The Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara has stated in clear terms that he cannot be interrogated or investigated by any law enforcement agency over the allegation of his involvement in the padding of the 2016 budget.
He said he was acting under extant laws that gave him and other house members the privilege to carry out his legislative duties without fear of arrest or intimidation.
The Speaker who was speaking to civil societies and journalists in Abuja in an interactive session to commemorate the one year assessment of the house of representatives legislative agenda said he has refused to be interrogated by the police special investigation panel over the allegation because no agency of government has the power or right to pry into the activities of the House. “Most of the things we do in the National Assembly are privileged”, he said.
The Speaker added that he and other members of the House enjoy what he termed as statutory protection from such interference and external investigation under the Legislative Houses Power and Privileges Act.
The event which was at the behest of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in collaboration with the House of Representative had other legislators and Lawyers in attendance.
The Speaker added that parliamentary business “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 the Senate President”.
He added that it is only the Parliament that has the constitutional right to tinker with the budget as there is no law stating that the President can make a budget. Mr. Dogara said as long as the budget is a law, only the parliament can make a law and challenged everyone present to show him the part of the nation’s constitution that empowers the President to make a budget.
Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara quoted different sections of the constitution to back up his arguments like section 80 that empowers the National Assembly to authorize any withdrawal from the federation account and as such the executive have no right to spend a kobo from the treasury without recourse to the parliament.
”If we cannot tinker with the appropriation bill, it goes without saying we cannot tinker with any executive bill”, he added. This scenario he said is impossible and not in the nation’s constitution.
He described the 2016 budget as a controversial document that would not have seen the light of the day if not for the maturity, and the democratic mechanism of dialogue, negotiation and consensus employed by the House and Senate.
He cited the Lagos-Calabar Rail project and the paltry budget of N250 a day for prisoners as sections of the budget that were tinkered and inserted into the budget. He said the rail project was never in the budget but provisions were made for it by parliament after the President demanded for such. If that is padding, who is responsible? He asked.
He warned that no parliamentarian has ever been cautioned or interrogated anywhere on earth for performing his constitutional duty of making a law. He concluded by recommending legal action if anyone is unsatisfied.
“The worst thing that can happen is that if anyone disagrees with the law, he takes it before the courts. That is the beauty of separation of powers”.