Human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, said, yesterday, that a Federal High Court never ruled that the National Assembly, NASS, had powers to increase estimates of the Appropriation Act.
His reaction came against the backdrop of claims by the House of Representatives that a Federal High Court had ruled that NASS had powers to increase or review upward budget estimates laid before it by the executive.
But Falana said in a statement that no court ruled that the legislature could upwardly review the budget. He said: “Sometime in 2014, I had cause to challenge the extent of the oversight powers of the National Assembly to rewrite the Appropriation Bill or increase the budget estimates presented to it by the President.
(See Suit No FHC/ABJ/ CS/295/2014: Femi Falana v the president and three Ors).
“In dismissing the case, the respected learned trial judge, the Honourable Justice G. O. Kolawole, questioned my locus standi to institute the action after he had described me as ‘a renowned human rights crusader’ and acknowledged my humble contributions to ‘the development of human rights jurisprudence in Nigeria’.
“In justifying the dismissal of the suit, his lordship said the reliefs sought in the case qualified me to be described as a ‘meddlesome interloper’.
“No doubt, the learned trial judge said the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp parliament.
The incontestable statement has since been twisted to give the very erroneous impression that the power of the National Assembly to increase the budget has been judicially recognised.
‘’With respect, the summary of the decision of the court by the National Assembly is grossly misleading.
“In the entire 22-page judgment, the learned trial judge never said the National Assembly has the power to increase any budget proposal submitted to it by the President.
“On the contrary, the Federal High Court made it categorically clear that the National Assembly lacks the legislative powers to prepare ‘budget estimates’ for the President or ‘disregard the budget proposals laid before it and substitute it with its own estimates’.”
“Even though I have taken the legal battle over the dismissal of the case to the Court of Appeal, I wish to state, without any fear of contradiction, that the learned trial judge concurred with my submission that the constitution has not vested the National Assembly with powers to increase the budget.”
It would be recalled that the National Assembly and Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, had been at daggers drawn over claims by the minister that the lawmakers had tampered with his ministry’s budget estimates.