Dr. Joseph Wayas served as Senate President twice in the Second Republic when he brought flair and fashion to his political carriage. Wayas, 74 and obviously weighed down by age is rarely seen on the political terrain these days, preferring to play the role of a statesman in the backstage.
In this interview, he stresses on the need for harmonious relationships between the legislature and the executive for the overall interest of the masses. He also says that it is the constitutional right of the legislature to appropriate and where desired override the President’s intents concerning the budget. Excerpts:
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
What is your reaction to the faceoff between the presidency and the National Assembly over the budget?
Well, I don’t know if my comment will have any weight to bring changes. But as one of those who wrote the constitution, if we had thought that there was no need for the President to present the budget proposal to the National Assembly, then there would have been no need.
But the fact is that it is a constitutional requirement that the President presents his budget and for the National Assembly to pass his budget into law and during the process of passing the budget into law, obviously it will undergo scrutiny and many things.
So, it doesn’t mean that what comes from the president will go to the National Assembly and they stamp it and return it back to the executive. It wouldn’t have been so and if it were so, there would have been no need for the executive to send budget proposal to the legislature.
So, I think the National Assembly is doing what it supposed to do, it is a constitutional duty.
Were there anything like constituency projects where the legislators will insert some projects in the budget to be implemented by the executive during your time?
Yes, the executive implements any policy decision that comes from both the legislature and the executive. It is correct and part of the budget, but the constituency project is something which the executive is not under obligation to implement. But for a good working relationship between the two since the executive is the one on the ground in the field, there should be some degree of compromise between the two of them.
So, do you think that this frosty relationship between the legislature and the executive, is healthy for the development of democracy?
Well, if there are no checks and balances, then we are not practising democracy, it is normal to have disagreements.
If I use the example of husband and wife now, I will create controversy because people will want to know which one is the husband, which is the wife, so I will not use that example at all. But I don’t see what is impossible for the legislature and the executive to agree to work together for the interest of the masses.
Which arm of government has the power for appropriation?
The executive proposes, the legislature appropriates.
Has the legislature any right to remove anything as proposed by the executive in the budget?
So, what are they supposed to do? Bring it and hold a party with it or what? For the mere fact that the executive presents the budget for appropriation, it is indicative that if the executive is in excess of whatever it is doing, it will be checked by the legislature. They are working together. The executive has the power to propose and the legislature has the power to appropriate and until we have the two on ground, we will not have a budget.
So, the power of appropriation lies with the legislature, what the executive does is just proposal.
What of a situation the President decides not to assent to the passed budget based on the fact that there were critical issues that were removed from the budget proposal?
That is a very dangerous situation that we may find ourselves in because if he withholds the assent and the legislature passes it with overwhelming majority, that is with two-third majority of members, then it has taken care of the President signature. So, he will not have a choice but to comply.
All the branches of the executive have to comply and implement what the legislature appropriates.
What if the executive refuses to implement it?
(Laughs) I think one thing should be made clear, as the executive has the power to implement, so the legislature has power to appropriate. The two have to work together.
You played your role during your time to ensure the stability of the country, now that you are not too strong to contribute much, is the government taking care of you?
I have not seen anything from government. Nobody is taking care of anything. Maybe, it may have happened to other people not to me, nobody takes care of me, nobody thinks about me.
Curbing the excessive powers
What is more is that we are supposed to have some sort of pension or benefits but up till now nobody thinks about it, nobody is saying it, but I think that it is one thing that government should do. It will help to curb corruption, it will help to curb the excessive powers seen here and there.
So does it mean that government has abandoned its past leaders?
No, I haven’t said so. But I think the executive arm may be waiting maybe because the legislators have not proposed anything as it is a problem for the legislature and unfortunately, it appears that the legislature has not proposed anything. So, you can’t blame the executive for not implementing anything because there is nothing for it to implement.
People are complaining about hardship, if you are to advise government on this, what will be your piece of advice?
Well, first of all, I will want to know whether the executive complies with what the legislature has passed. If they don’t, then, whichever side that fails to perform its duty can be blamed. Like the question you asked earlier, the legislature passes the budget and sends it to the executive, the executive cannot say no, we won’t implement.
But if there were some aspects of the budget in which the executive made proposal and the legislature did not appropriate, that becomes an issue to be resolved between the two arms of government.
But now that there appears to be no love lost between the two arms, what is your advice to them?
There should always be good relationship between the two arms of government so that the country will move on. A while ago, you spoke about hardship here and there, because the budget has not been signed, so, it will affect Nigerians when there is problem between the two arms. So, they must work harmoniously for the interest of the country.