Coming days after an explosive piece by Premium Times detailing N6.6 billion worth of purchases of expensive and “exotic” cars by the National Assembly, some by the use of unauthorized contractors, the National Assembly is once again at the centre of controversy, but this time not at the receiving end of it.
Lagos human rights activist and lawyer Femi Falana is asking the legislative body to query the executive for its own budgetary indiscretion: to wit, $469 million in unauthorized withdrawals from Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) to purchase new aircrafts from the United States.
The Presidency used what is known as “anticipatory approvals” to skirt around having to first seek approval from the National Assembly. The practice has been a staple of successive administrations since 1999.
Falana argues that the legislature “should investigate the withdrawal with a view to stopping the executive,” citing that previous governments had similarly abused the process, spending a combined N1.5 trillion.
President Buhari, according to a memo to the National Assembly, dated April 13, had given anticipatory approval for the withdrawal of $496,374,470 (N151,394,421,355) from the ECA, billing it in the 2018 Appropriation Bill the legislature is in the process of finalising.
Between the National Assembly’s own identified indiscretions and the Presidency’s own use of executive privilege in the form of anticipatory budget approvals, all eyes are on both executive and legislative arms, with Nigerians inquiring how public funds are spent, and many calling the revelations more evidence of the sort of waste and abuse that have long characterized government in the country.