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Reps lack power to insert projects into budget, says SERAP

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has told the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara that there is absolutely no constitutional provisions that grant members or leaders the power to insert projects in budget.

Dogara had recently defended the decision of the lower chamber to insert 2,000 items into the 2016 Budget after former Chairman of Appropriation Committee Abdulmumin Jibril accused principal officers of ‘padding’ the document.

However, SERAP in a statement by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, disagreed with Dogara, saying “the idea of members of the
National Assembly allocating projects to their constituencies and then approving such projects is a grave and direct affront to basic constitutional principles of equity, fairness, transparency, accountability and separation of powers.”

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Similarly, Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), accused the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government of following the discredited path of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), by treating the serious allegation of monumental corruption of budget paddling as a “family affair.”

Falana said, “Contrary to his misleading contention, the Legislative House’s Powers and Privileges Act has not conferred immunity on him with respect to allegations of criminal offences. Since the immunity conferred by the Act is limited to contributions to debates by members of the national assembly.”

Falana declared, “Under Section 81 of the constitution, the president is given the exclusive power to cause the budget to be prepared. Upon the preparation of the budget by the executive it shall be laid or presented to the National Assembly by the President.”

Falana contended that the National Assembly couldn’t increase the budget in any manner whatsoever, adding that the unilateral introduction of constituency projects is totally illegal and unconstitutional.

SERAP spoke in the same vein. “To justify project insertion in the budget is to place the interest of the leaders of House of Representatives over and above the public interest.”

Mumuni added: “The constitutional role of the National Assembly is limited to the authorisation of any public spending by the executive and not insertion of projects in the budget.”

“Authorisation of public spending literally means official permission to take a step and doesn’t equate insertion of projects in the budget. The House of Representatives absolutely has no power to insert any projects in the 2016 budget that was not originally part of the estimates of the executive in the Appropriation Bill.”
He said the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubabar Malami SAN, should move swiftly to approach the court to set aside those portions of the budget that were not parts of the original estimates submitted by President Muhammadu Buhari to the National
Assembly.


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