By Ifeanyi Nwoko
President Muhammadu Buhari has commended the National Assembly for reviewing the country’s budgeting process, noting, however, that fiscal conflicts between the executive and the legislature is “traditional.”
Buhari gave the commendation at the Summit on Inter-governmental/Inter-Party Relations and Budget Reform Process for Sustainable Development in Nigeria, organized in Abuja by the Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS).
The president, represented by Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, called for more collaboration between both arms of government.
“I am delighted by the efforts of the National Assembly in pushing for a reform in our budgetary process to entrench transparency and accountability, professionalism and greater citizen participation.
“We look forward to the passage of the Budget Process Bill because we are of the firm conviction that a credible budget process is the first step towards ensuring that the budget is developmentally driven.
“I am aware that the budget process bill is a result of collaboration between the National Assembly and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning.
“Indeed, the budget is one area where there must be heightened and continuous engagement between the legislature and the executive.
“Whereas the executive implements the budget, the legislature plays a central role in the pre-budgeting process and more critically in oversight of government spending.
“The legislature also ensures that actions and policies implemented by government and other public institutions are effectively implemented.
“Owing to this important relationship avenues for interaction in the budget process have been expanded and it is hoped that the collaboration will continue to grow,” he said.
Buhari restated the commitment of the present administration to building the nation’s economy and bringing development to the people.
He said that the provision and modernisation of infrastructure, especially railway system, roads and power across the country, was a priority for the administration.
He added that it was in view of this, that the executive proposed a N2.18 trillion budget for 2017 with 30 per cent expenditure on public projects.
He appealed to the national assembly to collaborate with the executive in allocating funds to critical projects rather than approving smaller ones that would not have meaningful impact.
“There must be a consensus by both the legislature and the executive on certain projects that are critical to real development.
“The task of nation building must be a collective one and this sometimes requires making ‘personal’ sacrifices,” he said.
He called on the national assembly to partner with the executive to further reduce existing inefficiencies in public expenditures and raise non-oil revenue while also fighting corruption.
He added that constructive relationship among the three arms of government was essential to effectively maintain the constitution and the rule of law.
Earlier in an address of welcome, Sen. Ita Enang, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), said there was need for legislature-executive partnership.
Enang said that the barometer for measuring the relationship between the two arms was budget process, adding that good relationship would translate into good appropriation and implementation.
He commended NILS, headed by Prof. Ladi Hamalai, for its commitment to improving the tenets of democracy, adding that such summits would further bridge any existing gap between the executive and legislature.