Thursday, June 27, 2013

2013 Budget: Reps Reject Jonathan’s Amendment Bill

The House of Representatives yesterday decided to reject President Goodluck Jonathan’s amendment budget for not only being unconstitutional but for also not providing any information on what it seeks to amend.

This is just as the House also observed that the Amendment Bill sought an additional N161, 771,089.
The lawmakers took the decision after adopting the report on a point of order raised by Hon. Yakubu Dogara before the House went on recess. He argued that it was unconstitutional to amend an Appropriation Act. The committees on Rules and Business, and Justice were mandated to take a close look at the observation and report back to the House.
In the report, which was co-signed by Hon Sam-Tsokwa and Hon Ali Ahmed, the lawmakers advised the executive to make any changes to the 2013 budget it seeks via a supplementary budget.
Tsokwa said: “May we say here that the journey and story of the amendmentaptly and effectively began and terminated in that communication. The document, the Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill, which Mr. President’s communication forwarded to the House, apart from carrying the title ‘Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill’ and the bill’s long title, has nothing again in it to show that it is a document seeking to amend or repeal and re-enact the 2013 Appropriation Act.
“ The purported Amendment Bill, a five-clause bill, is completely and totally silent on what and which sections of the 2013 Appropriation Act it seeks to amend and or repeal. So also is it silent on the schedules or what aspects of theschedules to the 2013 Act it seeks to amend and or repeal.”
He also noted, “Section 81 subsections (1), (2) and (4) of the constitution creates a very strong impression that the constitution does not favour, admit of or even contemplate the amendment of an Appropriation Act, save vide aSupplementary Appropriation Act.
“It would appear, therefore, that while the constitution contemplates and envisages a situation where there may arise a need to supplement the funds appropriated in an Appropriation Act, it does not do so with respect and regard to reducing or diminishing the funds appropriated in an Appropriation Act by way of an amendment. On a strict and austere reading of Section 81 (1), (2) and (4) of the constitution, therefore, it will be difficult to conclude that the constitution admits of an amendment to an Appropriation Act save by way of a supplementary appropriation. However, it may legitimately be observed and even argued that an Appropriation Act, notwithstanding its special constitutional flavour and colouration bestowed on it by Section 81 (1), (2) and (4) of the constitution, is and remains, like any act of parliament, an Act of Parliament.”
Raising the issue of additional fund requested in the budget, the lawmaker said, “While the 2013 Appropriation Act appropriates the total sum of N4,987,220,425,601.00, for the financial year 2013, the purported 2013 Appropriation Act (Amendment) Bill 2013 seeks to appropriate a total sum of N4,987,382,196,690.00. Clearly, what the Amendment Bill 2013 seeks to appropriate is more than what was appropriated for the 2013 fiscal year in the 2013 Appropriation Act, that is to say, the executive would appear to be seeking additional funds. Obviously, this cannot be achieved through an amendment bill. The answer lies in a supplementary appropriation under Section 81(4) of the constitution.”
Asking that Yakubu Dogara’s point of order be sustained, he advised President Jonathan to resubmit a proper bill as the hands of the parliament are tied by the constitution.
“At best, the Appropriation Act 2013 Amendment Bill of Mr. President, for want of a better description and or expression, is, declared Hon. Dogara, a ‘2013 Appropriation Bill No. 2’ – an alien, a stranger or, indeed, an interloper in our constitutional arrangement. Mr. President’s intents and purposes are well communicated and conveyed in his letter of 14/3/2013, but the companion of the said letter, voluminous as it is, in three fat volumes, seeking to amend the 2013 Appropriation Act failed in that mission and therefore amends or attempts to amend nothing.

Zamfara Massacre: Reps to summons national security adviser
Sequel to the gruesome killing of about 60 innocent civilians in Chafe LGA of Zamfara State, the House of Representatives yesterday mandated its committee on national security to summon the national security adviser and other relevant agencies to review the security strategy with a view to bringing an end to the disturbing trend.
On June 18, scores of unknown gunmen unleashed mayhem on the residents of Kizara village in Chafe LGA of Zamfara State. Among those killed were the district head, the chief imam, and the leader of the vigilante group in the locality.
The resolution arose from a motion moved by Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau (ANPP, Zamfara), who lamented that the insecurity situation in Zamfara State and its neighbouring states is rapidly and consistently falling apart. According to him, about 81 people were killed  between August 2011and October 2012.
Gasau said, “In August 2011, 19 people were killed in Lingyado town; in February 2012, 15 people were killed in Birnin-Magaji town; in October 2012, 27 people were killed in Dangulbi  town; and in November 2012, 20 people were killed in Kabaro town — all in Zamfara State.
“The above gruesome statistics were from Zamfara State alone.  Similar incidents have been recurring in Kaduna and Katsina States with the latest in Kaduna State this month at Kwasa Kwasa village where several people including military personnel were killed.”
Consequently, Gusau warned that this could result in a humanitarian crisis as most residents are fleeing from the areas for fear of their lives. “Many villages in the affected areas live in persistent fear of being attacked and many have fled their homes as a result of insecurity. The gunmen are gradually becoming more coordinated and if not quickly terminated can turn into yet another organised terror group which can pose an additional dimension to the security challenge in the country,” he added.
Gusau further urged that the House should observe a minute silence in honour of the deceased victims and that a committee should be sent to sympathise with the victims’ families and see first-hand the carnage and damage done, and direct the NEMA to immediately deliver relief materials to the victims.
All the prayers were granted.

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