The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has said that the adjustments in the 2016 Appropriation Bill by the House of Representatives was to accommodate the interests of the people.
Dogara, who spoke in Abuja yesterday at the Civil Society Dialogue Session on one year of the Legislative Agenda organised by Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), maintained that the Appropriation Bill is just like any other bill which must be subjected to normal legislative processes and scrutiny.
“If you contend that we cannot tinker with the Appropriation Bill, even though it is a money bill, it therefore goes without saying that we cannot tinker with any executive bill. If you say the National Assembly doesn’t have the powers to tinker with the budget, that we just pass it, when it is prepared and laid we turn it into a bill. If it is a bill how do other bills make progression in the parliament in order to become law?” he said.
The Speaker argued that by virtue of the provisions of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, no member of the parliament can be charged to court or investigated for exercising their powers of law making.
He said the 2016 budget was controversial from the onset but the House handled the controversy with maturity, employing the democratic tools of dialogue, compromise and consensus by which an implementable 2016 budget was passed and assented to.
Dogara cited the powers of the National Assembly to authorize funds for the executive under Section 80 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, saying the budget is a law and cannot be made without tinkering with details that reflect the interests of the people.
On zonal intervention projects popularly known as constituency projects for members of the National Assembly, Dogara, said it was the only means through which lawmakers attract federal projects to their constituents. This, he said, was necessary because the projects selection process lacks integrity as it is always lopsided against most federal constituencies.
The Speaker emphasised on the need for more sensitisation of the public on the role of the legislature in the appropriation process, saying the misconception of this role led to attempts to discredit the 2016 budget.