The Senseless Insertions And Padding Of The Budget

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For almost a month now, the member of House of Representatives representing the Bebeji/Kiru Federal Constituency of Kano State,Hon. Abdulmumin Jubril has been on the media as “accidental activist”.

I wouldn’t want to discuss his choice of words whenever he talks about the number 4 citizen Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara. He freely refers to the Speaker and some selected members of the House of Representatives as “rogues”, “thieves” etc. I am still trying to imagine how he would feel sitting in the hallowed Chambers of the House of Representatives as a decent and honourable member if he fails in his bid for the “regime change” in the House. Would he rather resign than allow “rogues and thieves” preside over him?

Also, I wouldn’t want to comment on the over bloated impressions he has about himself. That probably explains why he has not seen anything wrong that as a chairman of the Committee of the House, he could schedule meetings with the President and Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria without any recourse to the leadership of the House nor the members of his committee but surprisingly believed that he could make commitments that would be binding on the entire House of Representatives. On whose authority?

In this piece, I want to look at the allegations of “senseless insertions” and “paddings” of the budget made against some members of the leadership of the House.

The critical question is whether there could have been any “senseless insertions “ and “padding of the budget” when there was no budget in existence.

Government budget has been defined as “an estimate of income and expenditure approved for a set period of time”. For the purposes of this piece, the set period would be considered to be a year running from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.  Would it be right to say that we had a budget to be “inserted” or “padded” before the President signed the Appropriation Bill into law?

Section 80 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) (after herein refereed to as the Constitution) expressly states that: “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the public fund of the federation…unless the issue of those moneys has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly”.  Section 81 of the Constitution is very clear on the role of the Executive is the budgetary procedures.

Section 81(1) states that: “The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year ESTIMATES of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year”.

It is very clear from the provisions of the above section of the Constitution that the only role the President plays in the budgetary procedures is just to submit the ESTIMATES to the National Assembly.

Furthermore, Section 81(2) was very clear on what should be done to the “ESTIMATES” submitted by the President.  It expressly states that: “The heads of the expenditure contained in the ESTIMATES…shall be included in a BILL, to be known as an Appropriation Bill…”

The implication of this Section is that what the President does is to submit ESTIMATES from which the National Assembly can prepare a Bill for proper legislative processes to be passed into law and by virtue of the provisions of Section 4 of the Constitution, the Legislative powers of the Federation is vested on the National Assembly.

So, if all that transpired with the ESTIMATES submitted by the President before the document is taken back to the President for assent into law is considered part of the legislative  processes which the National Assembly has the powers to do, can any lawmaker be accused of any wrongdoing in whatever he does at within the process of the passage of the Appropriation Bill?

The Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act Cap L12 in Section 3 expressly provides that :

No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against any member of a Legislative House

(a) in respect of words spoken before that House or a Committee thereof; or

(b) in respect of words written in a report to that House or any Committee thereof ….”

So, assuming without conceding that any Member of the House at the process of passing the 2016 Appropriation Bill committed any “crime”, can such person be prosecuted by any agency of the government  on the face of this express provision on immunity from proceeding provided in our statute book?

In addition, what offense has Hon. Jubril disclosed in his petitions to various security/anti graft agencies of the government?

I have the privilege of going through our laws and I have not seen any crime described as “padding” nor “senseless insertions”. Of course, I have not seen any “personal benefit “ accruing to the members of the National Assembly disclosed by our “accidental activist” in all his tweets and press interviews.

Hon. Jubril has not told us how the members he refers to as “rogues”, “thieves” plan to access the alleged “senselessly inserted cash” for their personal benefits or proof that the projects alleged to have been “senselessly inserted” are not located within the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Apparently, it is convenient for Hon. Jubril not to inform Nigerians in his daily tweets that in the “ESTIMATES” submitted by the President, that there was among others:

  1. No allocation for the Lagos-Calabar rail project but the National Assembly appropriated N60b for that project.
  2. Partly N250 was provided for daily feeding of prisoners in Nigeria but the National Assembly increased it to N500.
  3. No provision was made for building of a befitting permanent site for the EFCC but the National Assembly appropriated funds for that…etc.

Of course, Hon. Jubril wants us to believe that he is not fighting for “regime change” but has not explained why he excused the Leader of the House, Hon. Gbajabiamila whose name was very visible in the documents he is circulating. But it was convenient to add Hon. Leo Ogor because of the way the House is presently constituted. There must be something in the entire drama for the PDP members that would join the bandwagon for them to get the required two-third majority.

I am still following up on the tweets of the “accidental activist” as I still believe that he would inform Nigerians how he mis-managed the entire Appropriation process which embarrassed the House which led to the call on the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Lasun to take over the process and sanitize the system before the accepted Appropriation Bill was presented to the President for assent into law.

As Hon. Jubril enjoys his present “accidental activist” status, someone should remind him of the provisions of Section 20 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act which frowns at the way and manner he tweets the documents that got to him while doing his job as the Chairman, House Committee on Appropriation.  The person should inform him that the punishment as prescribed in Section 22 of the Act is “suspension” which connotes “exclusion from Chamber and precincts “ and “no proceedings shall lie in any court…in respect of such removal. Also, Section 21(3) states that “no salary or allowance payable to a member of the Legislative House …shall be paid in respect of any period during which he is suspended…”

 Ohaegbu — is pioneer federal  commissioner, Public Complaints Commission

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