Blame the presidency for budget padding, says Femi Falana

FEMI Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) says the presidency is to blame for the continued incidences of budget padding by members of the National Assembly.

Falana said it was illegal and unconstitutional for lawmakers to jerk up the budget estimates presented to them by the president, adding that the refusal of the executive arm of government to do something to correct the anomaly has allowed the illegal practice to continue.

“No doubt, the National Assembly has become so bold in arrogance and impunity. Otherwise, how can they insert 6,403 projects while the President proposed 4,700 projects and increased capital expenditure form N2.36bn to N2.87bn?” Falana said in an interview with the Punch.

“With respect, the Buhari administration has itself to blame for the mangling or padding of the budget by the National Assembly.

“I sued the National Assembly over the rewriting of the budget by the National Assembly in 2014. The case was decided in 2016.  The Presidency was not interested in the case.

“Even though the court struck out the case for want of locus standi to file the suit, it proceeded to hold that the National Assembly lacks the constitutional power to abandon the budget estimates and revenues of expenditure proposed by the President and substituted them with their own.”

Falana said the issue of budget padding has been a problem since the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, but it got out of hand when Goodluck Jonathan came into power.

“Under (former) President Olusegun Obasanjo, the budget of the National Assembly was N43 billion per annum. It suddenly rose to N150 billion in 2010 when the budget was forged by the cabal that ruled the country. That was when the late President Umaru Yar’Adua was hospitalised in an undisclosed Saudi medical centre.

“The annual budgeting fraud was perfected by the National Assembly under President Jonathan Goodluck.

    “In 2016, because of recession the National Assembly decided suo motu to reduce its budget to N115 billion without details. It has now been increased to N139 billion without details.

    “It is such unprecedented official impunity permitted by the President that has encouraged the National Assembly to continue the illegality of rewriting and jerking up the budget without cash or revenue to back it up.”

    President Muhammadu Buhari, while signing the 2018 appropriation bill into law, lamented that the legislators had cut down budgetary allocations for some critical capital projects, while increasing their own budget by billions of naira.

    Buhari said he intends to correct the anomaly through a supplementary bill which he would forward to the National Assembly later in the year.

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