No lawmaker can be investigated or tried forbudget padding, says Dogara

No lawmaker can be investigated or tried forbudget padding, says Dogara

The Accused House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara told the Civil Society Dialogue session on one year of the legislative agenda organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in Abuja,that budget padding is not an offence, saying no lawmaker can be investigated or tried for it.

Yakubu Dogara insisted that “No member of the National Assembly can be investigated or charged to court for performing his constitutional responsibility of lawmaking including passing the budget” that “padding is not an offence”, said lawmakers have the constitutional right to tinker with the budget proposal presented by the executive.

“Tinkering with it should not amount to or be regarded as padding”,  Dogara added, noting that it is wrong to accuse lawmakers of using constituency projects to “pad” the budget proposal.

The Speaker argued that by virture of the provisions of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, no member of the parliament can be charged to court or investigated for exercising his powers of law making.

Dogara said: “The Constitution talks about the estimates of revenue and expenditure to be prepared and laid before the National Assembly. The Constitution did not mention the word budget. And the reason is very simple. Budget is a law. Going by the very pedestrian understanding of law which even a part one Law student can tell is that the functions of government is such that the legislature makes the law, the executive implements and the judiciary interprets the law.

The budget, he said, was the appropriation bill, which like any other bill must be subjected to normal legislative processes and scrutiny.

Dogara said: “The Constitution talks about the estimates of revenue and expenditure to be prepared and laid before the National Assembly. The Constitution did not mention the word budget. And the reason is very simple.

Budget is a law. Going by the very pedestrian understanding of law which even a part one Law student can tell is that the functions of government is such that the legislature makes the law, the executive implements and the judiciary interprets the law.

“The budget is a law and nobody can object to the fact that only the legislature can make law so it is only the parliament that can conclude it.”

On constituency projects,  Dogara said it was the only means through which lawmakers can attract federal projects to their constituents.

According to him, this is necessary because the process of selecting constituency projects “lacks integrity as it is always lopsided against most federal constituencies”

“If you say the National Assembly doesn’t have the powers to tinker with the budget; that we just pass it. When it is prepared and laid we turn it into a bill. If it is a bill how do other bills make progression in the parliament in order to become law?” he asked, adding:

“If you contend that we cannot tinker with the appropriation bill, even though it is a money bill, it, therefore, goes without saying that we cannot tinker with any executive bill.

“Because if they (Executive) bring a bill they will not consult the public to say come and give us your input on this bill. It is the legislature that does that by the instrumentality of public hearing and when we aggregate your views it is only our duty as representatives of the people including the media and CSOs to make sure that your voices are reflected so that by the time we hear from you we now turn it into a legislative bill and when it gets to the President and he signs they say oooohhh some people have padded the bill.

According to him, this is necessary because the process of selecting constituency projects “lacks integrity as it is always lopsided against most federal constituencies”.

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