For some time now, there has been an uneasy calm in the polity of the nation. A couple of days ago, the Lower House of Nigeria’s Parliament took up the gauntlet in the political arena and threatened to impeach President Jonathan if by September, if, by September 2012, he does not implement the budget by 100 percent. All these threats are coming on the heels of so many unresolved issues such as the power probe, the Hembe saga, the subsidy somersault and other sundry matters mostly affecting the House of Representatives.
On the face of it, the ultimate power of parliament is to remove a Chief Executive including the President on grounds of gross misconduct. Section 143 of the Constitution states inter alia that: (1). The President or the Vice President may be removed from office if he is guilty of gross misconduct in the performance of the functions of his office….” The term gross misconduct refers to a huge range of issues not limited to budget implementation.
It is true that the main goal of any government is to use public resources to pursue the welfare of the people. In recognition of this objective, government tries to modernize the financial system management through the implementation of financial sector reforms. In line with the public good principle, public sector financial managers ensure the prudential and even distribution of the commonwealth to for the provision of physical and social infrastructure on one hand and to bridge the inequity in income levels across sectors. In doing so, policy makers and implementers are guided by the principles of accountability.
It is also true that public financial management is the live-wire of any government. In fact, it is the barometer with which the success of any government is measured. It concerns how government manages its assets and liabilities with the overarching goal to provide services and redistribute resources among the various agencies of government. Every government seeks to use public resources as efficiently as possible with a minimum of government wastage. Efficient public financial management therefore is central to creating a relationship of mutual trust and shared consensus between government and citizens, which is the core of any development process. In this endeavour implementing the budget is very critical. The reality however is that in Nigeria’s 52 years of independence, no President has implemented the budget 100% because of three main factors. Even in the United States and most of the fast developing economies in Asia Europe and Latin America, 1005 budget implementation still remains a good intention.
Firstly, the engine of the Nigerian economy runs on crude oil alone at the sufferance of Agriculture, industrialization and other sectors of the economy. A crude oil mono-culture is volatile because the economy is susceptible to the vagaries and vicissitudes of global shocks, which are inconsistent with the Keynesianismand worship of government solutions. Secondly, because of crude politicking, political office holders (the law makers inclusive) engage in the unholy vocation of budget padding with massive preference to constituency allowances. Thus we do not keep to the budget cycle. The implication is waste of time inability to meet the goals of budgets. The third factor is that we adopt incremental budgeting with a very weak information system. This is why every year, supplementary appropriations are made.
While some of these macro-economic factors beyond the control of the Executive can result to poor budgeting practices. Governments may find it easier to rely on budget gimmicks and other accounting tricks to obfuscate the true state of the budget, rather than try to reconcile the many competing claims on the budget within a sustainable fiscal framework. It may be said that while some of the poor budgeting practices typically originate in the executive, weak institutions outside the executive, such as the legislature or the Auditor General can allow these problems to continue. For instance, the Auditor General may not have the power and political clout to undertake controversial investigations and to issue reports that may highlight financial mismanagement and even corruption.
When we factor-in some of the aforementioned challenges, it may be obvious that Parliament is wielding the big stick not entirely because of non-implementation of the budget but for political reasons. There are many probes going-on and a huge number of them involve corruption allegations against members of the House of Reps. Could the House be using the IMPEACHMENT THREAT to put a wedge or discourage the executive from proceeding with the EFCC trials? With all the damning allegations of corruption from Elumelugate, Hembegate to Faroukgate, does the House of Reps have the moral integrity to go for the President’s jugular? The answer is an EMPHATIC NO?
The action of the House of Reps would amount to cheap blackmail because the same NASS enjoined Mr. President to fight corruption. In fact, it is one of the campaign promises he made to the electorate. Fighting corruption does not amount to gross misconduct. With this posturing, is the Lower House assuming the position of the legislative arm of domestic terror bedeviling the nation?
We have a President who is tackling a strange phenomenon called Boko Haram. We have a President who is doing all within his powers to boost trade and investments. The Federal government under his tutelage has put in place the National Automobile Council and established an Automotive Development Fund to provide long term loans to resuscitate the automobile industry and generate jobs. Government has A machinery is now in place for the establishment of 37 Skills Acquisition Centers nationwide. Government has completed a Model Skills Training Centers in Abuja-collaboration between the Industrial Training Fund and the Institute for Technical Education, Singapore, first of its kind in Nigeria. The Jonathan Presidency has also achieved the following
- Establishment of the Nigerian Vehicle Credit Purchase scheme.
- Started the process of establishing a World Trade & International Business Center in Lagos.
- Commencement of the process for backward integration in Sugar & Rice Production to ensure self sufficiency.
- Launch of the Campaign against the Importation of Sub Standard Products.
- Boosted by the overwhelming success of the Amnesty Programme of the current administration,*Nigeria’s oil production expanded by 20% and she reclaimed her former position as Africa’s largest oil exporter which she had hitherto lost to Angola.
- Inflation Rate Down: Inflation rate has been reducing as the administration enforces tighter fiscal policies. In June the Consumer Price Index revealed an inflation rate of 10.2% which dropped to 9.4% in July being the lowest rate in the last four years.
- Nigeria set a new record by being recognized by OPEC in the month of July as the second largest oil exporter in the cartel second only to Saudi Arabia. It is the first time Nigeria has recorded such a feat.
