Budget: NASS jettison deal with Presidency, accuse FG of playing to the gallery

There are indications that the Senate and House of Representatives appear to have abandoned the agreement reached with the presidency to undertake virement some sections of the 2017 Budget after it was signed into law by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

Osinbajo had informed Nigerians at the signing of the budget that an agreement was reached with the leadership of the National Assembly to undertake virements in respect of some fresh projects introduced into the budget.

That deal, a source in the National Assembly informed this paper, is in danger of unravelling as the legislators are primed to jettison the agreement following what they described as offensive comments credited to Osinbajo.

The lawmakers in reaction to the Acting President said he was questioning the powers of the National Assembly to introduce new projects into the Budget. They said the agreement reached with the leadership of the two chambers on the Budget may no longer be respected, a source said on Sunday.

The source said the lawmakers are angry that the Presidency may be setting them up for another round of public bashing.

They accused the presidency of acting in “bad faith” and “playing to the gallery.”

“If the Acting President felt strongly that we do not have the powers to change anything in the budget proposal and estimates, he should not have assented to the budget.

“He should know that a bill assented to is already a valid law and like the Speaker Yakubu Dogara said, not implementing the law is an impeachable offence.”

Section 58 (1-5) of the 1999 Constitution as amended sets out the powers of the National Assembly over all bills Section 58 (1) reads: The power of the National Assembly to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and, except as otherwise provided by subsection (5) of this section, assented to by the President.

The lawmakers note that since the Budget estimates submitted by the President are designated as bills, nothing stops them from making alterations.

They have also supported the argument with provisions of Section 81 of the Constitution which mandates the President to submit the estimates to the National Assembly.

The 1999 Constitution in Section reads: 81. (1) reads: “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.”

According to lawmakers, since the President only submits estimates, only the work of the National Assembly can turn the estimates to a budget.

A source in the senate said that unless the lawmakers receive a counter statement from the Presidency, they will have to jettison the agreement to review some provisions in the already signed budget.