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Twenty four hours after the Senate
president Dr Bukola Saraki responded to the national leader of All progressive
congress over his allegation of Budget padding at the national assembly where
the latter describes it has careless, the speaker of the house of representatives,
Mr Yakubu Dogara has also responded saying   Tinubu’s outburst can best be described as a
calculated attempt to control all lovers of power
Dogara
reiterated that the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp parliament and
reserves the right, working cooperatively with the executive, to interrogate
projects unilaterally inserted into the budget by the executive arm of
government.

He
maintained that the legislature could not be accused of padding a budget it has
unquestionable constitutional power to review.
Dogara was
reacting to news reports in which Tinubu accused him and the Senate President,
Dr Bukola Saraki, of spearheading budget padding and delay. Earlier on Monday,
Saraki challenged Tinubu to substantiate his claims on budget padding. Saraki
said:” In all the three budgets passed by the National Assembly, we challenge
Tinubu to make specific reference to where Saraki and the leadership of the
National Assembly ‘sought to pad pet projects.’ “
In his
reaction yesterday, Dogara said: “It is only the ignorant with dubious
academic certificates that will say the maker of a document has padded the
document that only he can constitutionally make.”
In a
statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Turaki
Hassan, Dogara, like Saraki, challenged Tinubu to substantiate his claims,
adding that the House could not be blamed for the recurring problems associated
with the passage of the budget since the start of the Eighth National Assembly.
The Speaker buttressed his argument
with the words of Hon. Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, in
suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/259/2014 delivered on March 9, 2016, in which the judge
said that “the National Assembly was not created by drafters of the
Constitution and imbued with the powers to receive ‘budget estimates’ which the
first defendant is constitutionally empowered to prepare and lay before it, as
a rubber stamp parliament.
“The whole the essence of the budget estimates being required to be laid before parliament is
to enable it, being the assembly of the representatives of the people, to
debate the said budget proposals and to make its own well informed legislative
inputs into it.”
The
statement further read: “We do not expect Tinubu to dwell on brazen mendacity,
much less murder facts and decorum in his rabid bid to justify his patently
clear fascist agenda of controlling all levers of power in Nigeria. Tinubu’s
nocturnal agenda has no parallel in the history of any democracy and it is more
loathsome when he throws caution to the winds and maligns government officials
who are doing a yeoman’s job of stabilising the government of President
Muhammadu Buhari, even in spite of political differences.
“It is on the record that the Speaker has done more to stabilize this government than Tinubu
and his ilk whose stock in trade is scheming, manipulation and subversion
especially when they feel they cannot be caught. When the history of Buhari’s administration is written by those who know the truth of what really transpired
in the last four years, Tinubu’s pretentious loyalty to President Buhari will
then be exposed.
“We won’t
say more, but no matter how long it may last, the truth will one day overtake
lies. Perhaps, Tinubu is still bitter about the leadership contest for
speakership of the 8th Assembly, even though the actors have moved on
culminating in Speaker Dogara magnanimously facilitating the appointment of an opponent in the race and Tinubu’s protege as House Majority leader.”
Dogara
identified the chief cause of delay in enacting the budget as the alleged
persistent refusal or neglect of the executive to present it in good time.
“For the
records, in the last four years, there was no urgency or plan by the executive
to achieve a January to December budget cycle. For the avoidance of doubt, we
will show the dates the budget estimates were submitted by the executive in the
last four years.
“ The 2016
budget was submitted on December 22, 2015, exactly nine days to the end of the
year. The 2017 budget was submitted on December 14, 2016, just 17 days to the
end of the year and the 2018 budget was presented on November 7, 2017, the
earliest, even though it also fell short of the 90 days stipulated by the
Fiscal Responsibility Act. The 2019 budget was presented on December 19, 2018
exactly 12 days to the end of the year.
“As if the
late or delayed submission of budget estimates wasn’t enough, in most cases,
ministers and heads of agencies contributed to the so-called delay by
consistently refusing to appear before National Assembly standing committees to
defend their budget proposals in line with the provision of the law. At some
point, the leadership of the National Assembly had to take up the issue with
the President who advised his ministers to honour legislative invitations to
defend their budgets.”
Dogara
said what Nigerians did not know was that the executive, through the various
ministries had continued to propose additional projects to be included in the
2018 budget even as at April and May of 2018 which further delayed the passage.
“These
were communicated officially and if anyone is in doubt, we will exhibit the
letters with the dates they were written and received.”
He said as
part of efforts to ensure quick passage of the budget, the National Assembly
inserted a clause in the Appropriation Bill consistent with S.318 of the
Constitution which allowed the budget to last for 12 months after the
president’s assent. According to him, this enabled the executive to spend more
of the capital component of the budget as it still had 12 months protected by
law.
“As an activist
legislature, the National Assembly effected an amendment to S. 81(1) of the
Constitution to compel Mr President to present the budget estimates not later
than 90 days to the end of a financial year in order to solve this problem but
unfortunately, Mr President declined assent to the bill which was passed by
both the National Assembly and over 2/3rds of the state assemblies.
“The
National Assembly made a further attempt to make the budget process much better
by improving the institutional capacity of the parliament to process and pass
national budgets by passing the National Assembly Budget and Research Office
(NABRO) Establishment Bill into law. It was loosely modelled after the American
Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Again, Mr President declined assent to the
Bill.
“The
parliamentarians are representatives of the Nigerian people and you don’t
expect them to rubber stamp budgets that are heavily skewed and lopsided
against most sections of the country. It is their responsibility to ensure equitably
and even distribution of capital projects across all the nooks and crannies of
the country, if the executive fails to do so. In any case, it is false to state
that legislative intervention in the budget process is to benefit the
legislators and not their constituencies. We challenge Tinubu to prove
otherwise.
“He should
also, show in what way the 8th Assembly acted differently from other assemblies
of the past to warrant the kind of language used. In any case, all the
aspirants to the Senate presidency and speakership he is sponsoring are
majority leaders in the 8th Assembly and took part in the budget process that
he made the chief basis of his crude attack. This proves beyond doubt the
hypocrisy of Tinubu’s stated reasons for supporting his candidates.”
Dogara
declared that the 8th National Assembly is on record to have supported the
president’s requests on critical issues of governance.
“We backed
him by resolution on the issue of fuel subsidy, we backed him on the national
minimum wage, even though we were more sympathetic to workers’ rights. In
security matters, we never cut any proposal from Mr President save our refusal
to rubber stamp a clear constitutional overreach of spending $1 billion in arms
purchase without appropriation.
“We have
passed more bills than any assembly before us, including bills that are helping
the government improve the ease of doing business in Nigeria, and there were
times we passed bills within two legislative days. Is Tinubu genuinely ignorant
of all these?
“We
challenge Tinubu to list out the bills he claimed were not passed by the
National Assembly. The oil and gas or petroleum sector is the most important
and critical sector of our economy which accounts for over 70 percent of our
earnings, the executive didn’t forward a single bill to the National Assembly
to reform and reposition the sector in the last four years even when repeatedly
urged to do so by Mr Speaker in his first year in office.”

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