House of Representatives Speaker Yakubu Dogara insisted yesterday that budget padding is not an offence, saying no lawmaker can be investigated or tried for it.
“No member of the National Assembly can be investigated or charged to court for performing his constitutional responsibility of lawmaking including passing the budget”, he said at the Civil Society Dialogue session on one year of the legislative agenda organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in Abuja.
Dogara, who drew the flaks over his statement last Friday that “padding is not an offence”, said lawmakers have the constitutional right to tinker with the budget proposal presented by the executive.
“Tinkering with it should not amount to or be regarded as padding”, Dogara added, noting that it is wrong to accuse lawmakers of using constituency projects to “pad” the budget proposal.
The Speaker was reacting to the allegation of budget padding levelled against him and 12 others by ousted Appropriations Committee chairman Abdulmumin Jibrin.
The others are Deputy Speaker Yusuff Lasun, Chief Whip Alhassan Ado Doguwa, Minority Leader Leo Ogor and nine committee chairmen. They were said to have padded the budget with 2000 projects worth N284billion.
A Special Investigation Panel (SIP) raised by acting Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Idris and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are looking into the matter.
Dogara said the 2016 Budget was “controversial from the beginning”, adding: “it took dialogue, compromise and consensus to produce a workable document.”
The Speaker argued that by virture of the provisions of the Legislative Houses Powers and Privileges Act, no member of the parliament can be charged to court or investigated for exercising his powers of law making.
The budget, he said, was the appropriation bill, which like any other bill must be subjected to normal legislative processes and scrutiny.