Budget: New law seeks president’s impeachment

•Presidency kicks over proposed timelines

A new legislation that will make provisions for stiff penalties, including impeachment of the president, over non-implementation of national budgets, is being considered in the National Assembly.

The proposed bill, which is being given accelerated hearing by federal lawmakers, also gives specific timelines for the preparation, consideration and enactment of national budgets.

The bill made it clear that lack of  sufficient and comprehensive regulatory framework have become serious obstacles to the budget process in Nigeria.

However, the Presidency has kicked against the bill.

In its reaction, yesterday, the presidency described planned imposition of penalties as unrealistic and noted that implementation of the national budget is based on availability of funds.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, said this at an interactive stakeholders’ meeting organised by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), in Abuja, yesterday.

Senator Enang also said since “the budget is a mere statement of expectation, it would be difficult to sanction anybody for not implementing it.”

Section 33 of the proposed bill states that anybody found to have breached any of the budget processes would be deemed to have committed an act of misconduct.

Sanctions provided in section 35 of the bill, against any public officer, legislator, or civil servants found to have committed such acts of misconduct include impeachment, suspension from office, written warning, removal of chairmanship of committee and termination of employment.

The section also lists such “acts of misconduct to include failure to implement a budget project, where appropriated funds are available to implement such project; failure to take reasonable care or necessary steps to ensure that there is compliance with this law by one’s institution, colleagues or subordinates; non-compliance with the budget process calendar; refusal to carry out official duty and as incapacitated or prevent another official, public servant or civil servant from discharging his function under this bill.”

The new legislation made it clear that “a person who, without lawful authority or approval given in accordance  with this Bill alters or otherwise tampers with the report of a committee or sub committee, with intent to mislead or gain an advantage or benefit, commits an offence.”

It also stated that “a person who unlawfully  provides, offers, solicits or  accepts anything of value for a direct or indirect benefit.

“A person who takes any action, expresses or indicates illness to take an action for the purpose of intimidating or harming socially, financially or otherwise, any person wholly or partly for the purpose of influencing a decision on the budget process or the use or expenditure of any public money commits an offence,” the bill added.

The proposed law equally stated that the budget should be submitted to the National Assembly, by the president not later than first week of September while it should be passed into law not later than second week of December.

The president, according to the purposed law, should assent to the bill not later than December 30 of the same year.