THE 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, imposed on the people by the military junta preceding the ongoing democracy, made general election a quadrennial event, similar to that of the United States of America, and specifically pegs inauguration of governments on May 29 every four years too. Incidentally, it prearranges the budget after the civil year calendar, reckoned from January 1 to December 31, according to the Gregorian calendar. By this conflicting arrangement, the federal and state governments present budget proposals to their respective legislative bodies at the end of every year for passage.
By synchronising the civil year pattern rather than the nation’s democratic calendar, most incoming administrations may continuously encounter crisis in the first year in office with usual laments of empty treasuries against outgoing administrations as witnessed over time, on account of continuum in government.
This accounts for the strict reliance on independent financial-year calendar by financial and other corporate bodies for operations distinctive from the civil year merely observed for record purposes.
Any government that is scheduled to round off its tenure in May 29 has no business with appropriation bill for the residual periods of the year. A well-structured government should, correspondingly, run its calendar alongside the year’s budget from inauguration date and not necessarily adopting a civil calendar except if fittingly inaugurated in January.
Apparently, this is a mismatch which over the years has frustrated new governments in Nigeria from starting strong after inauguration. The endless wailings by newly-inaugurated governments over empty-treasuries and consequently, patching up till the passage of another year’s appropriation bill, patriotically calls for sober reflection.
The remedy is simple. Appropriation bill should synchronically run as financial year based on respective inauguration dates as a substitute to civil year calendar. With the variation, no elected leader could trespass to allocations earmarked for an incoming administration, be it at state or federal level. As long as May 29 remains the nation’s democratic calendar whilst appropriation bill runs in a civil year, it will continuously lead to catastrophe. The gaffe has depressingly affected both incoming governments from the opposition and ruling parties but usually covered up under “party affairs” especially where the outgoing government contributed to the election victory of the incoming one. Incidentally, the helpless society at large suffers it in the long run.
Any scenario where an administration secures a year’s appropriation bill but plunders it in its remaining five months, incidentally, the fifth month of the whole year will certainly not augur well but put the incoming government in a tight financial corner in the remaining months except, to bank on supplementary budgets, that’s if the treasury is not in red. The political system should provide a template with realistic protective mechanism to public funds.
It is absurd and incompatible for a government to run a civil year against the democratic calendar. The political system had better adopted protective strategies than remedial approaches which impede developments and service delivery. As the legal regime is characterised by sundry lacunas and inconsistencies that make prosecution of corruption cases cumbersome, preventive mechanisms remain the pragmatic options in checking the shortfalls.