The story of the relationship between the present Imo State House of Assembly
And the State Governor can be likened to that of two clever persons each scheming to outsmart the other.
The Governor however, seems smarter as developments have shown that he is effectively capitalizing on the greed of the House members. In recent months, fed up by the promises of El Dorado, and feeling of being cheated out in the scheme of things, the House members became restive and started complaining loudly. They claim that the promises made to them before passing several supplementary and main appropriation bills have not been kept by the Governor. Even the approvals they made for the state government to borrow billions of naira have not yielded them any results. They therefore resolved for a showdown.
They did not however contend with the superior strategy of the Governor. Swiftly, the Governor passed words to them through the speaker, apologizing that he would make it up to them as soon as they approve his request to borrow the sum of 224 Billion Naira from banks.
Soon, greed took over the better part of the law makers, and in less than thirty minutes the House overwhelmingly (except the Majority Leader who opposed it) approved a law authorizing the Governor to borrow 224 Billion Naira from banks without specifying which projects to be funded by the loan, which bank, at what interest rate and duration of the loan. Since the passage of the executive bill into law, members have been sulking. They have been complaining loudly that only a said sum of money was given to them for such a hatchet job.
It has also become clear to the Assembly that it has legislated itself out of existence since it has done the job provided to be done in four years by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in one day. It is in consideration of the above scenario that we hereby move and be it moved that the Imo House Assembly should be dissolved immediately.
To better appreciate why the Imo State House Assembly should be dissolved, let us put the issue in proper perspective.
Firstly, the major function of the Assembly as it relates to the power to appropriate funds is clearly stated in sections 120 and 121 of the Nigerian Constitution. For the avoidance of doubt, the 1999 Constitution clearly states in section 121 (1) and (2) that:
(1) “The Governor shall cause to be prepared and laid before the House of Assembly at any time before the commencement of each financial year estimate of the revenues and expenditures of the state of the next following financial year”
(2) “The heads of the expenditure contained in the estimates, other than the expenditure charged upon the consolidated Revenue Fund of the state by the constitution, shall be included in a bill to be known as appropriate bill
Providing for the issue from Consolidated Revenue Fund of the state of the sum necessary to meet that expenditure and the appropriation of this sum for the purpose specified therein”
Sub section 4 (a) and (b) provides for a supplementary appropriation bill to be passed into law to cater for insufficient fund for specific projects. I have quoted in detail the provision of the constitution in this regard because it does appear that members of the Imo House do not have the constitution or cannot interpret it since one hears that they have not attended even one workshop since they were sworn in.
Let us note here specifically the provisions of sections 121 (1) and (2) which have clearly stated that appropriation acts shall be for “each financial year” section 121 (2) further states that the sum and purpose shall be specified therein.
By approving the sum of 224 billion naira for the Governor to cover a period of four years, has the whole house not breached section 121 (1)? For not specifying which projects those loans will be used to fund has it not also breached the provision of section 121 (2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
To better appreciate the fact that the Imo State House Assembly has sold Imo State on whole-sale basis to the Governor of the state, we may want to know how much is accruable to the state for four years.
According to the 2012 budget presented to the Assembly by Governor Okorocha, the monthly projected federal allocation to the state is 4.1 billion naira and the total annual allocation is SO billion naira.
It therefore follows that in four years according to the state Government the total receipt of the state will be 200 billion naira.
From the foregoing, it is crystal clear that the assembly has appropriated more than the revenue accruable to the state in four years in one sitting. The implication is that there will be no need for any appropriation bills for 2013, 2014 and 2015 having done so in one particular sitting. If this is the case, then what need is there for the Assembly to continue to seat until 2015.
Indeed Guinness Book of Records should quickly acknowledge the record as set by the Assembly as the first parliament to conclude a four year legislative work in thirty minutes. Imo has set another record in the rescue mission.
The United State Supreme Court in its landmark case has established that in a federal system of Government, the Bona Fide Needs rule is one of the fundamental principles of appropriation. It states that “a fiscal year appropriation may be obligated to meet a legitimate, or bona fide need arising in or in some cases prior to, but continuing to exist in the fiscal year for which the appropriation was made”. An annual appropriation also called fiscal year or 1 – year appropriation is made for a specific fiscal year and available for obligation only during the fiscal year for which it is made
Although the Assembly has become notorious for the wrong reasons, this is one infraction too many.
It is very clear that the Assembly is already suffering from fatigue. The House hardly sits. When it does, it’s for a few minutes, and then it adjourns for months. On several occasions, pupils and students who have come to the Assembly to observe parliamentary debates leave the Assembly without the opportunity to observe the proceedings because the House is permanently on recess.
In this House, robust debates are anathema. It is considered as anti – Rescue Mission. The Hansard of the Assembly, (public document) is hardly seen because it
is now considered a secret document.
In the circumstance therefore, the right thing to do is to calculate the salaries and benefits of the members, pay such to them and dissolve the house since they
Have done their job.
God save Imo State from the Rescuers who have come to rescue themselves.