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Frying Pan to Fire: Rubber Stamp to Photocopy

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On the 29th of November, Nigeria’s most controversial president to date, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presented his very first budget in office to a joint house sitting of the National Assembly. The budget was named “The Renewed Hope Budget of 2024”, similar to his manifesto, and true to form, the event was marred with many controversies that always swirl around his person.

The joint house sitting was led by the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, who, from his very first day in office as senate leader, has worn the traditional Yoruba cap with an infinity sign, the symbol that Bola Tinubu had long adopted as his insignia. Akpabio, with this move amidst others, has made it clear where and to whom his loyalty lies.

The ninth assembly led by Ahmed Ibrahim Lawan was described as Rubber Stamp because of the docility they employed in their dealings with former President Buhari. Akpabio, however, seems determined to supersede his predecessor with his actions, inactions and ‘body language’. He led the joint sitting of NASS to sing a tribute dedicated to Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the floor of the hallowed chambers, very akin to the Sieg Heil Salutation of Adolf Hitler.

In addition to these, a member of the Federal House of Representatives, Yusuf Galambi of the NNPP, has alleged that the leadership of NASS seem hellbent on passing the budget despite the absence of a budget breakdown and that the President submitted an empty box during the budget presentation.

The deliberate lack of transparency with the budget may result from the backlash the government got from the 2023 supplementary budget breakdown, as well as the scrutiny that the budgets of several states of the federation have come under in recent times. Nevertheless, the act is an insult to the lobotomized National Assembly as well as the Nigerian People they represent. The budget at this point is a little more than a mirage; it may as well contain 18 “presidential yacht for the navy”, construction of an office building for the first son of the republic, or any number of countless frivolous items. It could be another landmine that would further impoverish the people and tank the economy.

Unfortunately, the NASS leadership have voluntarily relinquished their constitutional power to checkmate the executive. In the words of Kenneth Okonkwo, “This National assembly is worse than a rubber stamp. It is a photocopy”. All in all, the entire first budget was a complete letdown, and it looks like a long, bumpy ride ahead with no respite in sight.

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