Budget Office DG Ben AkMr. Budget Bows Outbueze
Ben Akabueze, immediate past DG of Budget Office

Mr. Budget Bows Out

1 month ago
3 mins read
President Muhammadu Buhari was less than a year in office when he realized that his officials would not be able to produce the budget for FY 2017 on time. His Budget and National Planning Minister, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, was frantically seeking help, not only to produce the federal proposal, but also to reform and reposition the entire budgeting process. The 2016 appropriation bill was signed into law by the president very late in the year, and it was replete with irregularities. It then was clear to senior administration officials that the Budget Office of the Federation, an agency responsible for designing and drawing up the federal government’s budget proposals, required an experienced and suitably qualified leader to do the job. The man at the saddle then was clearly below his depth. Fourteen years earlier, Senator Udoma was the chairman of the Senate’s Appropriation Committee – an influential and powerful Committee that scrutinizes and approves the federal budgets and those of its over 300 parastatals. He knows a lot about the budgeting process and technicalities involved, and was therefore in a hurry to headhunt a man of requisite and cognate skills to lead the Budget Office.
 Enter Ben Ifeanyichukwu Akabueze. Early in 2016, Akabueze was appointed Special Adviser to the President on National Planning, but his job description did not include budget preparations. He had observed the debacle in the Budget Office and all the commotion surrounding the 2016 proposals, but in the nature of Nigeria’s public service, he could only offer suggestions. Somebody then mentioned to Udoma that Ben was the right man to fix the mess. After a few consultations and discussions and Senator Udoma’s recommendation, the president promptly moved Akabueze to the Budget Office as the sixth Director General with a clear mandate to ensure the presentation of the annual budgets to the National Assembly by September of every year; review the annual budget and advise on the necessity or otherwise of a supplementary budget and reconcile and monitor monthly performance of key revenue agencies.
A fellow of three renowned professional bodies, (Institute of Chartered Accountants; Chartered Institute of Bankers and institute of Credit Administration), Akabueze came highly recommended for the assignment, and he soon proved that his selection was one of Buhari’s few fit-for-purpose appointments. Ben or Pastor Ben, as friends fondly call him, is one of the nation’s brightest, analytical yet unassuming professionals. For about nine years prior, he had served as the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning in Lagos State, having been appointed by Gov. Tinubu in 2006 and reappointed by Gov. Fashola in 2007. Before then, he was the Managing Director & CEO of NAL Bank (now Sterling Bank) from 2000 to 2005.
There were rumours then that it was Asiwaju Tinubu, then National Leader of the APC, that had facilitated his appointment as the SA to the President, and subsequent deployment to the BOF. Both Akabueze and Udoma refused to comment on this when I asked them. A few months after Ben took the job, Senator Udoma told me in his office. “I am lucky to have Ben around. He is sorting out the headaches in the Budget Office.’’ I told Udoma that I knew Akabueze well, and that he had in December 2000 tapped me to lead the Corporate Communications department at NAL. “He will make a difference’’, I assured him. I have been blessed to walk and work with the best of Nigerians in my long careers spanning two professions. Akabueze’s leadership and accomplishments as the nation’s chief budget officer between 2016 and 2024 are transformative, tangible and outstanding. I salute him for his unblemished records and sterling achievements in all of the two terms. He served with dedication, diligence and commitment.
Under him, the budget office recorded improvements in the quality and comprehensiveness of the budget documents, leveraging technology to achieve improved levels of citizens’ engagements in the budgeting process. We now have full disclosures of federal government’s payments; improved transparency, governance, service delivery and accountability. Multi-lateral and bi-lateral project tied loans as well as grants and donor-funded projects are now reflected in the federal government budget, unlike in the past when the process was marred by opacity and lack of clarity. In addition, fiscal risks and contingent liabilities are also included in the budget pack. There’s been also improved coordination and collaboration between the executive and legislature leading to a return to the predictable January-December budget cycle, for the first time since 1999. Until then, it was only the military regimes that were able to issue budget speeches on New Year Day. Another important change that Ben and his team introduced is the inclusion of the budgets of all government-owned enterprises in the federal budget presented by the president to the National Assembly. Further, there has also been significant improvements in the budget and expenditure management of the MDAs.
Internally, Akabueze also restructured the BOF and took his management and staff through a visioning process that developed a vision and mission statement for the organisation. Its mission is to provide efficient and qualitative budget functions to Nigeria, geared towards promoting fiscal sustainability, transparency and accountability in public finance management for national development in line with international best practices. Clearly, the achievements listed above are in with the mission. Its vision is to be a world-class technology-driven budget institution that is a catalyst for equitable distribution of the nation’s resources to engender sustainable socio-economic development. It is for no reason that he’s also known as Mr. Budget.
Last week, I asked Akabueze to review his tenure at BOF and all the other significant positions he’s held. As he is wont to do, he contemplated the question for a while and then said, ’I have done my best. Nigerians should do the assessment’.


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