With the recent passing and assent to the 2017 Budget, Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief. However, the decision announced by the federal government to run the 2017 budget until 2018, is raising concern among policy and governance experts in certain quarters. This is more so with the Buhari Administration commitment to return the nation to a January-December Fiscal Year.
One concerned observer who publicly expressed his concern, is Oseloka H. Obaze, a policy and governance expert and immediate-past SSG of Anambra State, who condemned the decision to allow the 2017 budget run to June 2018. He said such policy decision made nonsense of the established budgetary cycle, created dissonance, and room for fiscal abuses.
Obaze, a frontline aspirant in the upcoming Anambra State governorship election on 18 November 2017, spoke at a public policy forum organized by the Department of Economics at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka on Wednesday 21 June.
According to Obaze, “The 2016 budget which had a deficit of 2.3 trillion Naira ran to June 2017; the 2017 budget, also with a deficit overhang of 2.2 trillion Naira, was only signed in June 2017 and is expected to run until June 2018. The decision to allow the 2017 budget to run to June 2018 makes nonsense of the established budgetary cycle. Such truncation of federal budgetary cycle creates dissonance and room for fiscal abuses.
“Moreover, the FGN has not indicated the performance level and exact funding of the 2016 budget. Will the 2017 and 2018 budget run concurrently?” Such overlap is dangerous, as it will encourage double-dipping, duplication, self-administration and limited oversight.”
Continuing, the good governance and public policy expert said, “Good public policies are society-centered and anchored on public interest, public participation and adaptive leadership. Such policies are aimed at resolving complex problems, ensuring absence of dichotomy and effectively managing cost of governance. Efficient public policy must reflect priority, be properly formulated, and funded, faithfully implemented and consistently evaluated, through measurable benchmarks, feedback and auditing.”
Obaze lamented the soaring cost of governance, opaqueness of government dealings, and called for more transparency about how government raise, spend and manage public resources, including assets and liabilities, borrowing, investments, procurement and disposal or sale of public assets.
In her remarks, the Head of Economics department, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr. (Mrs.) Uju Ezenekwe decried poor funding of tertiary institutions, called on government to prioritize the education sector and also called for endowments from spirited individuals.
“For instance, we just have three classrooms to cater for a four-year undergraduate programme in the Department of Economics. In a situation of classes holding simultaneously, the facility does not have that carrying capacity. Yet we run post-graduate diploma programmes – a bridge programme; we run masters’ degree programmes in more than five specializations; we also run doctoral programme. That seems to be a mockery of education” she lamented.
Present at the forum were the Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof. (Mrs.) Stella Okunna; Sub Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Uche Nwogwugwu; Former Head of the Economics Department, Associate Prof. Onyebuchi Obi and other distinguished lecturers of the university. Also present were graduate and postgraduate students of the department.
Oseloka H. Obaze also took advantage of his speaking engagement in the public policy forum to participate and support the University’s afforestation programme. He planted a tree on the environs of the Department of Economics. He described the tree planting programme as “Awesome, futuristic and Eco-friendly”; and lauded VC Ahaneku and his team for such foresight and for taking such a positive environmental action to protect nature and planet earth. He noted that tree planting was part of the remedial action required to redress our environment already blunted by climate change as well as enhance the total wellness of the environment.