I have watched over time the recent exchange of words and comments from various stakeholders most of which are interested party. What baffles me in all this is that none has addressed the real issue as it has to do with power of appropriation and that of power of National Assembly over public funds as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic.
For a start, we need to first understand the power of appropriation which belongs to National Assembly. It is a normal practice for executive to submit budget proposals or estimates to the parliament while it is the duty of members of parliament to call for budget Defence, during which the head of various MDA’s are expected to meet various house and senate committees to defend the proposals submitted by the executive as it affects them.
Chapter 5 of Nigerian constitution sub section 80 is explicit on power and control over public funds, by this they have power over appropriating money for various arms of government to spend. It is in this line, that the legislatures can tinker with what was submitted to them so as to ensure that we get the best practices to allow for easy implementation of the act once signed into law with the knowledge of the various heads as it will be discussed. There are some occasions that it is same heads of the MDA’s that do make request to move fund from one sub head to the other. To further show their power over budget, they also have constitutional power to over ride President should he refuse to sign it into an act by two third majority of both chambers. This last budget is the first time the members of parliament didn’t tamper with the bench mark as proposed by the executive. By the constitutional power they have, they also have power to control expenditure of the executive. After the entire budget passage and signed into law, it becomes national budget without any issue linked to constituency projects as been raised now. This is because the budget captures expenditure frame work which is expected to cut across all regions of the country.
Having laid this template, the accusation made by Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, former House Committee Chairman on Appropriation is unfounded and sheer ignorance as the two words he introduced like ‘padding’ and ‘insertion’ is not known to law since they have power to appropriate. The way and manner he goes about it shows that he has hidden agenda that it will be good to allow our law enforcement agencies look into his actions as it is a major distraction from the real issue that needs clarifications especially from him. He can’t be called a whistle blower as he is a major accomplice in the whole scenarios.
He has been on major news medium, during which he made frontal attempt to change his initial ‘padding’ to ‘insertion’. He now says they ‘inserted’ certain sums into the budget but based on facts that we have verified, their is no crime in requesting that out of the intervention funds made available and provided for National Assembly which was conventional as it tends to make governance closer to the people as the parliament are elected by people and by implication they are expected to know the needs of their constituents. It is not also morally justifiable to expect leadership of the House of Representatives to have same share of constituency projects in their constituents with members. It can only be said to be a crime if and when as it’s been signed into law the aforementioned collects the money from the various MDA’s. But in this case, just like previous assembly sessions they don’t have access to the fund as the projects are under the various MDA’s and to get them executed the company that will execute it must pass through Procurement act, with the job been advertised and interested company’s will bid and follow Procurement process. By this act their is no way to divert the said fund except Hon. Jibrin knows what we don’t know and in which if it is, one will expect the relevant security agencies to ask him to substantiate it and stop playing to the gallery. By this due process expected to follow to get the constituency project executed, then no crime is committed so far rather the former Appropriation Chairman should be asked some salient questions as how the 4billion project in his constituency was approved and by who and through which process among other projects that has been linked to have come from him. He should probably be asked to come and defend a document in circulation where in he used 10 company’s to get various jobs in just one day and for his constituency with the commission coping him in the award letter. Even though their was claim that none of those items were procured nor supplied.
There is thus no need for the recent call for Speaker Yakubu Dogara to step down as he has no question to answer on this subject matter except we want to take away the power of appropriation of the legislative arm. By subjecting the arm of government to questioning undermines their independence and we should not support that. House Rules which guides the activities of members should be be evoked at this time to deal with the allegations. The House by this is on trial and not the Speaker, their is thus the need to clear air on this and put things in the correct perspective.
It will also be instructive to note that, the recent calls by some civil society groups without looking deeply at the issues at hand outside sentiments is uncalled for. It is premature to call for his step aside when he has not been found guilty by relevant house committee as the house has her internal mechanism of dealing with matters like this. The angle of ‘third or external’ force should be carefully watched this time, planning to use political force to remove Speaker Yakubu Dogara is not the issue at hand and should not be tinkered with now. What we should and need to concentrate on is the need to have holistic review of our budgeting process without undermining power of Legislatures over budgeting. If any member of National Assembly is fingered in preventing the said project from been executed, or involved in funds diversion then both the member and the civil servants involved should be questioned and made to face law of the land. Ensuring that budget also performs via the passed Medium- Term Expenditure frameworks as presented to the parliament in accordance to section 3 of the fiscal responsibly act and budget management for three years needs to be fully implemented to ensure that the set indicators for the deliverables are achieved. This expenditure commitment as submitted by executive reveals expenditure commitment of government on major policy changes involving new services, new instrument of service, new schemes and Programmes. The more we undermine this, the more we won’t have a performing budget. National Assembly should be allowed to discharge their duty and stop undue distraction.
Morgan Omodu was Political Secretary to former Speaker Dimeji Bankole and
Director of Publicity of GetInvolved Campaign