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MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2017 news 7 Budget: N’Assembly wants to be both legislature, executive, says Sagay John Ameh and Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja T HE House of Representatives and the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), on Sunday, clashed over the power of the National Assembly to insert projects into the budget. The acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had, while signing the 2017 Budget into law last week, queried some “alterations” in the budget by the National Assembly. He said such alterations would affect the plans of the executive to execute the projects as designed from the beginning. Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had, in turn, rejected Osinbajo’s position, stating that the legislative arm of government had the powers to alter the budget. Sagay, however, argued that the National Assembly had no power to introduce any project into the budget. Speaking in Abuja at a programme organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pyrates Confraternity), the PACAC chairman said the legislative arm of government should not cross its bounds. Sagay stated, “I am amused that the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are saying that the acting President had no right to comment on this matter. They said they have all the powers. “The National Assembly has no power to create projects; it approves budgets. It is the government, the executive, that takes proposals for projects but this National Assembly does not get the message; it wants to be both legislature and executive at the same time.” He alleged that the National Assembly was largely to blame for the ineffectiveness of past budgets because the members placed their selfish interests ahead of the nation’s interest. The PACAC chairman added, “Even CNN reports that there are more private jets in Nigeria than commercial aircraft. The truth is that the overwhelming number of Nigerian elite see any funds voted or appropriated for any project as their share of the national cake. “The National Assembly itself sees the Nigerian national budget as its personal budget, its money to tinker with at will and then to leave something to the rest of us. “It is no surprise that Nigeria’s development remains stunted and misery and poverty remain overwhelming.” The House, however, insisted that it stood by its earlier position that the power of appropriation resided with the National Assembly. It also reminded Sagay that the acting President signed the budget into law, knowing that there were new projects inserted. The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, told The PUNCH that the comments coming from the executive on the budget were “unnecessary.” Namdas stated, “We gave our position on this matter already and keep repeating it. The power of the purse, in a presidential HAVE A STORY FOR US? CONTACT: Politics: 08033461633 politics@punchng.com; General News: 08165625046 Online: 08033430804 generalnews@punchng.com; Business: 07068835954 business@punchng.com democracy, resides with the legislature and Nigeria will not be different. “The acting President signed this same budget into law after studying it for several days. He knew there were additional projects and he signed. We have a law in place. Is it after the law has come into effect that they turn around to question the powers of the National Assembly?” However, Namdas advised the executive to approach the judiciary for the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution if it was in doubt over any of its provisions. “They are the ones asking questions. Let them go to court,” he added. • L–R: A leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; a leader of the South-East, Air Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (retd.); Prof. Joe Irukwu (SAN); President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; Maj. Gen. Ike Nwachukwu (retd.) ,and Air Commodore Idongesit Nkanga (retd.), during a meeting of leaders of Southern Nigeria in Lagos... on Sunday. Photo: Saheed Olugbon N516bn Paris refund: Labour teams up with EFCC, ICPC on probe Olaleye Aluko, Abuja T HE Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade U nion Congress have written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission to probe the states, which defaulted in the first tranche of the N516bn Paris Club loan refund. The TUC President, Bobboi Kaigama, and the NLC General Secretary, Peter Ozo-Eson, confirmed this to The PUNCH on Thursday, adding that the partnership between Labour and the anti-graft agencies would equally be important in the utilisation of the second tranche of the refund. The labour centres had alleged that some state governments failed to use part of the money they got from the loan refund to pay salaries or to offset arrears of pension deductions. The federal and state governments had, in December 2016, agreed that states should use 50 per cent of the refund to settle salary and pension arrears when the fund was released. But the NLC President, Mr. Ayuba Wabba, had, in an interview on June 4, said more than 26 states benefited from the first tranche of the Paris Club refund, but lamented that about 10 states were still owing workers and pensioners. “Many of the states have been diverting the bailout meant to pay outstanding salaries and pension to other things; and this is why we are in the present situation,” he had stated. The Federal Ministry of Finance had, on Friday, published the allocation of the first tranche of N516.38bn reimbursement to the states. From the statement by the finance ministry, the top five states are Rivers, N34.92bn; Delta, N27.6bn; Akwa Ibom, N25.98bn; Bayelsa, N24.89bn and Kano, N21.7bn. These five are followed by Lagos, N16.74bn; Katsina, N16.4bn; Kaduna, N15.44bn; Borno, N14.68bn; Jigawa, N14.2bn; Imo, N14.01bn; Niger, N14.42bn; Bauchi, N13.75bn; Sokoto, N12.88bn; and Osun, N12.62bn. Others are Cross River, N12.15bn; Anambra, N12.24bn; Edo, N12.18bn; Kebbi, N11.95bn; Kogi, N11.05bn; Abia, N11.43bn; Ogun, N11.47bn; and Plateau, N11.28bn. Similarly, Yobe got N10.82bn; Zamfara, N10.88bn; Ebonyi, N9.01bn; Ekiti, N9.54bn; Enugu, N10.7bn; Gombe, N8.95bn; Nasarawa, N9.1bn; Oyo, N13.31bn; and Kwara, N10.24bn. Others are Adamawa, N10.25bn; Benue, N13.7bn; Ondo, N14.01bn; Taraba, N9.32bn, and the Federal Capital Territory, N1.36bn. The Director of Information in the finance ministry, Salisu Dambatta, who signed the statement, had said, “The funds were released to the state governments as part of the wider efforts to stimulate the economy and were specifically designed to support states in meeting salary and other obligations, thereby alleviating the challenges faced by workers.” The TUC President, Kaigama, told our correspondent on Wednesday that the union had involved the EFCC and the ICPC to probe states which defaulted in using the disbursements to pay workers. He said, “We have asked the ICPC and the EFCC to probe those states; we already called for their probe. The call we made to the EFCC and ICPC is not only for the first tranche, but subsequent tranches. “The anti-graft agencies and the TUC have been interacting well on the probe. “We are working with the Federal Government which directed that the fund be used first for the payment of arrears and pensions before the states do anything else. So if the states do anything else, it would be contrary to the directive. “We have been liaising with the anti- corruption agencies to make sure that they follow these disbursements. We also ask our TUC state levels to monitor the disbursements.” The NLC Secretary, Ozo-Eson, said, “We have involved the anti-corruption agencies. From the first bailout, we partnered the ICPC to monitor the funds and we expect this to continue. Our directive to the NLC state councils is to also monitor the funds and ensure that the payment of arrears of salaries and pensions take priority.” It was learnt from an NLC source that some states, however, still had yet to clear about five months’ salaries owed their workers. The Head of Media of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, on Sunday, said he was not aware of the petitions from the labour unions to the agency as his office was not in charge of receiving petitions. “I am not aware. You know my office does not receive petitions,” the commission’s spokesman stated. The anti-graft agency had, however, in February, confirmed that it was investigating some governors as well as the accounts of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum in connection with the N516bn Paris Club loan refund to the states. Some petitions had alleged that some of the state governors, using some consultants and proxies, diverted about N19bn from the refund to the NGF’s account. 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