Resolve 2016 Budget As Soon As Possible – IMF

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President Buhari presenting the 2016 budget to national assembly

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday waded into the impasse between the executive arm of government and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget, advising the Nigerian government to resolve the issues surrounding the budget and have it assented to, just as it renewed the call for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to implement a flexible foreign exchange regime.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday waded into the impasse between the executive arm of government and the National Assembly over the 2016 budget, advising the Nigerian government to resolve the issues surrounding the budget and have it assented to, just as it renewed the call for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to implement a flexible foreign exchange regime.

IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, who spoke at the opening press briefing of the fund at the 2016 Spring Meetings of the IMF-World Bank in Washington D.C., also told the federal government to seek assistance from international institutions capable of helping the Nigerian economy overcome its current economic challenges.

“Our recommendation is that, first, Nigeria seek help from the international institutions that can best help. Second is that Nigeria is open-minded about using flexibility of the exchange rate in order to absorb some of the shocks; we believe that it’s more efficient than using a list of forex items that are barred from being imported into the country.
“And third, we believe that it’s really important that budget be completely decided and approved,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde noted that the IMF was ready to come to the aid of Nigeria to resolve its economic issues provided the federal government approaches it for such assistance, recalling that during her visit to the country in January this year, she pointedly told the government to de-emphasise reliance on oil revenue and to diversify the economy, especially with the lingering volatility of oil prices.

According to her, “The low price of oil is general but low price of oil as far as Nigeria is concerned is a critical issue. Sixty per cent of your exports and 80 per cent of your revenue or the other way round is actually oil dependent.
“So when there is a massive decline in the price of oil, those two also take a similar beating; it has a major impact on the country.”

She believed Nigeria was “full of energy, full of smart people” and could really transform some of its activities in other sectors of the economy including the agriculture sector.
In her opening remarks, she noted that “we expect global growth this year to be at 3.2 per cent and 3.5 per cent next year. This makes it harder to spread economic warmth to the citizens of the globe”.
“It is not enough to lift living standards, reduce debt and create sufficient opportunities for the nearly 200 million people around the world who are officially unemployed and looking for jobs.

“There is a risk that middle class families and the poor actually remain behind, which would embolden the voices of protectionism and fragmentation,” she said.
Earlier, Word Bank President, Mr. Jim Yong Kim, pointed out: “In the global economy, there are not many bright spots around the world. The United States is one among the developed countries and India is another among the middle-income countries.

“Growth remains weak in Europe and Japan and among emerging economies. Russia and Brazil are projected to post, again, negative growth.
“We just downgraded our global growth forecast this year from 2.9 per cent to 2.5 per cent. In this period of global economic slowdown, we’re also facing major global challenges: forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics.

“I want to stress that each of these three represent very clear downside risks to the global economy. We’re not working urgently and in new ways with partners to find solutions to these issues that affect all of us.”
Meanwhile, a bill seeking to whittle down the powers of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) and Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) scaled its second reading on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

In the same vein, another bill seeking to delete CCT from the list of judicial institutions with the jurisdiction to adjudicate on criminal matters has been initiated in the Senate.
The first bill tagged, “Code of Conduct Act Cap C15 LFN 2004 (Amendment) Bill 2016”, was sponsored by Senator Peter Nwaboshi (Delta North).

Yesterday’s plenary was presided over by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, stayed away.
In his lead debate, Nwaboshi said the bill was conceived to ensure that anyone who appeared before CCT is given a fair hearing.

“The amendment of Section 3 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act is to give every public officer appearing before the bureau fair hearing as provided for under Section 36(2)(a) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999,” he said.

The amendments proposed in the bill are as follows: “The functions of the Bureau shall be to: (a) receive assets declarations by officers in accordance with the provisions of this Act; (b) take and retain custody of such assets declarations; (c) examine the asset declarations and ensure that they comply with the requirements of this Act and of any law for the time being in force if otherwise the bureau shall invite the public officer concerned and take down his statement in writing; (d) receive complaints about non-compliance with or breach of this Act and where the Bureau having regard to any statement taken or to be taken after such subsequent complaint is made considers it necessary to do so, investigate the complaint and where appropriate refer such complaints to the Code of Conduct Tribunal established by Section 20 of this Act and the constitution in accordance with the provisions of Sections 20 to 25 of this Act.”

While all senators, who contributed to the debate hailed the amendment bill, describing it as timely, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi (Kebbi North) cautioned his colleagues against the amendment, describing the bill as ill-timed.

He said even though the amendment might be good, coming at the time Saraki is standing trial before CCT could generate a negative public backlash.
Specifically, he said the public could interpret the amendment as a desperate move to frustrate the ongoing trial of Saraki.

“I rise to raise a point of caution. I am against the timing of the amendment. We must look at the perception of the people. Nigerian people can interpret it to mean that we have something to hide.
“Nigerians will question why we are doing this now if not that our president is facing trial. That is what Nigerians will think. We need to be careful,” he warned.
But Ekweremadu quickly addressed Abdullahi’s concern, insisting that the bill had nothing to do Saraki’s trial.

According to him, the bill was not proposed to be retroactive, noting that Saraki’s trial had already begun and hence, its passage could no longer influence the ongoing trial.
Ekweremadu further claimed that the move only showed that the Senate was not afraid to carry out its legislative functions.

When the bill was put to a voice vote, senators unanimously voted in favour of its passage and was subsequently referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Judiciary.

Also yesterday, Senator Isah Misau (Bauchi Central) sponsored another bill tagged, “”A Bill for an Act to Amend the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and for Other Related Matters”.
The bill seeks to remove CCT from the list of courts saddled with powers to initiate criminal proceedings against accused persons.

Highlighting include: “The provisions of this Act shall not apply to a court martial and such other courts or tribunals not being courts created and listed under Section 6(5) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended.”

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