A defiant Speaker Yakubu Dogara issued a blistering defence of earmarking constituency projects for members of the National Assembly on Wednesday, saying the exercise is usually coordinated with the executive.
Mr. Dogara said the pet projects are integral parts of Nigeria’s budgetary process and the constitution permits lawmakers to insert them in the budget.
Mr. Dogara said this while delivering his welcome address before members of the House of Representatives who returned from an eight-week recess Tuesday.
Mr. Dogara’s statement was carefully measured, and he conspicuously avoided using the term “budget padding” throughout his 2600-word address.
Allegations of budget padding were first raised by Abdulmumin Jibrin, a former chairman of House Appropriation Committee.
Mr. Jibrin condemned the internal workings of the budget deliberations in the House and published what he said were documents showing efforts by lawmakers to smuggle frivolous line items in the 2016 budget.
But Mr. Dogara said the Constitution gave National Assembly the powers to “make laws for the peace, order and good” governance and the body always carries the executive along in the process.
Similarly, Mr. Dogara said Chapter Two of the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, which is among the standard guidelines for all organs of government and public officials, also allowed lawmakers to scrutinise government policies in order to check unbalanced development or lopsided distribution of wealth.
“The idea of constituency or zonal intervention projects is to remedy flaws in the estimates of revenues and expenditure where there is a deviation from the fundamental objective of equitable spread of planned development.
“This legislative intervention is complementary rather than conflictive. The templates and project prototypes are designed by the executive while the budgeting modalities are mutually agreed. As we have repeatedly said, no member of the National Assembly is given cash or contracts for the projects. We all know that execution of projects is the prerogative of the executive branch,”
Today’s comment marked the latest defence of the budget padding allegation against Mr. Dogara, which has earned him and his colleagues widespread condemnation from Nigerians.
It is the first time Mr. Dogara would suggest that the executive arm of government took part in the alleged budget infractions.