Members of the National Assembly may approach the Supreme Court for an interpretation of where the power of appropriation lies in the preparation and passage of the country’s yearly budget, was learnt on Wednesday.
Investigations showed that the move was intended to put a stop to the “embarrassing dimension” the executive-legislature dispute assumed in the 2016 budget.
President Muhammadu Buhari eventually signed the N6.06tn 2016 budget on Friday last week, about seven weeks after the National Assembly passed the fiscal document on March 23.
Findings indicated that many senators and members of the House of Representatives had raised concern over the frequent budget rows and came to the conclusion that a solution would be for the apex court to add its voice to the unsavoury development.
The PUNCH gathered that the lawmakers mooted the idea in a bid to avoid a repeat of another row with the 2017 budget soon to be presented to the National Assembly by Buhari.
The chairman of one of the key standing House committees,, stated, “The 1999 Constitution (as amended) is unambiguous as to the role of the National Assembly in all monetary cases. The provisions are very clear that the power lies with the legislature.
“But whatever are the reasons, each passing year, there is a conflict between the executive and the legislature over the budget. The National Assembly has gradually been turned into a rubber-stamp.
“There is this erroneous impression created that the budget must be passed the way it is presented by the executive.
“The concern that has been raised include whether there is no need to scrutinise the books of the executive anymore.”
It was learnt that lawmakers across chambers agreed that a resort to the Supreme Court would resolve the “needless disputes.”
In 2009, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, in the wake of a similar lengthy budget row with the National Assembly, sought to approach the apex court for an interpretation of the role of the arms in budgeting.
However, the case was said to have later been put on hold and was not pursued again until Yar’Adua’s demise.
The Leader of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, confirmed that “a judicial interpretation may just be the way to go.”
Gbajabiamila noted that both arms of government had clearly defined roles to play regarding the budget in the 1999 Constitution.
According to Gbajabiamila, it is the duty of the executive to prepare and lay the budget estimates before the National Assembly, while it is the responsibility of the latter to allocate resources.
In performing its role, the House leader said it could be permissible for the legislature to cut allocations, alter figures, but might not increase the budget size.
He stated that it was the Supreme Court that could set these middle course parameters between the executive and the legislature.
The All Progressives Congress legislator from Lagos State, added, “Every section in the constitution that refers to money matters and spending clearly says such can only be done in a ‘manner prescribed by the National Assembly.’ The executive doesn’t dispute this either.
“The legislature also does not dispute the clear provision in the constitution that it is the executive only that has the power to prepare and present a budget. I think the disagreement or confusion is to what extent the legislature can change what has been presented as a budget.
“Either way, the correct interpretation cannot be that the legislature cannot touch or change the figures, otherwise, there will be no need to present the budget to National Assembly in the first place.
“A judicial interpretation may just be the way to go.”
it was gathered that the grouse of some lawmakers was that by giving in to nearly all the demands of Buhari in the budget, the President had more or less usurped the power of appropriation of the National Assembly.
“That is why this issue of going to the Supreme Court must be revisited pretty soon,” another legislative source informed