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Senate won’t cede its constitutional powers to executive – Saraki

Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said on Thursday the Senate would never surrender its constitutional powers to the executive arm of government under any guise.

Saraki noted that even when the upper chamber bends backward to accommodate issues such gesture should not be misconstrued to mean weakness or misinterpreted to mean that the constitutional powers assigned to the Senate do not exist.

The Senate President was ruling on an Order raised by Deputy Senate Leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah, on whether or not the National Assembly has powers to alter the Appropriation Bill as presented by the Executive.

The Senate, Saraki insisted, would continue to defend the Constitution and ensure that its actions are covered by the Constitution at all times.

Na’Allah drew the attention of his colleagues to a statement credited to thy Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who said the National Assembly erred to have altered the 2017 Appropriation Bill.

Osinbajo was quoted as saying the National Assembly has no right to introduce new projects or modify those contained in the Appropriation Bill.

The acting President also expressed disappointment in the legislature for delaying the passage of the 2017 Appropriation Bill which he signed on Monday.

Osinbajo said: “I am sure that we understand not just how to do it right, but to get it done in good time.

“This last budget, the President presented it last December. Despite the assurances that it will be passed in by February, it was not passed until May.

“As it turned out, we were quite disappointed that it spent a bit of time before it was approved. And thereafter, we had to go into negotiations with the National Assembly in order to get it right.

“Now, there are these two broad issues about who can do what. The first report is about who can do what. When you present budget to the National Assembly, it is presented as a bill, an appropriation bill.

“And secondly, do not introduce entirely new projects and all of that or modify projects. This is something that we experienced last year and this year again. It now leaves the question about who is supposed to do what.”

Na’ Allah, who brought up the issue said, “I want to make a personal explanation on the media reports credited to the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, to the effect that the National Assembly does not possess any power to alter the budget submitted to it by the Executive. I offer explanation that we have operated this Constitution from 1999 to date.

“I am sure that everybody who knows me knows that I have some limited understanding of the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I have also had the privilege to work with the Acting President while I was practicing in Lagos as a lawyer.

“We did a lot of things together. So, he is somebody that I know so much, that I will rather believe that what was alleged to have been said could not have been said by him and even if he spoke on the matter, he was misquoted.

“For the avoidance of doubt, this same Constitution we operated from 1999 to date has section 80, and the title of section 80 is “Power and Control over Public Funds.”

“I read: All revenues or other monies raised or received by the Federation not being revenues of other monies payable under this Constitution or any Act of the National Assembly into any other Public Fund of the Federation established for a specific purpose shall be payable to and for one consolidated fund of the Federation.

“Two says: No monies shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by the Constitution or where the issue of those monies has been authorised by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act or Act passed in pursuance of Section 81 of the Constitution.

“Three: No money shall be withdrawn from any public funds of the Federation other than the Consolidated revenue fund of the Federation unless the issue of those monies has been authorised by an Act of the National Assembly.”

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