COMMUNIQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THE ANNUAL GALLERY COLLOQUIUM SERIES ORGANISED BY ORDERPAPER.NG, HELD AT THE LADI KWALI HALL, SHERATON HOTEL, FCT, ABUJA, ON MONDAY, 26TH OF SEPTEMBER, 2016.
The first edition of The Gallery Colloquium series was held on 26th September, 2016, at the Ladi Kwali Hall, Sheraton Hotel, FCT, Abuja, with the theme “Budget as Tool for Accelerated Economic Development in Nigeria”.
The colloquium was organized with the aim of stirring up conversation on how the budgetary process in Nigeria can be reformed, especially after the budget padding drama which rocked the National Assembly. The event also served as the formal unveiling of Orderpaper.ng, Nigeria’s premier multi-platform media company dedicated to reporting, tracking and archiving activities of the legislature in the digital age.
Rt. Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, CFR, Governor of Sokoto State, chairman of the occasion, praised Orderpaper.ng for the foresight in putting the colloquium together to widen the scope of discussion on the budget process. He said the country needed to reform the budgetary process to make it lucid, inclusive, implementable and accessible to all Nigerians. He identified the problem of budget in Nigeria to lack of adequate planning. He called for the amendment of the constitution to ensure that the budget is submitted to the National Assembly at least three months to the end of the preceding financial year; and for a time limit to also be allotted to the legislature within which it must work on and return the budget to the President or Governor for assent.
The Distinguished Guest of Honour, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Speaker, House of Representatives, in his presentation which touched on the legal framework for budgeting said the legislature was at the heart of that process.
Describing the budget as the legal framework for the distribution of the nation’s resources, he noted that the constitution did not envisage that the role of the National Assembly was just to rubber stamp the budget. He called for budget reforms and a review of the legal framework to ensure that the budget is submitted on time and also passed on time.
He said the House of Representatives has set up a Budget Reform Committee comprising of experts and professional bodies to review the problems associated with the budgeting process in Nigeria to ensure due process and accountability.
The keynote address by Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning (MBNP) who was represented by Mr. Kayode Obasa, Director of Economic Growth (MBNP), focused on Executive-Legislative consensus in developing a workable budget. He noted that because there are no generally accepted international best practices what was required is not who has what power but how to develop a practice and convention for the budgetary process that works for the country. He noted that what should be of importance to both the Executive and the Legislature is to work in the national interest so that Nigerians can have the best possible budget.
Mr. Eze Onyekpere, Lead Director at Centre for Social Justice (CENSOJ), who set the tone for discussion said consultation and collaboration between the Executive and Legislature should precede every budget process. He observed that the country puts more in the budget than its resources can accommodate; a practice he said should be discontinued.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, CFR, Deputy President of the Senate, formally presented OrderPaper.ng to the public. He described the newspaper as timely and commended the publishers for taking the bold step to address the lack of knowledge about the workings of the National Assembly. He also spoke about the need to have public hearings on the budget as the usual budget defence by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) cannot make up for incisive public participation in the process.
The panel discussion on the theme, “Budget as a tool for Accelerated Economic Development in Nigeria” was anchored by Mr. Anthony Ubani, CEO, Africa Leadership Advantage. The panelists included: Sen. John Enoh, Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance; Sen. Shehu Sani, Chairman, Senate Committee on Domestic & Foreign Debts. Hon. Kingsley Chinda, Chairman, House Committee on Public Accounts; Hon. Lawal Garba, Chairman, House Committee on Constituency Outreach; Sen. Chris Anyanwu, member of the 6th and 7th Senate; Dapo Olorunyomi, Publisher, Premium Times; Victor Muruako, Acting Chairman Fiscal Responsibility Commission (FRC); and Imoni Amarere, Managing Director, News Services, Daar Communications.
Panelists touched on the following issues amongst others: timeliness of the budget; the role of media, civil society, development partners, and private sector in the budgetary process; inclusiveness of the budgetary process; budget monitoring and implementation; and how the Executive and Legislature can harmoniously work together to deliver on a budget that serves the interest of the majority of citizens.
After an engaging session flowing from rich presentations and discussions, the following far-reaching recommendations were made:
- That timeliness of budget presentation is very important. That the Executive and Legislature should adopt a more participatory budgeting process by widely consulting with the citizens and other stakeholders through public hearings.
- That a formal forum for pre-budget consultations and liaison between the Legislature and the Executive should be created in order to reduce the instances of disagreements and bickering between the two arms upon presentation of the Appropriation bill, passage and subsequent implementation.
- That the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) should be adopted as a benchmark for determining what projects to be included in the budget which should be equitably spread across the country.
- That provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act should be strictly adhered to in the preparation and implementation of the budget whilst a holistic look at the Act should be considered to take care of observed deficiencies.
- That there should be effective tracking of projects and evaluation of budget expenditures to ensure transparency and accountability whilst the role of anti-corruption agencies in the budgetary process clearly defined and enhanced.
- Multi-stakeholder consultations including the private sector, development partners and the media should be undertaken for the budgetary process
- The media and civil society should improve their watchdog roles in monitoring the budgetary process.
- Reform of the procedures of budgeting in the National Assembly to ensure better accountability, transparency and openness.
- Making a budget law to cover the processes and procedures of the budgetary exercise with strengthening legislative oversight being a key focus.
- That the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) should be established without further delay
- The colloquium commended ng for convening the conversation at such auspicious time in the country’s history and urged all stakeholders to continue to support the initiative
- The colloquium recommended continual engagement of relevant stakeholders and to report on gains made with respect to the implementation of resolutions above.
- The budget remains a critical tool for social and economic engineering of the country;
- It is therefore important to get it right and make it inclusive to ensure transparency and accountability;
- The budget is not the property of the Executive or the Legislature; therefore, there is need for active multi-stakeholder involvement in the budget process.
Goodwill remarks were made by Rt. Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, and Senator Ita Enang, SSA to the President National Assembly Matters.
In attendance were notable members of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly, representatives of MDAs, members of the Civil Society Organizations, Development Partners, Diplomatic Community, Private Sector, Academia and the Media.
Content of this communique was read out to the Colloquium for observations and corrections before it was unanimously adopted by the gathering.
Oke Epia, Convener/Publisher, OrderPaper.ng
Anthony Ubani, Moderator of Panel Session
Chido Onumah, Head, Team of Rapporteurs
September 26, 2016
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