A few hours to the end of 2018, Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode is yet to present the 2019 Appropriation Bill of the fifth largest economy in Africa to the State House of Assembly. The 2019 budget, the last to be presented by Ambode, is the most delayed by any Lagos State governor in over a decade.
Ambode presented the 2018 budget on December 11, 2017, about 20 days to the end of the year. The 2018 budget, the biggest the state had ever presented, was the second largest state budget in Nigeria. The 2018 budget came far late to the 2017 budget, which he presented November 29, 2016, about 32 days to the end of the year, while 2016 budget was presented December 17, 2015, about 14 days to the end of the year 2015.
His predecessor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola prepared and presented eight budgets. He started with the 2008 budget estimate of N403bn, which he presented on December 17, 2007, while the 2009 budget of N405bn was presented on November 10, 2008, while 2010 budget estimate of N430bn was presented on November 17, 2009.
On December 13, 2010, Fashola presented the 2011 budget estimate of N445.2bn while the 2012 N485bn budget was presented on November 14, 2011. This was followed by the 2013 N497bn budget presented on October 31, 2012, while the 2014 N489.6bn budget was presented on October 30, 2013. The last budget Fashola presented was the N489.75bn 2015 budget, which he presented November 24, 2014.
With the 2018 budget hitting the N1tr mark, it is also expected that the 2019 budget would not go below the 2018 Appropriation Act. This means, it will require more scrutiny and verification in the State Assembly, yet the budget is not yet presented, a day to the end of the year.
It took just about 35 days for the Lagos State Assembly to put its authority behind the N812b 2017 budget, which to some analysts must have been done in a rush, with no due diligence and about 51 days to put its authority on the N1.046t 2018 budget.
With the budget expected to be, at least, at par with the 2018 budget or bigger, it is expected that the Assembly should take not less than 35 days to consider the budget including public holidays, which means that the budget could only be made ready in February 2019 at most. It might even take a long time compared to the 35 days it took to pass last year’s budget. This is because almost all the lawmakers would be campaigning to return to the Assembly, which might limit the time to look into the budget.
A few states have presented their 2019 budgets and have even signed them into law, but stakeholders feel Lagos should have been among the first to do so, being the biggest state economy in Nigeria. The state should be ahead of other states in planning for its robust civil service.
Ranked as the fifth largest economy in Africa, there are fears that a delayed budget may also slow down the execution of the projects carried out by the government, as funds may not be released early. This, it is argued, might rub off negatively on the economy of the state though largely driven by the private sector.
The Guardian, however, learnt politics is part of the reason the budget has not been ready, as the executive and the legislature are said not to be on the same page.
The source said the overbearing influence of the legislature on state activities has made the executive to buy time in presenting the budget, as presenting the budget after the APC primaries could further heat up the state policy, which was seen in some of the pronouncements made by the Assembly after the primaries.
According to the source, the Assembly seems to be enjoying some support from the party leaders in the state, who are using it to check the power and influence of the governor.
The source buttressed his claim with the letter written by the immediate past Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources, Wale Oluwo, who resigned from the party recently.
In his letter, he alluded to the use of an arm of government by a powerful block in the party to intimidate institutions of government.
Attempts to get the state government to explain the delay were not fruitful. The Public Relations Officer of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget said it was only the governor that could give reasons the budget had not been presented. After not being able to communicate with the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Kehinde Bamigbetan on phone thrice, a text message was sent to him and he acknowledged receiving the text, promising to respond. Since Tuesday that he promised to respond, he had not.