The Delta State 2018 Appropriation Bill passed and signed into law recently by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was padded by N10Billion naira, BigPen Online can report.
The Delta State House of Assembly led by its Speaker, Rt. Hon. Chief Sheriff Oborevwori had made alterations into the N298 billion budget which was not in the original Appropriation Act sent to it by the governor.
Warri-based Human Rights lawyer, Oghenejabor Ikimi who queried the adjustment to the budget in a statement made available to BigPen Online on Wednesday night, said that the lawmakers tinkered with the budget after it was forwarded to the House by the governor for passage, saying it was illegal to do so.
The lawyer said that the Assembly as part of her oversight function can reduce a budget sent to her for approval but cannot increase or appropriate on same as it is the duty of the Executive to so do.
According to him, what the Delta State House of Assembly did by adding the sum of N10 billion to the original budget of N298 billion initially appropriated by the Delta State Government was illegal.
While congratulating the Assembly however for the quick passage of the 2018 budget and its prompt signing into law by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Ikimi, who is the Executive Director of Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep), noted that the alterations to budget has become an illegality enmeshed in the deep waters of politics in Nigeria.
“However, we disagree with the increment of the sum of 10 billion naira inserted by members of the House to the original budget of N298 billion presented to it by the State Executive under the pretext of capturing some critical areas left out of the budget.
“We submit that it is not the duty of Legislatures Worldover to appropriate a budget sent to it for approval.
“A Legislative House in her over sight function can reduce a budget sent to her for approval but cannot increase or appropriate on same as it is the duty of the Executive to so do.
“In a nutshell what the Delta State House of Assembly did in adding the sum of N10 billion to the original budget of N298 billion initially appropriated by the Delta State Government methinks is illegal”.
Ikimi however said that the National Assembly are also guilty of budget padding, a development which he said has become a device being used to siphon the nation’s resources.
He expressed concern that the nation’s Attorney General who supposed to correct the abnormally by seeking judicial interpretation of 1999 Constitution was standing hands akimbo watching the illegality, saying that the development would force his group to approach the law Courts to seek an order of mandamus against the Federal Attorney General and his 36 States counterparts.
“We are not oblivious of the fact that the National Assembly and other State Houses of Assembly are guilty of the above vice, while the Federal Attorney General and his 36 States counterparts who are the only legal personalities with locus standing to initiate a law suit at the Supreme Court for the proper interpretation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,1999 (as amended) in the above regard are standing hands akimbo watching the above illegality as they are enmeshed in the deep waters of politics and thus lacks the needed courage to initiate such an action.
“An Attorney General is supposed to be insulated from politics but the reverse is the case here in Nigeria.
“We in Centrep are therefore left with no option other than to approach the law Courts to seek an order of mandamus to compel the Federal Attorney General and his 36 States counterparts to seek the interpretation of the 1999 Constitution in the above regard, so as to lay the above issue to rest once and for all”.
Meanwhile, Centre for the vulnerable and the underprivileged, (Centrep) has hailed the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division for its recent judgment which declared that the EFCC does not have the statutory powers to investigate or prosecute serving judicial officers, except of course where such officers had been dismissed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The group said that the verdict would help to protect the sanctity and independence of the judiciary as the third arm of Government from been bastardized and ridiculed by the Executive and her agencies in the name of fighting corruption.
“We make bold to say, that while we at Centrep are in total support of fighting corruption, we insist that same must be fought in accordance with the rule of law, as our above position is fortified by the principles enunciated in the case of Joseph Ogbeshe Vs Chief Sylvanus Idam (2014) ALL FWLR (PT. 728) P. 992 @ 994 Ratio 3 where the Court held thus:
“Where there is a liberty or right to do or not to do any act, the prescribed procedure must be followed”.
According to him, the prescribed procedure laid down by Law is that no serving judicial officer can be tried unless such officer has been dismissed by the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Continuing, he said that the implication is that it is only a retired or a dismissed judge that can be prosecuted as demonstrated in the case of former Chief Judge of Enugu State in the person of Justice Innocent Umezulike.
“No wonder the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division had no difficulty in striking out the charges brought against Hon. Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, a serving Federal High Court Judge in the Yenagoa Judicial Division”.
The group also commented on the recent approval granted the Federal Government to withdraw the sum of $1billion from the Excess Crude Account without appropriation to fight Boko Haram and other security threats confrontation the nation.
Ikimi stated that Governments all over the world do not rely on budgetary provisions to fight a war, especially a terror war, but was quick to add that the federal government must use the fund judiciously to avoid any form of scandal.
“We must avoid a repeat performance of the 1.2 billion dollar arms deal scandal by all means possible in the collective interest of our dear Nation, the statement added.