March 16, 2024

Budget padding: It’s NASS’ right to scrutinise executive proposals – FG

Budget padding: It’s NASS’ right to scrutinise executive proposals – FG
By Gift ChapiOdekina, Abuja 

The Federal Government through the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu has said that the National Assembly did no wrong in increasing the 2024 budget.

This is as Bagudu insisted that while the right to transmit a budget is that of the executive arm, it is the legislature’s duty to review same and make input in the interest of the nation. 

It would be recalled that the lawmaker representing Bauchi Central Senatorial District, Senator Abdul Ningi had penultimate Saturday, alleged that the N28.7 trillion 2024 Appropriation Act was padded to the tune of N3.7 trillion by the legislature, noting that his findings revealed no tangible projects link to the amount injected into the budget by lawmakers.

The allegations subsequently led to the suspension of Ningi, after he failed to apologize to his colleagues.

Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the Minister said, “The president submitted a budget to the tune of N27.5 trillion and the National Assembly, in its wisdom, increased it to N28.7 trillion When we presented the budget, it was at an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar but the Assembly increased it to N800 to a dollar. That created more revenue.

“The Assembly also appropriated that the Government Owned Enterprises contribute more revenue. Then there was the increase of the budget of the judiciary, legislature and executive.

“The President in signing the 2024 Appropriation Act acknowledged that in democracy, institutions have their power and the National Assembly has the last word.”

“The evolution of constituency projects and projects by National Assembly members, which did not begin now but since 1999, is a reflection of the challenge that elected persons are facing.”

Bagudu further recalled how former President Umaru Yar’ Adua of blessed memory, had approached the Supreme Court seeking the interpretation of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), lamenting however that the case was later settled out of court.

He continued, “There has been a long debate and a former President went up to the Supreme Court to define the appropriation power of the executive and the National Assembly. 

“Later, there was an out-of-court settlement. Till now, this issue has not been resolved. So, what is the power of the National Assembly as regards the budget? There is no Supreme Court judgment and the choice of our democracy is that the National Assembly has the last word. Even when they pass an appropriation that assent is refused, after 30 days it becomes law.”

On whether the National Assembly has the powers to increase budget estimates, the former Kebbi State Governor simply said “Yes,” maintaining that it is all part of the checks and balances provided for in the presidential system of government.

However, many Nigerians including former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mike Ozekhome have faulted the suspension of Ningi, insisting that a committee should have been set up by the Senate to look into the allegations.

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