Budget 2017: Senate Replies Osinbajo, Warns It ‘ll Not Cede Its Power To Executive

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Vice President of Nigeria

By Sadiq Umar – The Senate on Thursday frowned at a statement credited to the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo that the National Assembly has no power to tinker with the Budget, warning that it would not cede its constitutional power of law-making to the executive arm.

Even as the Senate, embarked on a two-weeks legislative break which coincides with the Eid-el-fitr holiday.

PIC 21. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo signing the 2017 Appropriation Act into law at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Monday (12/6/17). With him from left are: Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Sen. Ita Enang; Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (House of Representatives), Suleiman Kawu; Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma; Chief of Staff, Alhaji Abba Kyari; and Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun.
03181/ 12/6/2017/Callistus Ewelike/BJO/NAN

Mr. Osinbajo had reportedly complained about the new projects infused into the 2017 Budget of N7.441trillion which he signed into law early in the week, arguing that the lawmakers have no such power to add to the budget.

But the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Ibn Na’Allah in a point of Order drew the attention of his colleagues to the remarks by the Acting President and the wider attention it commanded in the media, citing order 43 of the Senate Rules.

Mr. Na’Allah said he was of a firm conviction that the Acting President never made such statement, saying that he may have been quoted out of context.

Mr. Na’Allah said he brought the remarks to the attention of the Senate because many Senators trooped to his office on Wednesday to register their displeasure, contending that the remarks by the Acting President was not only provocative but unconstitutional going by provisions of section 80 of the 1999 constitution as amended.

He quoted relevant portion of section 80 of the constitution empowering the National Assembly to make inputs through appropriation into yearly budget of the country.

“I want to make a personal explanation on the media reports credited to the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to the effect that the National Assembly does not possess any power to alter the budget submitted to it by the Executive.

“I offer explanation that we have operated this Constitution from 1999 to date. I am sure that everybody who knows me knows that I have some limited understanding of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“I have also had the privilege to work with the Acting President while I was practicing in Lagos as a lawyer; we did a lot of things together. So, he is somebody that I know so much, that I will rather believe that what was alleged to have been said could not have been said by him and even if he spoke on the matter, he was misquoted.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this same Constitution we operated from 1999 to date has section 80, and the title of section 80 is “Power and Control over Public Funds”. With you permission Mr. President, I read: all revenues or other monies raised or received by the Federation not being revenues of other monies payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other Public Fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose shall be payable to and for one consolidated fund of the Federation.

“Section 2 says: no monies shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by the Constitution or where the issue of those monies has been authorised by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act or Act passed in pursuance of Section 81 of the Constitution.

“Three, no money shall be withdrawn from any public funds of the Federation other than the Consolidated revenue fund of the Federation unless the issue of those monies has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.

“Four, no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly. That is the provision”

The Senate President, Bukola Saraki in his response said since the provisions of the constitution on the subject matter is not ambiguous, the senate and by extension, the National Assembly will not cede its constitutional power to the executive.

Mr. Saraki agreed with the Deputy Senate leader that the Acting President was probably misquoted more so being a seasoned lawyer.

“Thank you very much Deputy leader on the point that you have raised because this is very important. I too have a lot of our colleagues coming up to us regarding the 2017 budget. And I cannot agree with you less,” he said.

“I ‘m sure that the Acting President must have been misquoted because there is clearly no ambiguity in the Constitution of the responsibility of the National Assembly. This matter has been cleared and settled. So, I don’t think there are any issues here that are vague. I will like to believe too that the Acting President must have been wrongly quoted.

“But at the same time, I want to say that there are times we have a number of consultations and I want to make it clear that the consultations we do with the Executive will not at any time mean that we will give up the powers we have in line with the Constitution.

“I believe that as responsible statesmen, there are times we consult and do our best to work with the Executive and assist them. But as we bend backwards, I don’t think that should be misrepresented that powers given to us in the Constitution does not exist. That is not the case, and this Senate will continue to defend the Constitution and ensure that anything we do is in line with the laws of the land”.

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