Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the national assembly has no constitutional right to rewrite and pass the budget.
On June 20, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the 2018 appropriation bill into law.
Buhari had said the national assembly increased its budget from N125 billion to N139.5 billion
He also said the lawmakers added 6,403 projects of their own to the 2018 budget proposal sent to them, while they cut the appropriation for some key projects.
Speaking in an interview with PUNCH, Falana said the Buhari administration is to blame for alteration done to the budget.
According to him, it is the “unprecedented official impunity permitted by the President that has encouraged the national assembly to continue the illegality of rewriting and jerking up the budget”.
The senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) also expressed concern over the delay in signing the budget into law.
He described the delay as “the height of impunity on the part of both the executive and legislative” arms of government.
“What we are witnessing is the height of impunity on the part of both the executive and the legislative organs of the government. The crisis has continued because the Fiscal Responsibility Act is often ignored,” Falana said.
“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?
“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.
“In 2016, the President promised to sanction the public officers who were indicted for the criminal padding of the budget. Did the President sanction any of the criminal suspects?
“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.
He said the excuse that the budget alteration was done to address geopolitical imbalances holds no grounds.
“That is arrant nonsense. I challenge the national assembly members to point to any law that empowers them to rewrite the budget and pass it in order to correct geographical imbalance,” he said.
“I want to assume that majority of the legislators are wallowing in honest ignorance. Otherwise, they would not argue that they are rewriting the budget in a bid to correct geographical imbalance.
“The executive has allowed the illegality to continue for too long. Sections 4, 5, 6 of the Constitution stipulate that the legislature will make law; the executive will execute the laws, including Appropriation laws, while the judiciary will interpret the laws.
“To that extent, the national assembly cannot combine legislative duties with executive functions by introducing new projects into an appropriation law and turning round to execute certain provisions of the same appropriation law.”
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