The two chambers of the National Assembly are presently addressing a joint press conference to push back on allegations made by President Muhammadu Buhari that federal lawmakers smuggled frivolous projects into the 2018 budgets.
The conference is being addresses by the duo of Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (spokesperson for the Senate) and Abdulrazak Namdas (spokesperson for the House of representatives).
President Buhari had on Wednesday accused the National Assembly of tampering with the 2018 budget sent to them by cutting essential projects and inserting non-essential ones.
Mr Buhari stated this while signing the 2018 budget into law.
“I am concerned about some of the changes that the National Assembly has made to the budget proposals that I presented,” he said.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation. Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and costed and will therefore be difficult to execute.”
But responding to the allegations, the lawmakers said, “We appreciate the fact that the 2018 Appropriations Law which was passed by the National Assembly on May 16th, 2018 was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018.
“In his speech at the signing ceremony, certain observations were raised about the work of the National Assembly and its Constitutional responsibility to modify and amend the budget estimates submitted to it by the Executive.
“You may recall that when the National Assembly passed the 2018 budget, it gave reasons why the budget was increased and why certain projects and programmes had to be provisioned for. However, due to recent developments, it is once again necessary to let Nigerians know …the justification for our actions on the 2018 budget, which were based on our Constitutional responsibilities.
“Adjustments and reductions in the locations, costs and number of projects approved were made in order to address geo-political imbalances that came with the Executive proposal. The introduction of new projects was done to ensure the promotion of the principles of Federal …Character as contained in Section 14, subsection (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which states that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in …such manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria…” The number of projects had to be increased in order to give a sense of belonging to every geo-political zone of the country to ensure socio-economic justice, equity, fairness, and to command National loyalty.
“Within the context of the provisions of Sections 4, 80 and 81 of the Constitution, everything that the National Assembly has done is within its powers.
Furthermore, Chapter 2 of the Constitution emphasizes the need for balance, inclusivity, & equity in the distribution of national resources. The annual budget, which symbolizes the distribution of these resources must reflect the aforementioned values, which we swore to uphold.
These Constitutional provisions, in addition to a recent Court judgment have affirmed the fact that the budget process is a ‘joint effort’ that must reflect the input of both the executive and the legislature — the latter being the closest representatives of the people.
However, we are fully aware that the Executive has the exclusive responsibility to execute all parts of the Appropriation Act once it is signed into law.
It is our firm belief that if the President had been properly briefed by his appointees, he would not have raised most of the concerns that he did in his remarks at the budget signing. It is therefore inevitable for the legislature to give members of the public an insight into what transpired during the appropriations process and how we arrived at the decisions that are contained in the 2018 budget