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Budget Padding: Insertions By National Assembly Legal – Bagudu

The Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Sen. Atiku Bagudu, has said that the National Assembly did not break any law with new insertions in the 2024 budget.

Bagudu, while speaking during a press briefing Thursday in Abuja, said since 1999, it has become a norm in the passing of appropriation for the National Assembly to insert new line items to provide some dedicated projects to their constituencies, which often leads to the rise in approved budget from what was presented by the president.

President of the Senate,  Sen. Godswill Akpabio, has been in the eye of the storm following allegations that the senate padded  N3.7 trillion into the approved budget, with the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) calling for his resignation.

Senator Abdul Ningi, representing Bauchi Central, who first raised the alarm over budget padding, was suspended for three months by the Senate.

But reacting to the reports, Bagudu said the new insertions did not violate any law because what the president presented to the National Assembly was a bill, but the budget passed with modifications was an act by the assembly.

He said, “The president submitted a budget to the tune of N27.5 trillion and the National Assembly, in its wisdom, increased it to N28.7 trillion. When we presented the budget, it was at an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar but the assembly increased it to N800 to a dollar. That created more revenue. The assembly also appropriated that the Government Owned Enterprises contribute more revenue. Then there was the increase of the budget of the judiciary, legislature and executive.

“The president in signing the 2024 appropriation acknowledged that in democracy, institutions have their power and the National Assembly has the last word.

“The evolution of constituency projects and projects by National Assembly members, which did not begin now but since 1999, is a reflection of the challenge that elected persons are facing.

“There has been a long debate and a former president went up to the Supreme Court to define the appropriation power of the executive and the National Assembly. Later, there was an out-of-court settlement. Till now, this issue has not been resolved. So, what is the power of the National Assembly as regards the budget? There is no Supreme Court judgment and the choice of our democracy is that the National Assembly has the last word. Even when they pass an appropriation that assent is refused, after 30 days it becomes law.

“Do they have the right to increase a budget line? I will say yes.”

He added that there has been a misconception on why budgets for agencies regarded as statutory transfers do not have line items of their budgets disclosed.

“These are transfers for agencies that are created by the constitution or legislation. So, they have the right to draw up their own budget. They can be supervised by a committee but it is not the federal government that appropriates for them; the most popular ones are  the NJC, FCT, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, NEDC, NDDC and others,” he said.

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