Budget Padding Is Alien To Legislative Practice – Ex-lawmakers
A group of former lawmakers, Faculty Board of Initiatives, has said that the term budget padding is alien to legislative practice and should be discarded in the Nigerian context.
Eseme Eyibo, a former member of the House and one of the conveners of the Initiative said during a press conference yesterday in Abuja that using budget padding as a term where lawmakers use their constitutional powers to appropriate funds in a budget proposal was a misapplication of the term.
Eyibo said they were not concerned about any allegations made on the budget issue but the integrity of the National Assembly as an institution.
“We’re very concerned about the jurisprudence of our constitutional democracy. Any issue that has to do with institutional integrity of the legislature is something we pick interest on.
“I have read one language, which is very strange in the legislature, which is padding. I know the word padding has to do with tailoring. The personalities involved are all brothers and colleagues, so they can sort themselves out at any time. Our own is the integrity of the institution.
“We feel we should appeal to Nigerians through you. What the legislature is suffering today at all levels is because of poor perception. We feel that Nigerians should give a chance to the legislature.”
He said the National Assembly has the constitutional powers to tinker with the budget proposal sent to it by the Executive arm, which should not be misunderstood as padding.
“Section 81 doesn’t intend that a proposal would be sent to the legislature and then the legislature stamps it and then it becomes law. In the course of budget preparation, there maybe adjustment, which could be by way of deletion or addition.
“That doesn’t mean there is no issue of indiscretion. The adjustment of the budget shouldn’t be misconstrued as padding. We agree that there are bounds to be indiscretion,” he said.
On the issue of constituency projects, Eyibo said it was a good initiative for equitable distribution of projects, but that there may be indiscretions and abuses here and there.
For such abuses to be curtailed, he said, the Public Procurement law must be complied with in order not to allow some people access to the funds for the projects.
“The word padding is the misapplication of the word in the sense of budget process in Nigeria. Constituency projects and zonal intervention programmes are meant to provide equity in the distribution of projects in the country.”
For his part, a member of the initiative and also a former lawmaker, Chris Eta, said they would advocate that both budget summary and details should be made available at the early stage for every lawmaker and other Nigerians to see.
He said if that was done, it would go a long way to reduce the kind of controversy witnessed in the 2016 budget.