The Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Senator Dino Melaye, on Thursday said that the National Assembly was not a department in the Presidency.
Melaye said this in a statement in Abuja in reaction to President Muhammad Buhari’s remarks when signing the 2018 Appropriation Bill on Wednesday, and expressed concern that the comments indicated that the legislators padded the budget.
He said: “I notice that the president is trying to whip up sentiments against the National Assembly again, by alleging that the 2018 budget was padded.
“What the president is authorised to do constitutionally is to present the National Assembly with a Bill; a Bill is a work-in-progress and not the finished work.
“The reason the Constitution directs the Bill to be submitted to the national assembly is that it expects the national assembly to vet it and make inputs before passing it in readiness for Appropriation Act.
“The National Assembly is not expected to rubber stamp whatever Bill the president presents.
“If this was the norm, there would have been no need for the Constitution to direct that the Bill should be submitted to the national assembly in the first place.”
The lawmaker added that the president reserved the right not to append his signature if he was not convinced of what the legislature did as an institution.
According to him, the president is free to return the Appropriation Bill to the national assembly unsigned, with a note indicating his areas of disapproval.
Melaye further expressed displeasure with the level of implementation of the country’s budget in the last three years.
He said that the powers and authority of the National Assembly could not be eroded by the presidency.
Buhari had, while signing the Bill, said “the logic behind the Constitutional directive that budgets should be proposed by the Executive is that it is the Executive that knows and defines its policies and projects.
He said: “Unfortunately, that has not been given much regard in what has been sent to me.
“The National Assembly made cuts amounting to N347 billion in the allocations to 4,700 projects submitted to them for consideration and introduced 6,403 projects of their own amounting to N578 billion.
“Many of the projects cut are critical and may be difficult, if not impossible, to implement with the reduced allocation.
“Some of the new projects inserted by the National Assembly have not been properly conceptualized, designed and cost ascertained and will therefore, be difficult to execute.
“Furthermore, many of these new projects introduced by the National Assembly have been added to budgets of most MDAs with no consideration for institutional capacity to execute them or the incremental recurrent expenditure that may be required.”