The legislature tampered with the budget again at the expense of the federation.
If minister of power, works and housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, is to be believed, lawmakers have badly tampered with the 2017 Appropriation Act (otherwise called the budget), like they often do.
On May 19, 2017, acting president Yemi Osinbajo received the budget document from the legislature.
However, it wasn't until June 12, 2017, that the budget was assented to by the executive now led by Osinbajo.
That's more than a month of delay at the nation's expense.
Pulse had exclusively reported at the time that the delay in signing the budget was attributable to a phenomenon called ' budget padding'--a practice where lawmakers inflate budget line items to suit their agenda.
In the last couple of days, Pulse has been proven right.
First, Osinbajo decried the practice where the legislature chopped and changed financial estimates in the budget without interfacing with the executive.
The nation's acting president also wondered if the national assembly really does possess the powers of appropriation.
Presiding officers in both houses of parliament, namely Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara, immediately hit back at the acting president, stopping short of calling him ignorant for not knowing that the legislature possesses powers of appropriation.
Fashola has embarked on media rounds in the last couple of hours, questioning the powers of the national assembly to appropriate unreasonably.
And he's got a fair point.
“Everybody is complaining about power supply but they also cut the budget for Mambila power project and the Bodo Bridge that connects the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Station", Fashola said.
“If after we have defended the budget and we have gone and the legislature unilaterally changed the budget, what is the purpose of deliberation?’’
Fashola also lamented that the national assembly reduced the budget for the Lagos-Ibadan expressway from N31bn to N10bn and the vote for the 2nd Niger Bridge from N15bn to N10bn.
“What I have in my budget now is primary health care centres, boreholes,” Fashola bemoaned during an interactive session.
The minister added that; “that was the meeting we had with the acting president and that was the reason why the budget was not signed on time.
“We were asked to complete those abandoned projects; the budget of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway was reduced by the National Assembly from N31bn to N10bn.
“We owe the contractors about N15bn and they have written to us that they are going to shut down.
“Also, the budget of the 2nd Niger bridge was reduced from N15bn to N10bn and about N3bn or so was removed from the Okene-Lokoja-Abuja road budget.’’
Fashola also wondered why the legislature earmarked monies in the budget for construction of state roads.
“These roads are not federal roads and some of them do not have designs. How do we award roads that were not designed irrespective of the power you have?
“It is unconstitutional for the National Assembly to legislate on state roads.
“The executive controls all the machinery for collecting taxes and other revenue with relevant data from the ministries of finance, physical planning and the Budget Office and others.
“I am not saying that the legislature cannot contribute to the budget, but I hold the view that it cannot increase the budget because they do not collect the revenue with which to run or implement the budget.”
Actually, the constitution grants the national assembly the power of appropriation.
Section 80, subsection 3 of the 1999 constitution as amended, states that, “no monies shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation unless the issue of these monies has been authorized by an Act of the National Assembly”.
However, the constitution doesn't say lawmakers have to be unreasonable and use this power however they deem fit.
The constitution also didn't say that the budget has to be selfishly inflated by lawmakers.
Nigeria is battling an infrastructure deficit. The Lagos-Ibadan expressway and 2nd Niger Bridge projects are critical to getting this nation out of recession at this time. Ditto other infrastructure projects contained in the 2017 Appropriation Act.
To shortchange the ministry of works on some of its line items and appropriate monies for state roads, was mean from the lawmakers.
To appropriate N125B for the national assembly at the expense of other critical sectors of the economy, was really selfish from our lawmakers.
To get Nigeria out of recession, all arms of government have to work together or be seen to be working together.
At the moment, it just looks like the legislature is flexing its muscle for the sake of it and for pecuniary gains only.
Seriously, where did we get these lawmakers from?
Ok, I get it. We blind-voted again.