By Emman Ovuakporie and Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – SPEAKER of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara yesterday canvassed for the involvement of the National Assembly in the appointment and removal of the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to ensure operational independence and command integrity.
Dogara who stated this in Abuja at the opening ceremony of the National Dialogue on economy, security and development facilitated by The National Institute for Legislative Studies, further disclosed that the House of Representatives was contemplating to amend Section 82 of the Constitution from six months in which the President was allowed to spend without appropriation to three months.
Recall that the Fiscal Responsibility Act has recommended that the executive should forward to the National Assembly the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, three months before the end of the financial year, but President Muhammadu Buhari was yet to forward the MTEF for the preparation of the 2016 Appropriation to the National Assembly.
But the Speaker in an indirect reference to the delay by the executive to submit the MTEF to the National Assembly, suggested a possible review of the Act, to streamline budgetary processes to achieve strict adherence to timelines for budget presentation and passage.
Expressing optimism that the dialogue would address the burning questions of the day, and proffer workable solutions to guide both the Executive and Legislative arms of government, especially at this early period of President Buhari’s administration, he said the House was committed to reviewing budgetary process in the country.
According to him, “This Roundtable has security as one of its main themes. That the security situation in Nigeria is very bad is common knowledge and needs no repetition here. We should be rather concerned with legislative solutions to the problem. We need to think outside the box.
“It seems to me that the time has come for us to reexamine the legal and constitutional framework for policing in Nigeria. A decentralized police force may be more effective as Nigerians in their communities are better placed to detect criminals in their midst. We look forward for further guidance by experts in this regard and for your recommendations.
“Furthermore, it has become necessary, in my view, for the appointment and removal of the Inspector General of Police to receive the blessing, of at least, the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This will also ensure some measure of operational independence and command integrity.
“Policing however, must exist side by side with economic empowerment of the people for it is said that an idle mind is the devils workshop.”
Dogara said the House was committed in its legislative agenda, in the review of the national budgetary process and the revamping of the national economy development in areas like “Legislative measures to tackle non-remittance of internally generated revenue and leakages; Infrastructure development; Legislative Initiative on New Cities and Regional Hubs of Development and Legislative initiative on North-East and Niger-Delta.”
Other areas include, “Legislative initiative on Unemployment; Legislative Initiative on Housing, Urban Development, Mortgages; Legislative initiative on Power; Legislative initiative on Security; Legislative initiative on Economic Diversification.”
He said the House had further committed itself in specific terms to a review of the budgetary process with emphasis on the following the promotion of an inclusive budgetary process that seeks the cooperation of the executive in institutionalising pre-budget interface and consultations and the adoption of an effective Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)
“Strict compliance with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) 2007. Insistence on prioritisation of budget expenditure that reflects approved budget lines and zero tolerance for non-implementation of capital projects as approved in annual budgets.
“Effective monitoring and evaluation of expenditure and of outcomes achieved – value for money and the revisiting of the ‘Constitution Amendment passed by the 7thHouse mandating the President to submit his Budget proposals at least 3 months before the end of a fiscal year, instead of “at any time” before the end of a fiscal year currently in the Constitution.”
He also said that there were critical issues to be considered in passing annual Appropriation Bill that include the possibility of conducting public hearings on the budget before legislative approval, explaining that the process exposed the national budget to increased citizen and stake holder participation.
Besides, he said, “The House also committed itself to ensuring ‘proper functioning and operation of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, including a possible review of the Act, to streamline budgetary processes and achieve strict adherence to timelines for budget presentation and passage.
“The House committed itself to a further review of the Finance (Control and Management) Act to expunge all provisions that are inconsistent with the Constitution and Presidential System of Government.
“The House shall also seek to ‘amend Section 82 of the Constitution to reduce the period of 6 months that the President is allowed to spend without appropriation as this provision severely distorts the Appropriation process.
“The 8th House of Representatives will take legislative measures to ensure that the Executive does not choose which aspects of the Appropriation Act it implements. Indeed the House shall seek the cooperation of the Executive to develop and enforce a Needs Based Budgeting System rather than an ‘envelop’ Based Budgeting System.
“The 8th House will also ensure the coming into being of an independent effective, nonpartisan Budget Office (NABRO) by law to aid in economic and budgetary information and planning.
“The House shall enforce strict compliance with the Reporting requirements by various officials and MDAs contained in the annual Appropriation Acts which are currently observed more in breach by the Executive without consequences.
“The House shall insist on timely release of appropriated funds and general implementation of the Budget as the ‘Nigerian people are entitled to feel the impact of governance through the appropriation mechanism and process.”
Dogara said improvement of national economy could not be meaningfully discussed without discussing priority legislation in the field.
“Undoubtedly, one of the most important pieces of legislation is the Petroleum Industry Bill. This is necessary because Oil and Gas still accounts for over 70% of our foreign exchange earnings in spite of the rapid fall in oil prices.
“We therefore cannot afford not to organize the sector in such a manner as to benefit the nation. In this regard, may I call on the President as the Minister of Petroleum to as a matter of urgency transmit a Bill to the National Assembly on how his administration intends to reorganize the Petroleum Sector.
“The PIB has had a checkered history. It was introduced late in the life of the 6th Assembly and was not passed. In the 7th Assembly, a private Members Bill was introduced in the first month of that Assembly, based on the experience of the 6th Assembly.
“However, the last administration informally indicated that it would prefer an Executive Bill on the matter, which took over two years to materialize. It was passed only by the House of Representatives very late in its tenure without the Senate concurring.
“Investment decisions in this field cannot continue to wait. Clarity on the legal framework for Oil and Gas in Nigeria is crucial to our economy. Contrary to the assertion that the size of the Bill is the problem, the fact is that an early introduction will lead to an early passage,” he stated.
The speaker said priority legislation that could help jumpstart the economy included the Competition and Consumer Protection Laws and other laws that touched on the economic wellbeing of Nigeria.”
On the anti-corruption crusade, he said, “Anti -Corruption Legislation and Over-sight would be the major contribution of parliament to the change that has come to Nigeria.
“As I have said elsewhere, the National Assembly remains the only arm of government specifically charged with responsibility by the Constitution to ‘expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence and in the disbursement or administration of funds appropriated by it.
“The enduring fight against corruption must be waged through the instrumentality of law and legislation. People can only be accountable when the law is clear and when it is enforced fairly and firmly.
“While we await the decision of Mr. President on whether to merge EFCC and ICPC, the urgent legislative undertaking now, is to strengthen the independence and impartiality of the Heads of these agencies by requiring the consent of the Senate to their appointment and removal from office.
“This will ensure that they are not whimsically removed when they disagree with a sitting President.”
He said issues of development and economy would not be discussed without discussing the budget process in Nigeria.
Dogara said, “Mr. President should follow up the implementation of the TSA with another bold and courageous move to capture all expenditure by all the MDAs in one single National budget.
“No longer should the income and expenditure of some revenue earning agencies be an ‘Attachment’ to the National Budget but should be an integral part of it. It should be part of the aggregate figures that make up the Budget. Such agencies should include the NNPC, NPA, NIMASA, Customs and Excise, NCC, etc.
“This Roundtable should also consider whether it is appropriate to continue to maintain January to December as the Financial year. In the alternative, the National Assembly may prescribe the financial year to be 12months from the date of the signing of the Appropriation Bill.
“This is because the only way a Budget would have any realistic chance of full implementation is if it is operated for 12 calendar months as the spirit of Section 318 of the Constitution seems to suggest.”