Some legal experts have said President Goodluck Jonathan cannot commence the implementation of the 2014 budget if the All Progressives Congress lawmakers insist on blocking it.Speaking with SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday, legal experts explained that only the National Assembly had the veto power, where bills and laws were concerned, even if the President refuses to assent to them.Legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, said, in accordance with the constitution, it would be futile for the President to challenge the directive of the APC.He said, “The President need not go to court, because it has been judicially decided that no court can interfere in the internal affairs of the House. In other words, the court cannot jettison the instructions of political parties.”Also, Mr. Babajide Idowu, a legal practitioner, told our correspondent that it would be technically impossible for the budget to be passed without the approval of either of the houses of legislature.“It is technically impossible for the budget to be passed without the input of the National Assembly. Going to court is not an option. The only way forward is a political solution. It is in the interest of the country to resolve it politically,” he said.Pertaining to the approval of ministers and service chiefs, however, Mr. Idowu explained that the Senate has the deciding vote.He said, “As regards the issue of ministerial appointments, it is the Senate that confirms. The ministerial appointees might appear before a joint sitting of the committees of both houses, but confirmation rests on the Senate. And as it is, the PDP still has a majority in the Senate.”Professor Oyelowo Oyewo of the Department of Public Law, University of Lagos, also said all approvals are vested in the Senate, rather than the House of Representatives.“However, the House is also involved in the procedure for the embankment of budgetary bills into acts that become the law,” he added.He described the development in the National Assembly as curious, especially since the PDP had enjoyed majority status.“This is the first time we’re having a problem of a House that is controlled by different parties, arising from the defection of some representatives to APC. Before now, the PDP did whatever they wanted because the minority parties didn’t have sufficient seats to be so much involved in political workings at national level,” he said.He stated that the powers wielded by the House of Representatives to pass budgets were as a result of counterbalancing of constitution.“Constitutional counterbalancing is necessary to ensure checks and balances.
The President is voted in as one constituency for Nigeria, and he’s given the position of the chief executive officer to lead executive bills. However, (constitutionally) we counterbalance this one constituency against the aggregation of constituencies,” he explained.According to Prof. Oyewo, separation of powers allows counterbalancing between the various arms of government. He added that the budget should not be an imposition by the executive, but should be scrutinised by the people’s representatives in the House.Another legal practitioner, Professor Itse Sagay, said the President had no powers to defy the directive.He said, “No law can be passed at the national level without the House of Representatives. You need the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the President, who will sign the law.“If the President fails to sign the bill into law, then the National Assembly can meet and override his veto by a two-thirds majority. At that point, it is a law, even without his signature. If all APC votes are against the budget being passed, it won’t even go to the President. That is the implication.“When the budget has not been passed, the government can continue to spend up to 50 per cent of the budget. When it has exhausted that, it is stuck.”The constitution is not merely a legal document, Prof. Oyewo explained further. According to him it is a legal, political, social and cultural document.“What is important is the democratic spirit in those that are called upon to exercise power. And that is what is lacking, both in the PDP and APC. It is now just a game of power and 2015 is the destination,” he said.