N/Assembly has powers to tamper with budget–Dogara

Dogara

  • We won’t be rubber stamp to the Executive
  • Refusal to implement budget impeachable offence

Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on Thursday declared that the National Assembly has the powers to introduce new projects, add, remove or reduce items in the Appropriations Bills.

The position has been a subject of controversy for a while with legal practitioners maintaining that such powers are not available to the legislature.

In what appeared a clinical interpretation of the constitution, Speaker Dogara in a remark on a motion on matters of privilege moved by Hon. Lawal Abubakar (APC, Adamawa), maintained that the framers of the 1999 Constitution vested the powers of law making in the Legislature, execution or implementation in the Executive while the Judiciary interprets the law so as to ensure checks and balances.

According to the Speaker, “a declaration as to which of the arms has the power and rights, in as much as it is related to the interpretation of the law, is the function of the judiciary and not of the executive.

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Earlier, in his motion, Hon. Abubakar argued that his privilege as a member was breached by statements credited to Ag. President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who was quoted to have said on two occasions that the National Assembly has no powers to introduce new projects to the budget before passing it.

Dogara, also argued that the Appropriation Act is a law enacted by the parliament and that public officers from the President to his ministers have sworn to uphold the Constitution and the said refusal or failure to implement the budget is a violation of the Constitution which has consequences.

The Speaker also stated that in the event of refusal to assent to any bill by the Executive, the constitution empowers the National Assembly to override such veto in the interest of the public.

“We are men of honour whether legislators or executive We are bound by the oath of office to faithfully execute that law and in the case of the executive, if it is not done, all of us know the very consequences. I don’t want to call it by its name, we know the consequences”, he charged

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He said in the United States of America where Nigeria copied its presidential system, any budget proposal sent to the Congress is presumed ‘dead on arrival’ and it only comes ‘alive’ when passed by the  National Assembly because the legislature has the powers to tamper with the proposal.

Speaking on the powers of the parliament, the Speaker stated that the House under his leadership will not be rubber stamp to the Executive as they will do everything to uphold and protect the independence of the legislature and added that “When it comes to the budget, the power of the purse in a presidential system of government rests in the parliament.”

Dogara said that the reason why the Constitution designers made it that way is because the executive is just one man, (the President), while every other person in the executive is acting on behalf of the President, “so the relationship between the President and every other person there, is that of  servant and the master. It is only in the parliament where we have representatives of the people that there is equality and you can say your mind on any issue, you can bring matters of priority the way you like.”

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He reminded the Executive the parliament has powers to override any veto saying, “the worst the executive can do is to say they will not sign and after 30 days, if we can muster two-thirds, and it doesn’t have to be two-thirds of the entire membership, once the quorum is formed, two-third of the members sitting and voting, we can override the veto of the President and pass it into law.”