The National Assembly has been requested by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to change the 2022 Supplementary Appropriations Act, and the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) says this has it extremely concerned.
The president has asked for a sizeable sum of N500 billion from the 2022 supplemental budget to provide palliatives intended to lessen the impact of the elimination of gasoline subsidies.
In a statement released on Thursday, CSJ said it finds it troubling that such a request for an amendment to the supplementary budget from the previous year is being made in July, the seventh month of the fiscal year 2023. It emphasized that this raises concerns about the timing and the potential impact on financial planning and budgetary processes.
It insisted that doing so would destroy the concept of a financial year, which is defined as the time period beginning on January 1 and ending on December 31 of each year. It asserted that it was improper to execute and propose changes from the federal budget for 2022 in July of 2023.
According to the CSJ, the Federal Government cannot be proposing to utilize the 2022 budget to lessen the pain brought on by the elimination of fuel subsidies, which was announced in the middle of 2023.
“We observe that the President’s request is vague and missing key information about how the projected N500 billion will be distributed, spent, and used. This request violates S. 81 (2) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s 199th amendment, which states that “The heads of expenditure contained in the estimates (other than expenditure charged upon the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation by this Constitution) shall be included in a bill, to be known as an Appropriation Bill, providing for the issue from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation” without providing any information about the intended purpose, target beneficiaries, etc.
The CSJ said the request was illegal because it lacked accountability and transparency.
“CSJ strongly urges the National Assembly to assert its constitutional power of appropriation and demand that the specifics of the requested amount and the planned utilisation be sent to it for review and approval,” the statement continued. The government must uphold the rule of law, act transparently, and be accountable in financial affairs, especially when handling substantial sums of taxpayer money.
We stress that long-term, strategic thinking is needed to address Nigeria’s fiscal issues rather than impromptu solutions. While immediate respite may be provided by quick fixes, like a sprint run, they do not address the underlying reasons of our fiscal imbalances. To secure long-term stability and prosperity for all Nigerians, a thorough policy framework and viable solutions are required.
“We firmly demand that the Federal Government uphold the Constitution, give transparency top priority, participate in inclusive decision-making processes, and pursue evidence-based policies that deal with the fundamental problems affecting our economy.”