Buhari doesn’t need emergency powers to fix economy, says Golu
Mr Timothy Simon Golu, (Pankshin/kanke/ kanam: PDP) is the chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Budget and Research. In this interview with ADAMU ABUH, he explains why deliberations in the House would centre on the economic issues.
On issues that would be on the front burner as the House reconvenes
The economy would dominate discussions, because, so many things are wrong and the members representing their various constituencies are not happy with the condition of their people nationwide. In fact, the executive arm is not doing well at all, to implement the budget. As the chairman House Committee on Budget, I can tell you that we are not pleased with the slow implementation of the budget. They complain of lack of funds, but the fund at their disposal should have been thrown into areas that would affect the people more positively.
We are yet to see the implementation of the 2016 budget. And as it is now, we are awaiting the arrival of the 2017 budget any moment from now. The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) report, the fiscal strategy paper for 2017, have been submitted to us, but let me tell you, the 2016 budget is poorly implemented. The budgetary process itself, largely from planning to implementation can at best be said to be strategically very flawed. The National Assembly has done its best, but the main problem with the 2016 budgetary process started from the submission of the 2016 and 2018 MTEF.
Enough attention was not given to the MTEF, which serves as a guide, projection of the revenue that would be obtained for the implementation of the budget. But if you look at it now, all the indices of those revenue profiles are flawed. They are expecting to borrow money, generate money from oil, which prices has come down, planning to get money from recovered loot, to tackle the deficit of the 2016 budget.
So, many things went wrong and the executive did not even pay attention to what they said they were going to do, which is the diversification of the economy. You talk about agriculture and you have not built the capacity of agriculture, and you are closing the borders, so that no food would come in. Is that not a deliberate way of making Nigerians suffer? The Finance minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun does not know what she is doing there at all, as far as, we are concerned. We raised questions, she couldn’t answer. What is diversification? You want to open new channel, so that we don’t rely on oil. What have they done? We are still relying on oil. Agriculture has one percent in the 2016 budget. Mineral sector has one percent, Science and Technology, which would augment the two sectors has less than one percent. So, we achieve nothing as far as agriculture is concerned. They need to allow more food to come in, so that people would not be hungry, so that the prices of foodstuffs would go down.
Look at the N500b Social Intervention Fund. Two to three weeks ago, my committee asked questions, but the woman couldn’t give any credible answer. Out of N500b, only N20b has so far been released. The initiative has no cash backing, as we speak and this is the ninth month of the year. If they are talking about recruiting 500,000 teachers, they are still talking about it on paper. There is nothing on ground to show that they are committed to it. When are they going to recruit them? Even the platform for on-line application is not there. Even those of us members of the committee are not even aware of it. We have not seen the commitment yet to providing jobs, to our able youths. So, people are suffering. If the APC government knows how Nigerians are suffering, they would be amazed. They don’t know, they don’t have feedback mechanism, to tell them what is happening in Nigeria.
On legislature’s oversight function
We are going to take our oversight function as serious as we have never before done. The National Assembly had been wrongly accused of so many things. The National Assembly is misunderstood by Nigerians. And as is always the case, it is the executive inciting the public against us. Look at what we do, we provide oversight; look at how we saved the 2016 budget. If not for our intervention, there would have been no budget to be implemented by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). But the members of the National Assembly raised issues, queried so many sub-heads. You will discover that an MDA would bring in, issues of publicity N20 million, advocacy N30 million, media N50 million, information N100 million. What is information, media, publicity and advocacy? We collapsed all of them to one and then tell them to get a realistic figure for all of them, since they are one and the same thing.
On whether the executive arm has done enough to tackle the economy
The government has not done enough at all. There are wrong people in strategic places, the Minister of Finance is not capable. That woman is not capable. There is no coordinating ministerial committee that we used to have, where the Minister in charge of the economy is normally somebody of a very high status that others can respect. Now, we don’t have professionals handling strategic positions.
And this woman cannot command the confidence of other ministers. So, as far as we are concerned, if she is allowed to continue like that walahi, the recession, we don’t know when it will end. We all rely on God for salvation, but at least, Buhari should change some ministers and bring in some capable hands. If the APC doesn’t have them, we have them enough in the PDP, so that we can loan them to the APC, to serve in this government. Government is about the people; it is not about the party. Let there be some injection of fresh blood into the executive council. The ministers should also help the president by being sincere and honest, so that they can commit themselves to do the work. If they don’t know, they should admit they don’t know. There is nothing too big about it.
On the emergency power President Buhari is requesting from the National Assembly.
That would not work, because it is like he is making the request stage by stage, so that after granting that one, he would now come up with another one that seeks to allow him to prepare the budget and oversight it himself. After that, they would now bring another bill that would make the executive to sit down and make laws by themselves.
Before you know it, there would be no National Assembly. It is just an attempt to usurp our powers and to make the National Assembly irrelevant. The powers that he has now are enough for him to handle this economic recession. He is one of the most powerful presidents in the democratic world. So, the National Assembly would not consider that one. Let us have the details of those laws that have constituted a clog in his resolve to tackle the recession. To take our powers, that we should surrender the power of virement, to the executive, so that the president can decide to do virement anytime, that is undemocratic.
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