Following the unending dissent with the legislature over the extent of its power of appropriation, the executive has resolved to approach the Supreme Court for interpretation of Section 80 of the 1999 Constitution, which grants the National Assembly the power to approve appropriated public funds, presidency sources said on Sunday.
According to ThisDay, the sources said that the President Muhammadu Buhari government is bent on ending the perennial disagreement over the extent of the power of the legislature to appropriate public funds.
Consequently, it would be seeking the Apex Court to determine whether the National Assembly has the latitude to revise estimates proposed by the executive arm of government or not.
Since the inception of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999, there has been a disagreement over the legislature’s insistence that it has the power to vary budget estimates presented to it by the executive for approval, referring specifically to Section 80(2) and (3) of the Constitution.
Section 80(2) provides: “No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by the Constitution or where the issue of those moneys has been authorised by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act or an Act passed in compliance with Section 81 of this Constitution.”
Section 80(3) also provides: “No moneys shall be withdrawn from any public fund of the Federation other than the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation unless the issue of these moneys has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.”
Section 81 to which Section 80(2) refers, provides: “The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before each House of the National Assembly at any time in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year.”
While the executive admitted that the power of approval of estimates lies with the legislature, the former, however, argued that the latter’s authority does not include extensive adjustment of the estimates to the extent that the budget is rewritten by the National Assembly.
Disputing this, the National Assembly maintained that it has the constitutional power to vary and determine the figures once prepared and laid before it by the president, contending further that the constitution did not intend the legislature to be a rubber stamp.
The conceptual disagreement has delayed the promulgation of the budget each year since 1999, with each president, from Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to Buhari, withholding assent until an agreement was reached with the National Assembly.
The sources said that the presidency’s position was that the budget, as passed, is not implementable because several adjustments made to it by the National Assembly have distorted the executive’s plan for the recovery and growth of the economy.
“There is no way the acting president can sign the budget because it has been terribly distorted,” a source said, explaining: “The budget was aligned with our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan and we found that allocations to critical projects that would help us recover from recession and lead us to growth had been cut, making it difficult for us to achieve our objective.”
The source also accused the National Assembly of further violating this objective by introducing about 4,000 new projects, amounting to about N451billion.
“What is more unacceptable is that most of these projects are not federal government matters but state and local government matters.”
It would be recalled last year, President Buhari had refused to sign the 2016 budget because, according to him, it was padded, meaning the National Assembly had introduced far-reaching adjustments that were not part of the estimates he laid before it. It was returned to the National Assembly.
However, following the unending disagreement, the president succumbed to the persisted calls to sign the budget after an agreement was reached that the National Assembly would pass a supplementary budget that would restore 80 per cent of the original estimates.