Fashola vs NASS: Supreme Court a bit too far?

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Fashola wants to fully get in the ring with the National Assembly by asking the Supreme Court to determine the extent of its powers in altering the Federal Budget.

“Being an institutional and not a personal issue, it won’t be out of place to seek a resolution of the conflict at the Supreme Court in order to protect the country’s future, because it is a clear conflict about how best to serve the people”, Fashola said in a lengthy statement on Monday by his media adviser, Hakeem Bello.

An obviously irritated Fashola must be feeling like donning the wig and getting into the gown and throwing some legal punches against the legislators who he has already dismissed as grossly out of touch with knowledge of the budgetary process. In local parlance, the Senior Advocate now looks like he wants to show them, by taking them to the top court and not only exposing their full ignorance, but putting a rubber stamp on the limits of their powers.

It could well turn out to be the first case the Executive will win in the courts in the life of this administration. The abysmal loss in the Saraki case at the Code of Conduct Tribunal still hurts, and despite the beginning of the process of an appeal, there is not much hope there.

An evolving democracy like Nigeria certainly will be calling upon its Judiciary on a regular basis to provide interpretations on the nature and use of power by the two often clashing arms of Government. Though facing its own existential problems, it must perform its role as the arbiter of justice and the impartial voice right reason, and cannot shy away from speaking unequivocally on such issues as may reflect on the nation as a whole.

But is it necessary to take the political matter through the tedium of legal proceedings? Would it not create a distraction to a Government that is already behind schedule in its supposed Economic Recovery and Growth Plan? How would the common man on the street ultimately benefit even if the Government were to get the favourable judgement?

This could be another grandiose fruitless venture. More taxpayers money will be invested with little or no valuable return other than an interpretation by the court that will likely be in favour of the legislature again, given the open-ended nature of the article of the Constitution – Section 80(4) – on which the National Assembly probably derived its will to make the changes Fashola deemed inappropriate.

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