Nigerian News

Senate within their rights to pad budget – Budget minister

Minister of Budget and Economic Planning, Atiku Bagudu, has defended the National Assembly amid controversy over padding the 2023 budget.

He stated at a press briefing on Thursday, that the senate have the right to increase budget lines because they have the last say on the matter.

The senate has come under huge criticism after Senator Abdul Ningi alleged that the 2023 budget was padded with over N3 trillion.

Bagudu explained that “constituency projects” were inserted into the budget long before now and that no law prohibited lawmakers from doing so.

The minister said; “Do they (National Assembly) have the right to increase a budget line? I will say yes. The evolution of constituency projects and projects by National Assembly members, which did not begin now but since 1999, is a reflection of the challenge that elected persons are facing.

“There has been a long debate and a former president went up to the Supreme Court to define the appropriation power of the executive and the National Assembly. Later, there was an out-of-court settlement. Till now, this issue has not been resolved.

“So, what is the power of the National Assembly as regards the budget? There is no Supreme Court judgement and the choice of our democracy is that the National Assembly has the last word. Even when they pass an appropriation that assent is refused, after 30 days, it becomes law.”

He added; “The president, in signing the 2024 appropriation, acknowledged that in democracy, institutions have their power and the National Assembly has the last word. The president submitted a budget to the tune of N27.5 trillion and the National Assembly, in its wisdom, increased it to N28.7 trillion.

“When we presented the budget, it was at an exchange rate of N750 to a dollar but the assembly increased it to N800 to a dollar. That created more revenue. The assembly also appropriated that the government-owned enterprises contribute more revenue. Then there was the increase of the budget of the judiciary, legislature and executive”.