The Senate on Thursday vowed that it would not concede its powers to the Executive.
This followed a point of order raised by the Deputy Leader of the Senate, Bala Na’Allah, at plenary.
Quoting Order 43 of Senate Standing Rule, Na’Allah said there were media reports credited to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to the effect that the National Assembly did not possess any power to alter the budget.
He expressed concern that such statement was attributed to the Acting President, saying that he was knowledgeable enough in law.
”We have operated the Constitution from 1999 to date and I have had the privilege to work with the Acting President while I was practicing in Lagos as a lawyer.
”We did a lot of things together. So, he is somebody that I know so much.
“I will rather believe that what was alleged to have been said could not have been said by him and even if he spoke on the matter, he was misquoted.
”For the avoidance of doubt, this same Constitution we operated from 1999 to date has section 80, and the title of section 80 is `Power and Control over Public Funds’,’’ he said.
He read out the provisions of sections 2, 3 and 4 of the Constitution to support the argument, adding that the Constitution recognised that Nigeria operates a federal structure.
Na’Allah said the Constitution also recognises that Nigeria was multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious and that that was the reason issues of domination were raised in the constitution-making process.
He explained that it was the fear of domination that made framers of the Constitution to provide for representation on the basis of population and land mass and on the basis of equality of states.
”This is what gave birth to a bi-cameral legislature – the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House provides representation based on population and land mass while the Senate is based on equality of states.
”So, I know that the Acting President who is a professor of law is sufficiently trained in law to know that the National Assembly has powers to tinker with the budget.
”I am not making a case for him and I do not want to believe that he said what has been alleged that he said.
”I also want to assuage the fears of my colleagues that what was alleged to have been said does not represent the spirit of the framers of our Constitution,” Na’Allah said.
He said the explanation was necessary to allay the fears of the lawmakers.
In his remarks, President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said there was no ambiguity in the Constitution on the responsibility of the National Assembly.
He commended the deputy leader of the senate for raising the point, and said he also was sure that the Acting President must have been misquoted on the issue.
“This matter has been cleared and settled by the Constitution. So, I don’t think there are any issues here that are vague.
”I will like to believe too that the Acting President must have been wrongly quoted,” he said.
Saraki said the leadership of the National Assembly has had consultations with the executive arm.
According to him, those consultations did not in any way suggest that we will give up legislative powers as contained in the Constitution.
”I want to reassure our members on this because it is very important. Based on what we have heard, you may be concerned that one way or another, the leadership has given up some of these powers.
”That is not the case. I believe that as responsible statesmen, there are times we consult and do our best to work with the Executive and assist them.
“But, as we bend backwards, I don’t think that it should be misrepresented that powers given to us in the Constitution do not exist.
“That is not the case, and this Senate will continue to defend the Constitution and ensure that anything we do is in line with the laws of the land,” Saraki said.
He announced the adjournment of plenary until July 4.
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