The passing of the budget at record time is not an achievement on its own; what is passed and how it is implemented are more important. And in the spirit of the separation of powers, the loyalty of both legislators and the president should be to the state and not to one arm of government, and none should be subservient to the other.


When President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2020 budget into law on December 17, 2019, the frenzy about returning to a January-December budget cycle, which followed, far outweighed the scrutiny that the budget needed to have been subjected to. This is because we are now in a new era of executive-legislative mutually beneficial partnership, which may leave the people out of the loop, despite their crucial role of electing them (the president and the legislators) into office.

So, after the ceremony, the klieg lights and photo opportunity that went with it, what is there for the electorate in terms of a development plan that can better their lives and environment? Prior to the budget signing, the Federal Executive Council, in an executive fiat, raised the value added tax (VAT), which has been jerked up from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent – a hike of 50 per cent that may usher in a gloomy time in the year; it takes effect from January 2020.

There was no opposition from our constitutionally guaranteed independent legislature, despite being vested with the power to enact and amend laws and being aware of the supremacy of the Constitution over any other provision whatsoever. Therefore the VAT hike has come to stay without complaints from our representatives-legislators nor resistance from the Nigerian people, just like the petrol price hike earlier in the current administration.

According to Deloitte Nigeria, in its analysis of the budget and its implication for business: “Without a corresponding adjustment to the VAT system, the increment may turn out to have a higher impact than envisaged. This is more so as entities will ultimately seek to pass the cost to end users. This may result in increased inflation”. Thus, with a high unemployment rate and insecurity, overburdened Nigerians will have to bear the brunt of the effect of the VAT hike. Yet our representatives at the National Assembly did not ask questions, debate, discuss, or even blink, because of the cooperation between them and the executive.

Budget padding was a major source of controversy between the Bukola Saraki Senate and the Buhari administration. In the 2020 budget, the executive proposed N10.33 trillion and the National Assembly increased it to N10.6 trillion, with a difference of N264 billion. President Buhari did not unleash his attack dogs on Senate President Ahmed Lawan; there were no placard-carrying protesters calling Lawan unprintable names and demanding his impeachment. They all laughed and exchanged banters, to their eternal shame, and at the detriment of the separation of powers and checks and balances inherent in a constitutional democracy like ours.

Even as we celebrate the cosy and cordial association between the leaderships of the two arms of government, what will be the cost of that bond at the end of the day in terms of budget performance and development?

Again, the Senate president has said that anything from the executive is in the general interest of the people and so will be accepted by the lawmakers. Just like the Senate president, the speaker of the House of Representatives also said he was not elected to fight the executive. Lawan and Gbajamialia got it wrong.


Whereas N48 billion and N46 billion was proposed for education and health respectively, renovation of the National Assembly complex was given N37 billion, and no one in the executive complained.

Capital expenditure was put at N2.46 trillion, as against the recurrent expenditure of N3.6 trillion. I asked my investment banker friend what the implication of this would be and she said the amount earmarked for capital expenditure is too little to support development and the VAT increase will amount to nought if there are no economic activities to enable the expected increase.

So, what economic activities is the government creating in terms of diversification, especially in the manufacturing sector? Our National Assembly members who should point out these errors and seek to correct them for the benefit of the state and citizens kept quite in the name of a new found friendship.

Again, the Senate president has said that anything from the executive is in the general interest of the people and so will be accepted by the lawmakers. Just like the Senate president, the speaker of the House of Representatives also said he was not elected to fight the executive. Lawan and Gbajamialia got it wrong. They spoke as party men and not as leaders of the National Assembly that belongs to all. They are also unmindful of their roles and responsibilities to guide the executive, in the national and public interest, and not to acquiesce to their (executive) whims.

Their actions and utterances are not helpful in strengthening democracy. And seeking to please the president, instead of the people, is what we call eye-service in Nigeria, and history will not be kind to them, for being yes men and Buhari’s puppets, instead of being proactive in the service of the country.

The devil, they say, is in the details. This budget is fraught with such devilish details, which PREMIUM TIMES pointed out in its report then, and whose provisions it described as vague, frivolous, self-enrichment projects “smuggled into the budget by federal lawmakers”. For example the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA) budget was jacked up by NASS from N28.4 billion to N62.41 billion, but that of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) is the most absurd. Its capital allocation was upped from N4 billion to N26.2 billion, with provision for the supply of such mundane things as instructional materials to various schools in the North-East at N500 million, in a supposed capital allocation.

In the final analysis, this new found bond of friendship between two critical arms of government may leave us with a bloodied nose. Since it is a give-and-take thing between them, there is no one to speak in favour of good governance, national interest and development of the country.


Again, imagine a capital expenditure of N34 million being increased to N51 billion for the presidency’s office of Sustainable Development Goals (SSA-MDGS), some of it being for the supply of goods, fertilisers, rice, maize and beans in Katsina. If the National Assembly could allow this bizarre stuff to pass through without scrutiny, what is it if not a rubber stamp National Assembly?

In the final analysis, this new found bond of friendship between two critical arms of government may leave us with a bloodied nose. Since it is a give-and-take thing between them, there is no one to speak in favour of good governance, national interest and development of the country.

Both arms need to understand that over-sighting one another, as envisaged by the Constitution, is to engender good governance for the good of all; it is neither a crime nor an offence to point out misdemeanours on the part of either of the arms of government, and those who do so do not like Buhari any less.

Out of a total figure of N10.33 trillion, debt servicing will take a lion’s share of N2.45 trillion, almost a quarter of the budget. There is nothing wrong in borrowing par se and servicing it afterwards, but everything is wrong with borrowed funds that are not tied to specific projects. That way accountability and transparency are lost in the process. Our legislators should perform their functions and oversight of the presidency, make laws and ensure the laws are executed, while also punishing its non-execution.

The passing of the budget at record time is not an achievement on its own; what is passed and how it is implemented are more important. And in the spirit of the separation of powers, the loyalty of both legislators and the president should be to the state and not to one arm of government, and none should be subservient to the other.

zainabsule@yahoo.com, www.zainabokino.blogspot.com.