House of Representatives rejects 2013 budget

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The House of Representatives has rejected the 2013 amendment budget request sent by President Goodluck Jonathan, saying that it failed to meet constitutional requirements.

The lower chamber of the National Assembly threw away the budget amendment bill after it received the report of an ad hoc committee set up to scrutinise it and advise the chamber on how to handle it in view of the objections earlier raised on it.

In throwing out the bill, the House argued that Section 81 (1), (2) and (4) of the 1999 Constitution did not envisage an amendment to an Appropriation Act, except through supplementary appropriation.

It can be recalled that on June 5, 2013 a constitutional point of order was raised by the chairman, House Committee on House Services, Honourable Yakubu Dogara, where he claimed that consideration of the amendment bill would amount to act of illegality.

The constitutional point of order raised by the lawmaker had led the Speaker, Honourable Aminu Tambuwal, to rule that the House committees on Rules and Business, Justice and Judiciary should look into the issue raised by Honourable Dogara.

 The chairman, House Committee on Rules and Business, Honourable Albert Sam-Tsokwa, in a report entitled: “the constitutionality or otherwise of the bill for an Act to amend the 2013 Appropriation Act,” maintained that the Appropriation Act was amendable, but the way and manner the 2013 budget amendment was packaged by the executive was not in line with the nation’s extant law.

According to the report, “the Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill, which the president’s communication forwarded to the House, apart from carrying the title, “Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill,” had nothing again in it to show that it was a document seeking to amend, repeal or re-enact the 2013 Appropriation Act.

“The purported Amendment Bill, a five clause bill, is completely and totally silent on what and which sections of the 2013 -Appropriation Act it seeks to amend and or repeal. So also, it was silent on the schedules or what aspects of the schedules to the 2013 Act it seeks to amend and or repeal.

“Honourable members may wish to note that while the 2013 Appropriation Act appropriates the total sum of N4,987,220,425,601 for the 2013 financial year, the purported 2013 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill 2013 seeks to appropriate a total sum of N4,987,382,196,690. Clearly, what the Amendment Bill 2013 seeks to appropriate is more than what was appropriated for the 2013 fiscal year in the 2013 Appropriation Act, that is to say, the executive would appear to be seeking additional funds.

“Obviously, this cannot be achieved through an Amendment Bill. The answer lies in a Supplementary Appropriation under section 81(4) of the Constitution.

“At best, the Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill of the president, for want of a better description and or expression, is, in the words of Honourable Dogara a “2013 Appropriation Bill No. 2” – an alien, a stranger or, indeed, an interloper in our constitutional arrangement,” the report stated.

According to it, the president’s intents and purposes were well communicated and conveyed in his letter of March 14, 2013 but the companion of the said letter, voluminous as it was, seeking to amend the 2013 Appropriation Act, failed in that mission and, therefore, amended or attempted to amend nothing.

The Speaker noted that “no comment or question” would be entertained and subsequently ruled that “the point of order raised by Honourable Dogara is hereby sustained.”

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