By Robert Omote
The Nigeria democracy since 1999 has been associated with theatrical absurdities, the most recent being the 2014 budget presentation made by the Finance Minister who was delegated by the President for undisclosed reasons. The abdication of unconstitutional responsibility by the President forms the ground for this discourse.
In retrospect, under the 7th Schedule of the 1999 CFRN (AS Amended) which expressly provides for the oath of office, the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is constitutionally expected to be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; to preserve and defend the constitution of the country.
S. 1 (1) of the 1999 CFRN (AS Amended) resonates the supremacy of the constitution. In Hope Democratic Party v Obi (2012, ALL FWLR (PT612), 1620 @ 1625 R.4, the apex court rule confirm the supremacy of the constitution as binding on all persons, institutions and authorities in Nigeria. In consequence, the failure to follow any of the provisions renders the steps taken unconstitutional, null and void.
The Validity Of Budget Presentation By Mr. President
The validity of budget presentation by the president is captured in S.81(1) of the extant constitution as amended. It provides thus;
The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each house of the National Assemble at anytime in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure
of the Federation for next following financial year.
In the lexicon of law in general, the word “shall” connotes a mandatory concept. The Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th edition at page 1499 defines it as “something mandatory that drafters typically intend and that courts typically uphold.” In Agip v Agip (2010) 2Scm 1 @ 16,R22, the apex court maintains that when the word “shall” is used in a statue, it is not permissive, it is mandatory, its imports is that a thing must be done. Budget presentation from the import of S.81 (1) is the constitutional responsibility of the President and no one else.
BUDGET PRESENTATION BY A MINISTER
The President seemingly overwhelmed by the perceived and anticipated boos from members of the National Assembly has wittingly delegated the Finance Minister to represent him at the 2014 budget presentation under the guise of being protected by the provision of S.148 (1). This section provide thus;
The President may in his discretion assign to Vice President or any Minister of the government of the Federation responsibility for any business of the government of the federation including the administration of any department of government.
The 2014 budget presentation by the finance minister when analysed in contest with the provision of S.148(1) does not suggest that the President can negotiate, abdicate or sacrifice a reverence exercise of annual budget presentation.
The above scenario notwithstanding, S.67 (2) of the same constitution unequivocally permits the presence of the finance minister in such occasion. The aforesaid section provides;
A minister of the government of the Federation shall attend either house of the National Assembly if invited to explain to the house the conduct of his or her ministry and in particular when the affairs of that ministry are under discussion.
The general law is that procedures or conditions are provided for by a statue within which a budget can be presented and except where the statue admits of exception (and in this case, there is none), such procedures or conditions must be complied with in other to inject life into the statue, constitution or the polity in general.
Equating therefore S. 81 (1) with any other provision(s) in the extant constitution smack of irrelevance of technical rules of interpretation. Delegating the Finance Minister to lay the annual budget before the National Assembly amounts to constitutional negligence which has further eroded and corroded the executive power of an imperial President: delegatus non potest delegare.
*Robert Omote is a legal practitioner