Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) caucus in the House of Representatives, has said that irrespective of the nomenclature given to the act of budget-padding, the National Assembly will continue to pad the budget for certain reasons.
Gbajabiamila, who initially claimed not to understand what budget-padding means, explained that lawmakers, even in the most advanced democracies of the world, pad the budget to be able to generate extra money for providing democracy dividends to their respective constituencies especially when their constituencies are not captured in the national budget.
The lawmaker disclosed this during an interview on Channels TV that was anchored by Seun Okinbaloye
He said that it was legislative malpractice for a lawmaker to sit back and do nothing when a national budget that does not make provisions for his constituency is been appropriated.
The Majority Leader said that in some advanced countries, budget- padding is not only practiced but called ‘earmarking’ or ‘pump-up legislation.’
He said that since the National Assembly holds the power to the national treasury, it will continue to scrutinize the level of budget-padding from the executive, stressing that it’s not a rubber stamp.
Gbajabiamila said that since suspended Rep. Abdulmumuni Jibrin decided to take the issue of legislative budget padding to the law enforcement agencies, it was proper for the House to sit back and let them do whatever they want to do, adding that there was no regret over suspension of Jibrin, if indeed he was a true whistle-blower like he claimed to be.
He said: “Abdulmumuni Jibrin did what he needed to do. He took the matter to the law enforcement agencies – the EFCC, the police and the rest of them. He has done his. The National Assembly does not agree with it. He put the ball in the court of the law enforcement agents. It is up to them to do whatever they want to do. I’m not aware of any padding. I don’t understand what that means.
“When it comes to money and I represent a particular constituency but I look at the budget and I don’t see my constituency represented in that budget and I know that throughout the year people of my constituency have needs – they want this; they want that. It is only me they can talk to. They are not going to talk to the President.
“I actually consider it as malpractice not padding, if during the budget circle I have opportunity to attract something to my constituency and I sit back and do nothing and go back in four years to seek for their mandate again when I promised them all these years that I will do this and do that. What do I go back and tell them? ‘Oh, I am not allowed to pad the budget.’
“If for instance, I represent a constituency and a budget is sent to National Assembly. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the National Assembly. By my representation, I should attract federal presence to my constituency.
“Even in the most advanced of democracies, you have heard of earmarks, you have heard of pumped-up legislation. It is the same thing. It is done everywhere in the world otherwise you are not worth the sit you seat on.
“Let me explain something to you about padding. That’s what Nigerians need to understand. It doesn’t mean that if you hear anything thing negative about the National Assembly and you are not objective. You will not understand what is going on.
“In terms of padding from the executive, there are checks and balances. That’s why we have always argued that the National Assembly is not a rubber stamp. It is trite that the legislature holds the power of the purse. We will go through this budget and look at it item for item; item by item. Whatever padding means, I don’t know.”