By Dipo Olowookere
Before now, the term ‘budget padding’ was alien to some Nigerians. The name became prominent when the National Assembly and the Presidency got involved in supremacy battle over the passage of the 2016 budget.
After the National passed the budget and forwarded it to the President for approval, he refused, alleging that the passed budget already had ‘foreign elements’ in it.
For some weeks now, a former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriation, Mr Abdulmumin Jubrin, alleged that the budget was actually padded.
He name Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, and other principal officers of the House as accomplice.
The issue is still raging with fire at the moment.
But the Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Mr Ita Enang, has explained that the special attention being accorded sectoral allocation in the country’s annual budget, leaving other details in the hands of appropriation committees of the legislature to handle and approve for government agencies and parastatals, was responsible for padding.
Mr Ita-Enang also faulted the re-drafting of appropriation bills by the legal department of the legislature, insisting that the avenues were giving room for padding of budgets.
His position was contained in his paper presented at Legislative Lawyers Forum, LLF, during the just concluded 2016 Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, a copy of which was obtained by Vanguard, in Abuja.
He frowned on the manner appropriation bills of the country were considered and passed by the National Assembly over the years by only focusing on major sectoral allocations in the budget proposals, while leaving other sectoral allocations in the hands of appropriation committees.
He said, “There is the common practice that after bills may have been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, the legal department now re-drafts the bills, perhaps, changing certain words to give them a presentation in a legal draftsman’s perfect legislative draft. This, in my view, is inconsistent with the provisions of the law.”
According to him, the practice must stop, if padding of budget must be brought to end. Enang in the paper presentation, entitled “Fresh Perspectives in Legislative Practice: Who Makes the Law, Legislature in Session, Committees or Legislators’ Bureaucracy? posited that as practised in the current dispensation since June 1999, legislators’ bureaucracy and not legislature in session made the law by making the final draft of such laws, before forwarding such bills already passed by legislature in session to the President or Governor for assent through the Clerk to the parliament.