- Grown the Foreign Reserves Rises by 10% to $34 Billion
- GDP Growth Rate Holds Firm: Nigeria’s GDP growth rate month over month has continued to grow from 6.7% in May to 6.9% in July of 2011.
- Top Investment Destination: Nigeria has been declared one of the top three investment destinations of choice in Africa (number 2) by the independent Africa Business Panel in The Netherlands.
- Power Generation: The President approved the pioneer board for the Nigeria Bulk Electricity Trading (NEBT) Plc, in an effort to stabilize power supply by facilitating smooth operations between independent power producers and distribution companies.
- Mass Transit Train Services: The Nigerian Railway Corporation has commenced Mass Transit Train Services in five out of the six geo-political zones with the sixth zone coming on stream before the end of the year.
- Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority: With the establishment of the NSIA, the President facilitated direct investments into infrastructure with the priority areas being Power and Roads.
- Nigeria launched two satellites in August 2011. These satellites were designed and built by Nigerian Engineers/Scientists in conjunction with British Scientists and will help expand Internet Bandwidth, monitor the weather and provide early warning to prevent natural disasters like floods, crop monitoring and urban planning.
- Setting up of a 12-man Justice Sector Reform Implementation Committee to ensure the implementation of various reforms that have been articulated and widen access to justice.
- Mr. President assented to several bills to increase access to justice including; The Human Rights Amendment Act, 2011; Legal Aid Amendment Act, 2011; The Evidence Act (which has simplified the process of collating evidence in our legal system)
- Ensured compliance with court judgments, especially with regard to payment of judgment debts.
- Repatriation of looted funds to the country. The sum of 22.5 million Pounds sterling were recovered from the Isle of Jersey, U.K. and more are being recovered.
- Increased focus on Legislative Advocacy via a host of pending bills designed to enhance the welfare of Nigerians
- Freedom of Information Bill. The President signed the FOI Bill, thereby showing his commitment to lifting the veil covering governance and deepening participatory democracy. Already there have been tangible benefits with the first FOI case instituted in court and the recent declassification of hitherto classified information. The framework for compliance of the FOI Act has been prepared by the Office of the AGF for gazetting, after inputs from critical stakeholders.
President Jonathan is the most gender-sentive President Nigeria has ever produced. Mr. President took the unique step of proactively reserving 35% of cabinet positions for women. Despite immense pressures, Mr. President held firm and has so far given women 31% slot as far as Ministerial positions are concerned. As a man of his words, when you add female Advisers, Senior Special Assistants and Assistants to be appointed, that figure will certainly rise to 35%. This is more than the recommended gender representation ratio of 30% in the Beijing affirmative declaration and the only yard-stick in filling these slots was merit. This is very commendable.
President Goodluck Jonathan has also embarked on Pro-Youth and People Policies. Some of them include increasing allowances for Youth Corps Members; in recognition recognizing the sacrifices of our youth corps members, the President approved the upward review of their allowances from 9,700 Naira to 19,800 Naira. The President approved an increase in the minimum wage earned by the Nigerian worker to 18,900 Naira monthly. This is in line with his belief that Nigerian workers deserves to earn more as compensation for the efforts they put into advancing our society.
Mr. President assented to the Local Content Act and soon the Petroleum Industry Bill will be passed. All these steps are taken to strengthen the institutions within the petroleum industry. President Jonathan has also reviewed Nigeria’s foreign policy to reflect a citizen-focused foreign policy designed in the words of President Jonathan to accord this vision of defending the dignity of humanity the highest priority” and link foreign policy to domestic policy while placing a greater emphasis on economic diplomacy.
The allegations about Mr. President’s highhandedness and non-implementation of the budget are just a smokescreen. It is equally untrue that the President’s management style excluded the NASS in implementing basic decisions. of “shake the President” and possibly secure some palliatives from an executive which could be ruthless if it chooses to deal with its enemies, especially the corrupt law makers will not also work. Mr. President should make a perspicacious resolve to prosecute the anti-corruption war to the delight of the electorate who voted for him.
The allegation that the Executive might have engineered the fall of Farouk Lawan and that one of the reasons could be to cut down the Tambuwal led leadership of the House may be a hard sell. It appears that corruption runs in the veins of most Nigerians in the legislative chambers. Faroukgate is not an exception to the rule. So many people were so indicted even during the OBJ administration.
The claims by some members of House of Representatives in February, they the 2012 budget is lop-sided in favour of the South South is not only insensitive to the plight of the oil rich Region, which has been bearing the brunt of environmental annihilation. Perhaps the only genuine argument is that the BORN TO RULE ideologues may be engaged in some well orchestrated plans to scuttle Jonathan’s second tenure ambition in 2015. This plan too will not work because the Nigerian masses/electorate will vote for performance.
All these achievements have been recorded when President Jonathan and Mr. President just spent about 18 months in office in the face of seemingly insurmountable domestic terror. Even the most ardent critics of the Jonathan Presidency will reckon that he has demonstrated statesmanship, leadership and an uncanny zeal to transform the nation and re-position her economy. Mr. President has done enough to earn the support and trust of Nigerian. That is the consensus of informed opinions.
Idumange John, Wrote from Agrisaba, Bayelsa State