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Thursday, June 22, 2017

BUDGET: Osinbajo consults SANs, may drag NASS to Supreme Court...

2017 BUDGET: Osinbajo consults SANs, may drag NASS to Supreme Court
The ongoing face-off over the 2017 budget, may not be over soon, as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, are warming up to battle the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo.

 Acting President has assembled a number of Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) and lawyers, who are members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to prepare their brief and be on standby to challenge the alleged insertions and increment of the 2017 budget.
Recall that Professor Osinbajo, had last week, said that the National Assembly had no right to introduce new projects or modify those contained in an appropriation bill.
Osinbajo had alleged: “This last budget, the president presented it last December. Despite the assurances that it will be passed in by February, it was not until May.
“As it turned out, we were quite disappointed that it spent a bit of time before it was approved. And thereafter, we had to go into negotiations with the National Assembly in order to get it right.
“Now, there are these two broad issues about who can do what. The first report is about who can do what. When you present a budget to the National Assembly, it is presented as a bill, an appropriation bill.
“And secondly, do not introduce entirely new projects and all of that or modify projects. This is something that we experienced last year and this year again. It now leaves the question about who is supposed to do what.”
Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, also in a recent interview, mocked the National Assembly and questioned its powers to introduce new projects into the constitution or raise the budget.
Fashola said in the interview: “I do not think that they (National Assembly) can sit down and legislate projects that are not federal projects, that would be doing violence to the constitution because there are three levels of government. The local and state governments have their responsibilities and the federal government should be building federal roads not state roads.
“In my budget, you will find things like motorised boreholes, primary health care centres. That is a violation of the constitution, it shouldn’t be in the appropriation law of the federal government. If the judiciary decides that it is the National Assembly that should make the budget and hand it over to the executive to implement, so be it.”
Saraki, while presiding over last Thursday’s plenary, fired back that the “Senate will continue to defend the constitution and ensure that anything we do is in line with the laws of the land.”
Saraki had added: “I want to say that there are times we have a number of consultations and I want to make it clear that these consultations we do with the executive will not at any time mean that we will give up the powers we have in line with the Constitution.
“I want to reassure our members on this because it is very important based on what we have heard. You may be concerned that one way or another, leadership had given up some of these powers. That is not the case.
“But I believe that as responsible statesmen, there are times we consult and do our best to work with the Executive and assist them. But as we bend backwards, I do not think that should be misrepresented that powers given to us in the constitution do not exist. That is not the case.”
But in the recent development, Ripples Nigeria reliably gathered that the Executive may file a case against the National Assembly at the Supreme Court, which in this case, is the court of first instance.
The case may be filed this week, baring any last minute change. The National Assembly, on its part, is not resting on its oars, as it has revealed that it will defend its action in the court.
A source who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, said: “The fact is that the National Assembly has been monitoring developments on the budget and gathered that Osinbajo is seeking legal opinions from all the SANs in the cabinet. Remember Fashola recently came out with his own opinion where he said the National Assembly went beyond its powers in certain parts of the budget.
“Itse Sagay has also expressed his opinion. All these men have been directed to produce their opinion as a memo to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo through his Chief of Staff, Mr. Ade Ipaye. Also, the Acting President is contacting some other constitutional law experts.
“These moves are known to the National Assembly and it is believed to be preparing to file a suit at the Supreme Court. The National Assembly does not want to be caught unawares or ambushed, so it is monitoring events and the leadership has decided that they will respond appropriately to any move by the Executive.
“They believe such a move will strengthen the Presidential System, separation of powers and the rule of law. The Supreme Court verdict will also settle the lingering issue once and for all”, our source opined.

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