CSJ raises concerns over Tinubu’s request to NASS for approval of N500bn for palliatives

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By Maina Maina

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ)says it is deeply concerned over the request made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to the National Assembly for an amendment to the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act.

The president has requested a substantial amount of N500 billion from the 2022 supplementary budget to provide palliatives aimed at cushioning the effect of fuel subsidy removal.

CSJ, in a statement on Thursday, said it finds it disconcerting that such a request is being made in July, the seventh month of the 2023 financial year for an amendment to the previous year’s supplementary budget, stressing that this raises questions about the propriety of the timing and the potential impact on fiscal planning and budgetary processes.

It said it was wrong to implement and proposed virements from the 2022 federal budget in July of 2023, insisting that this rubbish the idea of a financial year defined as the period commencing on January 1 and ending on the 31st of December of every year.

The CSJ said: “In fact, and in logical parlance, the Federal Government cannot be proposing to use the 2022 budget to alleviate the hardship arising from the fuel subsidy removal that was announced in the middle of 2023.

“We note that the President’s request lacks specificity and vital details regarding how the proposed N500 billion will be allocated, spent and utilized. Without specific information on the intended purpose, target beneficiaries, etc, this request violates S.81 (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 199 as amended vis: “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 sums necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of those sums for the purposes specified therein”.

The CSJ described the request as neither transparent nor accountable; and best described as unconstitutional.

The statement added that: “CSJ strongly urges the National Assembly to assert its constitutional power of appropriation and demand that the requested amount’s specifics and the planned utilisation be sent to it for vetting before approval. It is crucial for the government to follow the rule of law, demonstrate transparency and accountability in financial matters, especially when dealing with significant amounts of public funds.

“We emphasise that Nigeria’s fiscal challenges require a long-term and strategic approach rather than ad hoc measures. Short-term fixes, like a sprint run, may provide temporary relief, but they do not address the root causes of our fiscal imbalances. A comprehensive policy framework and sustainable solutions are needed to ensure long-term stability and prosperity for all Nigerians.

“We urge the Federal Government to follow the Constitution, prioritise transparency, engage in inclusive decision-making processes, and pursue evidence-based policies that address the underlying issues affecting our economy.”

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