House of Reps has no power to insert projects in the budget, SERAP tells Dogara

AGAINST the background of allegations of budget padding and abuse of public trust by the leadership of the House of Representatives, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has told the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, that “there is absolutely no constitutional provisions that grant to members or leaders of the House of Representatives the power to insert projects in the budget.”

The organisation said “the idea of members of the National Assembly allocating projects to their constituencies and then approving such projects is a grave and direct affront to basic constitutional principles of equity, fairness, transparency, accountability and separation of powers.”

SERAP’s statement signed by its executive director,  Adetokunbo Mumuni, is in response to Mr Dogara’s defence of the decision of the lower chamber to unilaterally insert 2,000 items into the 2016 budget after former chairman of Appropriation Committee, Abdulmumin Jibrin accused the principal officers of padding the budget.

According to Mr Dogara, “so the budget being a law, therefore, means that it is only, I repeat, only the parliament that can make it because it is law and I challenge all of us to look at the law and tell me where it is written that the president can make the budget.”

Jibrin alleged that the Speaker had allocated projects worth N4 billion to his constituency, leaving 359 other members of the lower chambers “to share the remaining N36 billion out of N40 billion unilaterally inserted in the budget.

But SERAP disagreed with Mr Dogara, stating that “the practice of constituency projects directly undermines the 1999 Constitution (as amended), which provides the framework for rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances amongst the organs of government. It’s contrary to the public interest; inequitable, disproportionate, unfair and a clear case of conflict of interest for leaders of the National Assembly to enjoy unbridled discretion in the allocation and diversion of projects to their constituencies.”

According to SERAP, “to justify project insertion in the budget is to place the interest of the leaders of House of Representatives over and above the public interest.”