The last may not have been heard of the 2017 Appropriation. The Presidency is planning to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the National Assembly’s power of appropriation.
The lawmakers said yesterday they are ready to face the Executive in court over the issue.
It was learnt that the Presidency has concluded arrangements to file a case at the apex court against the National Assembly over the controversy surrounding the Budget of Economic Recovery and Growth.
A case to inquire to what extent the National Assembly can alter the Appropriation Bill as prepared and submitted to the National Assembly by Mr. President, may be filed at the Supreme Court between today and tomorrow.
A source close to the leadership of the National Assembly said both chambers were aware of the move by the Presidency to challenge the National Assembly’s power to tinker with the Bill sent to it for approval.
The source said: “The fact is that the National Assembly has been monitoring developments on the budget and gathered that the Acting President Yemi Osinbajo is seeking legal opinions from all the Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) in the cabinet.
“Remember that the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, recently came out with his own opinion where he said that the National Assembly went beyond its powers in certain parts of the budget.
“Prof Itse Sagay has also expressed his opinion. All these men have been directed to produce their opinion as a memo to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo through his Chief of Staff, Mr. Ade Ipaye.
“Also, the Acting President is contacting some other constitutional law experts. These moves are known to the National Assembly and they are believed to be preparatory to filing a suit at the Supreme Court.
“The National Assembly does not want to be caught unawares or ambushed. So, they are monitoring events and the leadership has decided to respond appropriately to any move by the Executive.
“They believe such a move will strengthen the Presidential system, separation of powers and the rule of law. The Supreme Court verdict will also settle the lingering issue once and for all.”
Acting President Osinbajo had questioned the extent of changes made to the 2017 Appropriation Bill by the National Assembly.
The lawmakers insisted that the the National Assembly acted within the law.
In an interview, Fashola also said that some aspects of the 2017 Appropriation Act violate the constitution.
The minister said that the judiciary may have to explain how far lawmakers can go in altering the budget.
Fashola said that there may be need for judicial interpretation to lay the controversy to rest.
According to him, some of the projects inserted into the votes of his ministry were a violation of the constitution.
Fashola was quoted as saying: “In a federal example like ours, nobody should be scared to have a judicial interpretation of the limits of the power the parliament can exercise during appropriation.
“It is the law that affects our day-to-day developmental expectations. My view is that I don’t think parliament has the power to increase the budget because parliament does not collect taxes.
“Budget has expenditure as it has revenues, and if the executive has formed the view about earning and borrowing subject to the approval of the parliament, I think it is only fair to say we won’t push you beyond what is reasonable.
“If the executive says it is unreasonable, there is room for consultation but to unilaterally increase the budget is not something that lies in the power of the parliament, although they can reduce it.”
22 June, 2017