Nigerian lawyer drags National Assembly to court over ‘padded’ 2014 Budget

Aminu Tambuwal

Mr. Abayomi asked the Federal High Court to determine whether the National Assembly is competent to create a new budget head.

The Senate President, David Mark and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, have been dragged before the Federal High Court, Abuja over the inclusion of the sum of N53 billion into the 2014 Budget.

A constitutional lawyer, Tunji Abayomi, who filed the suit against the leadership of the National Assembly, asked the Court to determine whether it is within the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to pad the budget proposal submitted to it earlier by the executive.

The budget proposal of about N4.643 trillion was submitted to the two chambers of the National Assembly on December 19, 2013 by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Senate and House of Representatives, in April, announced the appropriation of about N4.695 trillion for the 2014 fiscal year, representing about N53 billion padding.

In the suit, Mr. Abayomi asked the Federal High Court to determine whether the National Assembly is competent to create a new expenditure/budget head in a budget estimate already submitted for passage/approval by the President.

The lawyer also asked the court to declare that it was not within the constitutional powers of the National Assembly to increase the budget estimate submitted by the President for passage.

In an affidavit in support of the suit deposed to by one Uzoanya Victoria, the plaintiff, told the court that the illegal padding of the budget by the National Assembly amounts to an infringement and a gross abuse of the constitution as well as wrongful exercise of legislative powers under the Constitution.

Mr. Victoria told the court that the budget estimate passed on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 was, without any justification, increased by about N53 billion by the lawmakers.

No date has been fixed for hearing of the case.

On Wednesday, May 14, the presidency gave reasons why the President withheld assent to the 2014 Appropriation Bill as approved by the National Assembly.

The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, had said at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting that there were some grave distortions that could negatively affect the implementation of the budget and obstruct the President from finally giving his assent to the Appropriation Bill.

Mr. Maku stated that there is a need for the distortions to be appropriately sorted out in order not to disrupt the smooth implementation of the 2014 budget.

Arguing that it would be inappropriate for government to overlook some of the serious distortions in the document, Mr. Maku said the Minister of Finance always briefed members of FEC on the progress being made in reconciling the discrepancies.

“It is very sad that we have almost entered the middle of the year and we don’t have a budget,” Mr. Maku said. “It is indeed sad that the budget has taken so long in coming, with practically less than seven months to execute the budget.”

He said the distortions made were grave and added that government believes there is a need to look into the discrepancies because of the negative impact those distortions may have on the implementation of the budget.

Of the N4.695 billion passed by the National Assembly, about N408,687,801,891 was approved for Statutory Transfers against the N399.688 billion proposed by the Executive; N712 billion for debt service; N2.455 trillion for recurrent non-debt expenditure, while N1.119 trillion was for capital expenditure.

The lawmakers also gave their nod to the N160 per dollar exchange rate, $77.5 per barrel benchmark, and 2.388 million barrels per day of crude oil production.


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