Dogara pointedly said that there is nothing known as executive appropriations of public funds under the Nigerian Constitution or laws.
The Speaker, who stated this at the opening session of the public hearing on the 2017 Appropriation Bill, the first of its kind in the history of Nigeria’s democracy since 1999, said it is therefore baffling to listen to some self- acclaimed pundits who are apparently ignorant about the workings of our constitutional order and argue that the legislature cannot touch the estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Federation for the next following financial year which the President lays before National Assembly each year.
According to him; “These pundits maybe ignorant about the very nature and exercise of ‘executive power’ which by our Constitution must be deliberate and limited. Except where the Constitution grants powers or duties to the President, executive governing authority must be created by legislation.
“Therefore the exercise of any executive power by the President, or any member of the executive not expressly conferred on him or them by the Constitution or Act of Parliament is ultra vires his powers. The Legislature, which is the most immediate representative of our people, must and will always exercise its powers for the general good.
“That legislative control over public funds is at the foundation of our constitutional democracy has never been in doubt. Section 80(1) of the Constitution lays down the principle of the Public Fisc, asserting that all monies received from whatever source by any part of the government are public funds, and S.80 (2)-(4) lays down the principle of Appropriations Control, prohibiting expenditure of any public money without legislative authorization. The two principles are complementary: The Public Fisc principle defines all federal receipts, while the Appropriations Control principle defines all lawful federal expenditures.”
The Speaker also said that the National Assembly introduced public hearings on the budget in order to increase citizen and stakeholder participation, and to entrench transparency and accountability in the budget process.
Dogora, who was addressing the gathering which comprised representatives of MDAs, ministries, and civil society organisations, amongst others, explained that the public hearing was being held in fulfilment of the 8th Assembly’s commitment to reforming the budget process, given the experiences with the processing and implementation of the 2016 Budget and the fact that the 2017 Appropriation Bill is currently before the National Assembly.
He commended civil society organisations for their efforts towards scrutinising past budgets and highlighting duplication and wastage, adding that a similar mechanism will be adopted by the House.
According to him; “Subjecting the annual budget to public scrutiny at National Assembly will give stakeholders opportunity to make their inputs and challenge incorrect assumptions in the Budget. This process will involve the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other professional bodies. The National Assembly will benefit from the research skills of various CSOs and the technical expertise of professional bodies at the enactment stage of the Appropriations Bill. I am aware that many CSOs scrutinise the Budget yearly and usually point out areas of duplications and wastage. We need to institutionalise this mechanism.
“The Principles of the Public Fisc and of Appropriations Control also impose an obligation on the National Assembly itself. National Assembly has not only the power but also the duty to exercise legislative control over federal expenditures. As a necessary corollary, the National Assembly is the repository of the obverse power, the power to prevent public expenditure except as authorized by it.”
The Speaker assured that reforms being introduced into the budgeting process will result in amendment of existing laws and therefore called on Nigerians to make use of the opportunity offered by the public hearing to interrogate the budget document in order to ensure that the needs and priorities of the people hold sway eventually.