Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, on Thursday, said he could not be investigated or interrogated over alleged padding of the 2016 budget.
Giving reasons he refused to be interrogated by the Police Special Investigating Panel over the issue, Dogara argued that no one or agency has the powers to pry into activities of the House, saying “most of the things we do in the National Assembly are privileged.”
The speaker, who spoke at an interactive session with Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Abuja, on the one-year review of the 8th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, said he enjoys statutory protection under the Legislative Houses Powers & Privileges Act.
The event was organized by the Policy &Legal Advocacy Centre, PLAC, in collaboration with the House of Representatives.
According to him, legislative business of the House “cannot be grounds for any investigation or any procedure or proceeding to be commenced in court against a member of parliament, either the Speaker or even the Senate President, once they are done in exercise of their proper function.
“The law is there. Both communications, whatever it is, they are privileged. That is in order to give independence to the legislature. If the legislature is not independent, we can’t do anything.
If whatever you say on the floor or before a committee or whatever you communicate is subject of litigation, then all the members will be in court and at the end of the day when debate comes, you cannot even air your views.”
I did no wrong
However, Dogara took time to narrate his side of the story, stressing that the House of Representatives under him, had the powers to tinker with the budget proposal sent to it by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Contending that what President Buhari prepared and sent to the House was a mere proposal that was eventually turned into an appropriation bill and later made law in the form of a budget, Dogara, said the constitution imbued the National Assembly with the requisite powers to prescribe how funds withdrawn from the consolidated revenue fund should be spent.
“So the budget being a law, therefore, means that it is only, I repeat, only the parliament that can make it because it is law and I challenge all of us, members of the civil society to look at the law and tell me where it is written that the President can make the budget.
“What I am saying is further reinforced by Section 80 of the constitution where it clearly provides that no amount of money should be withdrawn from the consolidated revenue or any other account of the federation except in the manner prescribed by the National Assembly.
“How does the National Assembly prescribe it in this manner? It is in the appropriation bill which is later made a budget.
I want this thing to sink so that we understand it from here and that perhaps may change the ongoing discourse.
“If you contend that we cannot tinker with the appropriation bill, therefore, it goes without saying that we cannot tinker with any Executive bill.
If they bring a bill on EFCC, for instance, or any other executive bill and, maybe, because the Executive will not consult civil society to come for public hearing, they don’t do that.
It is the legislature that does that by the instrumentality of public hearing and when we aggregate your views, it is only our duty as representatives of the people to make sure that your voices are reflected in the laws.
“So, by the time we have heard from the people and we now say we are introducing a clause into an Executive bill and it goes to the President and he signs, they will say some people have padded the bill. It doesn’t even make sense,” Dogara stated.