economic reform bills, if passed into law, will help create 7.5million jobs and reduce poverty by 16.4 percent.
In a chat with BDSUNDAY, Senate Spokesperson, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, explained that the National Assembly Business Environment Round table recommended 54 economic bills for either amendment or repeal as well as 50 other bills for passage.
He said of the 54 bills, 11 of them were categorised as ‘high priority’ admitting that other bills not considered as high priority have been passed by parliament.
“Some of the bills have already been passed because they have to do with credit, electronic payment system. Already we are taking some of the economic bills concurrently. At the end of the day, perhaps, what we will do is after we pass the bill, we will take stock and see out of the economic bills which one has been passed and which is still outstanding,” he said.
Also speaking with FBNQuest, an economic expert, Odewale Adisa, said: “Our elected leaders promised to uphold the tenets of the constitution but it is unfortunate that rather than do so, they are putting personal interest above national interest.
“Like the saying goes: ‘When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’. Two years into this administration, the government is yet to find its bearing and the masses are suffering from the face-off between the two arms of government. The earlier they realise this and make amends, the better, otherwise they might be putting the nation’s democracy at great risk”.
Although the Federal Government expressed optimism that the 2017 budget would get Nigeria out of recession, most Nigerians think otherwise. An online poll by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) reveals that 55 percent of Nigerians do not believe the 2017 budget proposal will steer the country out of recession.