Explainer: The fuss between Fashola and the senate

by Alexander O. Onukwue

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, has been in a war of words with the National Assembly over the recently signed 2017 Budget.

In an interview , Fashola argued without any apologies that the Senate had tampered heavily with the budget of its Ministry adding items which he had not desired nor planned for in the proposal draft. The former Lagos State Governor argues that the National Assembly had not the duty of adding unsolicited items to the Minsitry’s buget, given that his ministry had done its duty of being involved at all stages before the passage.

Fashola’s rage against the lawmakers is also a particular one. The items added to the budget by the National Assembly will be funded with funds subtracted from some of the key projects of the Ministry. Among such projects whose funds were reduced was the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.

The National Assembly has provided a retort to Fashola, asserting that it lay within its powers to not only reduce but to increase the figures or items in the budget. Fashola, in the interview, had expressed the opinion that while the National Assembly could screen the budget to remove items which were deemed unnecessary or superfluous, it had not the authority to add items into the budget which would encroach into the duties of State legislatures. House Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had been quoted as saying that the legislature has the power to introduce projects in the budget, according to Johannes Wojuola in the Cable.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria states, in Section 80 (2), that “No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those monies has been authorized by an Appropriation Act…”. Wojuola explains that the context of the powers of the National Assembly here is defined with respect to authorizing the spending of money and not for the articulation of projects.

However, the fourth subsection of Section 80 seems to be the point of leverage for the National Assembly. Section 80 (4) expresses that money shall not be withdrawn from the CRF “except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly”. In effect, the Constitution did not state that the NASS can articulate or prescribe projects into the Appropriation Bill, yet it empowers it to be the body to determine “the manner” of withdrawing money from the nation’s public funds.

It is a reflection of the frictions that have existed between the Executive and the National Assembly under the Buhari Administration. The 2017 Budget was signed on June 12, 2017, after series of consultations and grey areas needed to be revised and cleared up. The matters that involved the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service and the refusal to grant confirmation to the EFCC boss, Ibrahim Magu, made sure that there was always something between the Executive and the 8th Senate to argue about.

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