A former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), has declared the 2018 Appropriation Bill unconstitutional and called on the National Assembly not to consider it.
In separate letters to the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, the senior lawyer said President Muhammadu Buhari did not comply with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution in compiling and presenting the budget.
According to him, the president can only present the budget of the executive and not that of both the judiciary and the legislature.
He said: “Sections 81 to 84 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) setout the procedure for preparing the Appropriation Bill.
“The constitution requests each arm of government (the executive, legislature and the judiciary) to lay before the National Assembly its estimates of revenue and expenditure for each financial year after which it is appropriated, harmonised as a bill and presented to the president for his assent.
“Unfortunately, the executive has failed to comply with this procedure by laying before the National Assembly estimates of revenues and expenditure for the Judiciary.”
He drew the attention of the lawmakers to a decision of the Federal High Court in a suit he instituted against the federal government.
The case in reference is Olisa Agbakoba Vs Attorney General of the Federation and Others with SUIT No. FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013.
In the case, the court held that it is unconstitutional for the executive to prepare the budget of the judiciary.
Agbakoba consequently asked the National Assembly to draw the attention of the executive to the decision of the Federal High Court.
He said: “The National Assembly should request the National Judicial Council (NJC) to lay before it the judiciary’s estimates of revenue and expenditure for 2018 and the executive be made to represent its estimates for 2018.
“In summary, the constitutional procedure for preparing the appropriation bill is that each arm of government (the executive, legislature and the judiciary) lays before the National Assembly its estimates of revenue and expenditure for each financial year after which it is appropriated, harmonised as a bill and presented to the president for his assent.
“We are unaware if the National Assembly has laid it budget estimates. But please note that if after sevem days the constitutional procedure is not complied with, we shall have no choice but to initiate legal proceedings to enforce the decision of the Federal High Court and set aside the 2018 Appropriation Bill.”
Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja had in May 26, 2014 declared as unconstitutional the executive interference with judicial funding.
The court held that the continued dependence of the judiciary on the executive arm for its budgeting and funds release violates Section 81 (2) and Section 84(1), (2), (3), (4) and (7) of the 1999 Constitution.