It was a mix of cheers and boos yesterday at the joint session of the National Assembly as President Muhammadu Buhari presented the 2019 appropriation bill to members of both houses. Speaking during the presentation, President Buhari cited the performance of his administration during the past fiscal year, reeling out the number of projects completed and the gains made with the last budget cycle.
Some of these claims however did not go down well with some lawmakers who questioned the veracity of the President’s claims concerning certain projects in their districts and constituencies. One of the most refuted was the president’s claim that “priority projects such as the Abuja – Kaduna – Kano highway as well as the Second Niger Bridge are well underway through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund” which elicited shouts of “Lie! where?!” from lawmakers in whose districts and constituencies these projects were supposedly being carried out.
The day had already started off on a bad note for the President with the release of the National Bureau of Statistics unemployment report showing that Nigeria’s unemployment rate had risen from 18.8% to 23.1% within the past year. This largely countered the presidency’s statements through Garba Shehu that the government had created 12 million jobs through agricultural reforms and interventions. When the President thus started mentioning his achievements in agriculture, the National Assembly was filled with shouts of “boo!” by lawmakers who said the President had failed in the budget performance of the previous year to better the lives of Nigerians.
Speaking after the presentation, the House of Representatives Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Chukwuka Onyema, led members of the PDP caucus in the House to address journalists where he thrashed the appropriation bill as “yet another hollow ritual” Honourable Onyema (PDP, Anambra) noted that “Again, the Buhari administration has tabled another multi-trillion naira budget and, again, this hollow ritual it began in 2015 may soon be followed, as usual, with excuses for non-performance. For a government that came into power promising utopia, consistently dismal implementation of the national budget betrays its half-hearted, insensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian people who long for genuine progress and development that will positively impact their lives”
Critics have continued to blame the Buhari administration for subpar budget implementation which has been responsible for the failure of government to deliver much needed developmental projects and interventions for Nigerians. For instance, in 2017 the erstwhile Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun acknowledged that that only 21 percent of the capital component of the 2017 Budget had been achieved, which raised serious concerns about the implications of sub-optimal budget implementation for the economy and for Nigerians who are the major beneficiaries of these capital projects.