Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, SAN, has said there were aspects of the 2017 Appropriation Act which violate the constitution, noting the judiciary might have to explain how far lawmakers could go to alter the budget. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo had questioned the extent of changes made to the 2017 Appropriation Bill by the federal lawmakers, who argued the National Assembly acted within the law and won’t be a rubber-stamp for any body.
But in an interview with The Cable last weekend, Fashola said there might be a need for judicial interpretation to put the controversy to rest. He noted that some of the projects included in the budget of his own ministry were a violation of the constitution. Fashola said:
“In a federal example like ours, nobody should be scared to have a judicial interpretation of the limits of the power the parliament can exercise during appropriation. “It is the law that affects our day-to-day developmental expectations. My view is that I don’t think parliament has the power to increase the budget because parliament does not collect taxes. Budget has expenditure as it has revenues, and if the executive has formed the view about earning and borrowing subjects to the approval of the parliament, I think it is only fair to say we won’t push you beyond what is reasonable. ‘’If the executive says it is unreasonable, there is room for consultation but to unilaterally increase the budget is not something that lies in the power of the parliament, although they can reduce it.”
He said the issue of separation of power should not be taken out of context, maintaining that the three arms of government were “inter-dependent” and that no arm can be absolutely independent, so the business of government can go smoothly. VIOLATION OF LAW Fashola said: “I don’t think that they can sit down and legislate projects that are not federal projects, that would be doing violence to the constitution because there are three levels of government. The local and state governments have their responsibilities and the federal government should be building federal roads not state roads.
“In my budget, you will find things like motorised boreholes, primary health care centres. That is a violation of the constitution, it shouldn’t be in the appropriation law of the federal government. If the judiciary decides that it is the national assembly that should make the budget and hand it over to the executive to implement, so be it. He said he could not argue “fairly” that a legislator had no input to make it into the developmental plan of a nation “but the question is how and when”.