Femi Falana NASS has no powers to increase or reduce budgets - says lawyer

Falana has waded into the war of words between the National Assembly and Babatunde Fashola over the lawmakers' interference with the budget.

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Femi Falana SAN

(Eagleonline)
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Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana has faulted the National Assembly's alleged interference with the budget.

The respected lawyer has said that a Federal High Court never ruled that the National Assembly had power to increase estimates of the appropriation act.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Falana said he had once challenged the interference of the NASS with appropriation act and is certain that a court never ruled that the legislature could upwardly review the budget.

Falana said: “Sometime in 2014, I had cause to challenge the extent of the oversight powers of the national assembly to rewrite the appropriation bill or increase the budget estimates presented to it by the president. (See Suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/295/2014: Femi Falana v the president and three Ors),” he said.

“In dismissing the case the respected learned trial judge, the Honourable Justice G O Kolawole questioned my locus standi to institute the action after he had described me as ‘a renowned human rights crusader’ and acknowledged my humble contributions to ‘the development of human rights jurisprudence in Nigeria’. In justifying the dismissal of the suit his lordship said that the reliefs sought in the case qualified me to be described as a ‘meddlesome interloper’," Falana said.

National Assembly play

National Assembly

(Vanguard)

 

Speaking further, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said: “No doubt, the learned trial judge said that the national assembly is not a rubber stamp parliament. The incontestable statement has since been twisted to give the very erroneous impression that the power of the national assembly to increase the budget has been judicially recognised. With respect, the summary of the decision of the court by the national assembly is grossly misleading.

“In the entire 22-page judgment the learned trial judge never said that the national assembly has the power to increase any budget proposal submitted to it by the president. On the contrary, the federal high court made it categorically clear that the national assembly lacks the legislative powers to prepare ‘budget estimates’ for the president or ‘disregard the budget proposals laid before it and substitute it with its own estimates’.

“Even though I have taken the legal battle over the dismissal of the case to the court of appeal, I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that the learned trial judge concurred with my submission that the constitution has not vested the national assembly with powers to increase the budget,” he said.

Falana's take is coming after the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola blamed the NASS for tampering with the budget.

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Reacting to Fashola, the house of representatives had claimed that “the Federal High Court has ruled that the National Assembly has the power to increase or review upward the budget estimates laid before it by the executive.”

Hence, Falana's decision to wade into the discourse with evidence and facts from the court proceedings which he championed some years back.

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