Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday accused the All Progressives Congress, APC-led
federal government of covering up cases of corruption
In a statement personally signed by him, Falana claimed that about 20
legislators in both chambers of the National Assembly altered the budget
by “inserting constituency projects worth N100 billion in the 2016 budget.
Both the Senate and the House allocated to themselves N60 billion and N40
The human rights activist noted that if “it is established that the
alterations were effected after the passing of the budget by both houses
the issue at hand goes beyond padding. A clear case of conspiracy, fraud,
forgery and corruption can be established against the suspects.”
He explained that padding “takes place when legislators resolve to rewrite
the budget by introducing new items outside the estimates prepared and
presented to them by the president.
“The controversy over the padding of budget was laid to rest with the
enactment of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2007 which has imposed a duty
on the finance minister to source input from certain institutions
including the national assembly during the course of preparing the budget.
“That is when negotiations and horse trading with the executive by the
legislators is allowed. But neither the Constitution nor the Fiscal
Responsibility Act has empowered the National Assembly members to rewrite
the national budget by including constituency projects whose costs are
arbitrarily fixed by the legislators.”
Under section 81 of the Constitution, Falana pointed out that only the
president “is given the exclusive power to cause the budget to be
prepared. Upon the preparation of the budget by the executive, it shall be
laid or presented to the National Assembly by the president.”
He argued that in debating the Appropriation Bill, the legislators might
reduce the estimates if there “are errors or inflation of the cost of
items or if certain items provided for has been purchased before or for
any other genuine reasons.
“But the National Assembly cannot increase the budget in any manner
whatsoever. So, the unilateral introduction of constituency projects is
totally illegal and unconstitutional. By introducing new items, the
National Assembly has usurped the powers of the President to prepare the
“In other words, the legislators would have prepared the budget and laid
it before themselves and then passed it. That is a negation of the
doctrine of separation of powers. The appropriation bill or amended
appropriation bill is not like other bills.
Whereas other bills shall emanate from either of the two houses, money
bills shall emanate from the President.
“So a money bill is a special bill which cannot be subjected to additions
by the national assembly because it has no power to prepare it. Padding is
an unconstitutional infraction when the estimates are increased on the
floor of the House. The infraction becomes criminal when the Appropriation
Bill is altered by a few legislators after it had been passed by both
houses of the national assembly.”
He, therefore, said the speaker claimed that the padding of the 2016 was
not a criminal offence, noting that Dogara’s confidence “is likely to have
been anchored on the statement credited to the presidency that the budget
was not padded in any material particular.
“Before then, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had decided to follow
the discredited path by treating the serious allegation of monumental
corruption as a family affair of the ruling party.”
But unlike the PDP, Falana noted that the APC government failed “to act
timeously. In other words, a cover up is no longer possible at this stage
as the cat has been let out of the bag. For now, Dogara has no choice, but
to defend the criminal allegations.
“Contrary to Dogara’s misleading contention, the Legislative Houses Powers
and Privileges Act has not conferred immunity on him with respect to
allegations of criminal offences. Since the immunity conferred by the Act
is limited to contributions to debates by members of the National
Assembly, he cannot ward off the invitation of the Nigeria Police and the
EFCC to react to the criminal allegations leveled against.”
The Senior Advocate cited what happened when the 2005 appropriation bill
was under consideration in the Senate, noting that some senators including
the then Senate President padded the budget of a ministry after collecting
N55 million bribe from a minister.
He said the scandal led “to the removal of the senate president who was
later charged with his indicted colleagues and the minister. The Supreme
Court has recently ordered that the suspects be tried for corruption
having thrown out the preliminary objections filed against the charges by
them at the trial court.”