2018 Budget And N’Delta Region

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Reactions trailing the passage of the 2018 Federal Budget recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari are quite understandable and instructive. The reactions amount to a vote of no confidence on the National Assembly for promoting personal interest above the collective well being of the country.
Not a few Nigerians have criticised the ‘padding’ of the Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly, with some describing the distortions by the lawmakers as “self serving”.
How else does one describe the jerking up of a budget meant for just 469 federal legislators from N25 billion to N39 billion, while slashing the budget meant for the development of 11 States? Increasing the NASS budget by over N14 billion without considering the oil-rich Niger Delta which generates the revenue that sustains members of the National Assembly and indeed the entire country is, to say the least, mindless, provocative and unacceptable.
Particularly aggrieved are the South-South and the South East geo-political zones. The two southern zones questioned the rationale for slashing budgetary provisions for East West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, Nigerian Maritime University, Enugu Airport and Second Niger Bridge located in the two regions.
President Buhari, while assenting to the budget, expressed reservations over the lawmakers’ action and promised to send a supplementary bill to NASS to possibly address the shortfalls occasioned by the distortions in the budget.
The Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC), South-East Caucus in the Senate, the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leaders, and other pressure groups, have openly opposed the alterations made by NASS.
The IYC, for instance, berated the National Assembly for cutting budgetary provisions for three critical projects in the Niger Delta region, namely, the Nigerian Maritime University, the East West Road and Bonny-Bodo Road.
Describing the NASS action as gross insensitivity based on selfishness, the IYC, in a statement signed by its President, Mr Eric Omare said such action is retrogressive, condemnable and unacceptable to the people of the region.
The Tide agrees no less with IYC and other stakeholders kicking against NASS alterations of the Approbation Bill. While we concede that the parliamentarians have the constitutional responsibility to appropriate federal funds, they should do so without promoting personal interest.
We recall that during the parley between the Federal Government and leaders of the Niger Delta region, last year, certain resolutions were reached between both parties which included the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University in Delta State.
The Presidency further agreed to accelerate physical development of infrastructures such as the East West Road, Bonny-Bodo Road, among others, in the region. These were among the demands made by the region’s leaders to check restiveness and militancy in the region.
The Tide, therefore, expected a responsible parliament to see the fulfillment of such “gentleman’s agreement” as critical to the well-being of the Niger Delta people and the overall development of the country.
It is, indeed, ironic and unfortunate that the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg is deprived of its fair share in budgetary allocations by NASS.
The Tide, therefore, urges the Presidency to live up to its promise by submitting a supplementary budget to NASS for speedy passage. Niger Delta region cannot afford to wait in the wings.
We also decry and condemn the late passage of the 2018 Budget by NASS. We recall that the budget was presented to NASS on November 7, 2017 but signed into law seven months after. This is unacceptable, as such late passage is a recipe for poor implementation.
We hope that the 2018 budget will be the last to suffer such unnecessary delay and alterations.