Senate: Osibanjo was misquoted on padding comment, insists on powers to alter budget

By Titilope Fadare

OrderPaperToday – The Senate on Thursday, concluded that Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo must have been misquoted by the media over comments credited to the latter that the 2017 budget was allegedly mutilated and padded by the National Assembly.

Recall that Osibanjo had accused the National Assembly of injecting new projects into the budget thereby displacing priority projects of the administration. The Acting President had said a virement request will be sent to the lawmakers to correct the distortions to get government back to achieving its economic recovery plan.

But speaking in the Senate on Thursday, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki said the acting president must have been misquoted as the National Assembly has constitutional powers to alter the estimates presented by the Executive as appropriation bill.

Saraki said he had been confronted by senators who sought to clarify if the claims of the acting president were true and if indeed, the legislature lacked powers to alter the budget as submitted.

According to him, “this matter is important because some of my colleagues came to me as regards the matter of the budget of 2017 and I cannot agree with you less that the acting president must have been misquoted because there is clearly no ambiguity in the constitution of the responsibilities.

“This matter has been cleared and settled and I don’t think there is any issue here that is vague. There are times where we have a number of consultations but I want to make clear to our members that these consultations that we do with the executives is not as at any time that we have consultation that we give all the powers that we have in the line with the constitution.

“I want to reassure our members on these areas. It is very important because sometimes a lot from which you have heard that in one way or the other leadership had given up some of these powers but I believe as responsible statesmen and leaders, a time that we consult and do our best to make things work for the executives and assist but as we bend backwards, I don’t think that should be misconstrued and misrepresented.”

Saraki was reacting to a point raised by Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Bala Na’Allah (APC, Kebbi) at plenary, who said some colleagues had accosted him on the claims by Mr. Osibanjo.

Na’Allah said: “Five Senators bombarded my office angrily about a statement allegedly credited to the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo that the National Assembly does not possess the power to alter the budget submitted to it by the Executive.

“I offered explanation, what is important sir is the fact that we have operated this constitution from 1999 till day. I am sure that everybody who knows me know that I have some limited understanding of the provision of the constitution.

“I have had the privilege to work with the acting president while practicing law in Lagos. I know so much that I would rather believe that what was alleged to have been said could not have been said by him even if it were, he must have been misquoted.”

Na’Allah added that there are provisions in the constitution that allows the National assembly to add projects to the 2017 budget.

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is the same constitution that has operated since 1999 till date has Section 80 and the title of Section 80 is power and control, listen to the two words power and control over public funds.

“Section 2 says ‘no monies shall be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue funds of the federation except to make expenditure that is charged by the funds of the constitution or where the issues of those monies have been authorized by an appropriation act.’

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