Upon assumption of office, Buhari, against the dictates of all expert opinions and even basic intuition, said he would let civil servants run the government. In fact, he was infamously quoted to have said that the impact of ministers in the smooth running of government is negligible.
For this reason, the president ran Nigeria with civil servants for 5 long months. By the time ministers were finally appointed in November, the time for submission of Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, had elapsed and the time for submission of 2016 budget to the National Assembly loomed large. With little time left, the ministers hurriedly put a poorly-drafted budget together and the president presented it to NASS on December 22, championing it as a “zero-based’ budget. The consequence is what we’re now witnessing.
No later had Buhari made the presentation than Nigerians began to point holes in the budget. To put it mildly, it is riddled with unforgivable errors.
Despite obvious signs that the president had surreptitiously withdrawn the budget to correct the disaster, he still couldn’t get it right.
This week alone, at least half a dozen ministers have denied their budgets to lawmakers. Lawmakers have announced that the February 25 deadline for the passage of the budget is no longer realistic. They are right. The call is now that the president should withdraw the catastrophic document before it wrought even further damage on the nation’s economy.
The section that deals with enumerated powers in our Constitution accords considerable deference to the president on many issues, including fiscal responsibility. But the Constitution also avails the legislature the power to vet the executive’s appropriation document in order to keep the excesses of a leader under check.
With his statement that a budget mafia had hijacked the process from his government, Buhari is now alighting on what has been obvious to any serious politician for decades; civil servants are not trustworthy. This is really why we should have democrats more often than soldiers as president.