From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka and Obinna Odogwu, Ekwuluobia
Renowned economist, Prof Pat Utomi, has described Nigeria’s budgetary system as a huge joke.
Utomi, founder of the Lagos Business School, said Nigeria, as a country, is running on lottery and described the current annual fiscal plan as a mere gambling.
Speaking as the Guest Lecturer at the maiden edition of Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah Budget Roundtable, organised by the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (UNIZIK) Business School, held at the University’s auditorium, Utomi blamed the current economic recession in the country on lack of planning and foresight, which could have been taken care of by a good national budget.
This was even as the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Chris Azubuogu, justified the budget padding scandal that rocked the green chamber, recently, over the 2016 budget.
Utomi, whose lecture was on “Budget Processes in Nigeria: Challenges and implications for National Development,” stated that a good budget does not only contain what the nation wants, but envisages the implications of future economic changes in the country.
“Our major problem is lack of planning; and if there is no discipline, then budgeting is a waste of time. In beginning of a budgeting process, it must be matched with where the people are going. But, beyond revenue and expenditure, budget has to do with discipline and execution.
“We should assume that oil revenues are windfall. We should work as if oil does not exist. If you run your household and wine lottery, how will you feel? That’s what we are doing. Nigeria is a country running on lottery.”
“Some years ago, I advised that oil revenues should be restricted from the budget process to nothing more than $40 per barrel. Don’t forget that when Obasanjo was president from 1999 oil price was at $11 per barrel. Just before that, between Abacha and Abdulsalami came the single digit, $9 per barrel. Nigeria did not die.”
“Now it is $100 per barrel. If you spend that as the basis of everything you do, you’re a fool. And that’s what has happened to us as a country. For more than 15 years, I was calling for carve out of $40 per barrel for the purpose of servicing the budget. And when you take in this amount of money, everything you have above it will go to an account you can turn to in case oil prices drop to $9 per barrel, so that you won’t be affected too badly.”
Furthermore, he said, “One of the problems we have in our country is that we lack planning which is critical in all we do. Budget process is based fundamentally on goal setting.”
Decrying the prevailing backwardness in the country, the renowned economist stated that the sad situation was basically thrown up by the events of 1966, when, according to him, a gang of renegades hijacked the leadership of the country, noting that the same characters have remained in power.
Admitting that the powers of appropriation essentially lie on the National Assembly, Utomi, however, faulted the implementation of constituency projects.
Hon. Azubogu, who delivered the keynote address, while noting that the legislature has the constitutional powers to prepare the national budget, listed factors that hinder the actualisation of national budget to include poor funding of budget, lopsided budgeting, deficit budget and high domestic debt profile which, he said, was currently in trillions of naira, absence of budget education and lack of budget engagement.
Regardless, a former Minister of National Planning, Dr Olisa Ogbu, pointed out that lack of national consciousness was responsible for the poor implementation of national budget and called for the enactment, into law, the nation’s National Development Plan.
In their welcome addresses, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Prof. Joe Ahaneku and the Director of UNIZIK Business School, Prof. Austin Nnonyelu pointed out that the budget roundtable had become necessary giving the knotty issues which usually characterised the national budget, adding that the platform would aid in proffering solutions to the teething problems.