By Femi Falana SAN, Professor Jibrin Ibrahim, ‘Lanre Suraj Esq, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Y. Z. Yau, Idayat Hassan, Ezenwa Nwagwu, David Ugolor, Chris Kwaja
The Presidency, the National Assembly and the Nation
At long last, the 2017 Appropriation Bill containing the National Budget was belatedly signed into law last month by the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo SAN. It is however disturbing to note that some aspects of the Budget may not be implemented due to the face-off between the Executive and the National Assembly over the 1,170 projects inserted in the 2017 Appropriation Act of the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing by the federal lawmakers. For daring to question the decision of the National Assembly to alter the budget earmarked for the Mambilla Plateau power project, East-West road and Lagos-Ibadan expressway the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN has been summoned to appear before the House of Representatives. This self-serving action of the National Assembly is capable of distorting the development agenda of the government. It is hoped that the Minister will take advantage of the invitation to convince the legislators on the urgent need to restore the development projects deleted from the Budget.
However, since neither the amended 1999 Constitution nor the Fiscal Responsibility Act has empowered the National Assembly to increase the national budget through the insertion of constituency projects and other items in the course of debating the Appropriation Bill, we call on the Executive to approach the Supreme Court for the interpretation of the provisions of the relevant laws. The interpretation cannot afford to wait as the 2018 Appropriation Bill will soon be prepared and laid before the Joint Session of National Assembly by the President.
While the dispute over the Budget was yet to be resolved the Senate passed two controversial resolutions. The first resolution directed the Acting President to remove the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu from office. In a bid to ensure that the resolution was implemented the Senate decided to put on hold any appointment, which requires the confirmation of the Senate. Without mincing words, the Presidency has rejected the call for the removal of Mr. Magu. The executive is advised to seek judicial resolution of the stalemate over the confirmation of Mr. Magu’s appointment as substantive chairman. Meanwhile, we assert that the Senate cannot annul his acting appointment, since his appointment was without consultation or confirmation from the Senate.
The second resolution was in reaction to the moves by the electorate in the Kogi State West senatorial district to recall Senator Dino Melaye from the Senate. While questioning the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission to attend to the demand of the electorate the Senate threatened to frustrate the move to recall the Senator. Since Senator Melaye has approached the Federal High Court for legal redress the Senate should not have discussed the case as it is sub judice in line with its Rules of Procedure.
We are not unaware that there are ongoing moves to resolve the faceoff between the Executive and the Legislature. While we welcome such moves, we warn that they should not be based on compromise that has no basis in constitutionalism. For a lasting solution to the crisis, we call on both arms of the government to put the interests of the nation above personal considerations.
On the latest agitation for restructuring of the country that has gained so much debate, from even least expected quarters and dominating the media, it is our respected submission that the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference cannot be wholly adopted due to their unrealistic propositions. Whereas the country is unsuccessfully grappling with 36 non-viable states as federating units, the Conference recommended 54 states for the country. However, the most important recommendation adopted at the Conference is that the fundamental objectives enshrined in Chapter 2 of the Constitution be made justiciable. We wish to emphasize that where education and health are made accessible to all citizens, a living minimum wage is paid as and when due, unemployment benefits and pension are paid promptly, housing is provided for all, the right of citizens to live peacefully in any part of the country is guaranteed as envisaged by chapter 2 of the Constitution the threats to national unity will disappear.