In the context of the recent federal government of Nigeria’s palliative measures and disbursed funds, sections 120, 124, 123, and 125 of the 1999 Constitution is very clear. It provide explicit guidelines on how public funds should be spent. These sections stipulate that any public fund of the Federation or a State cannot be expended without an appropriate law authorizing such expenditure.
This constitutional design emphasizes the importance of legislative oversight and transparency in financial matters, it also underscores the significance of respecting the constitution and its provisions as a means to maintain the equilibrium between different branches of government and safeguard the rights of citizens. The recent announcement by the federal government regarding the distribution of funds to each state for palliative relief underscores the importance of adhering to constitutional provisions, particularly those governing the appropriation of public funds.
The Rule of Law, a fundamental pillar of democratic governance, mandates that all individuals and institutions, including the government, are subject to and accountable under the law. This principle ensures that governmental actions are carried out within the bounds of legal authority and that no one arm if government is above the law. The constitution principles of Rule of Law and separation of powers are aimed to prevent arbitrary actions that could erode trust in the government and threaten due process.
The principles of accountability, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law are essential to ensure that public funds are used judiciously and equitably. The Nigerian Constitution of 1999, as amended, provides clear guidelines on the management and utilization of public funds, especially in Sections 80, 81, 82, 83, 120, 123, 124, and 125.
This article aims to comprehensively explore the constitutional provisions that grant power to the National Assembly over public funds, highlighting the importance of respecting the rule of law, and the necessity of enacting specific laws for the distribution of palliative relief funds.
The Constitutional Mandate of Oyo State House of Assembly
Section 120 of the Nigerian Constitution unequivocally establish the authority of State Assemblies over public funds. Section 80 and 120 specifies that all revenues or moneys raised or received by the Federation and all States in Nigeria can only be spent after a law has been fully enacted. These provisions underscores the principle that the National Assembly and State House of Assemblies are the sole entity with the power to legislate on the allocation, appropriation, and utilization of public funds. Section 80 shows that the Federal Government can not disburse the 5 Billion Naira to States, without an appropriating Law.
The National Assembly ought to make a rigorous Palliative Relief Fund Act, which will establish palliative relief fund, Eligibility Criteria for Palliative Relief, procedure for Allocation and Distribution, Health Care Response and Assistance, Transport Assistance Palliative, Protection of Beneficiary Data, Reporting and Accountability, Transparency and Anti-Corruption Measures, Collaboration with NGOs and Civil Society, Collaboration with Private Sector, Empowerment and Skill Development, Review of Existing Laws, Gender and Social Inclusion, Regional Collaboration and Coordination, Support for Agriculture and Food Security, Protection of Informal Sector Workers, Protection of Vulnerable Groups, Research and Impact Studies, Promotion of Small and Medium Enterprises, Support for Artisans and Craftsmen, whistle blower clause, etc. Same thing applies for the State House of Assemblies under section 120 of the 1999 Constitution.
Furthermore, the concept of rule of law ensures that all actions of the government are in accordance with established laws and principles. In the context of public funds, it requires adherence to constitutional provisions and legal frameworks. Disbursing public funds without the necessary enabling laws violates the very essence of the rule of law, leading to arbitrary decision-making and potential misuse of resources.
The Necessity of Enacting Specific Laws for Palliative Relief Funds:
Section 80 and 120 of the Constitution emphasizes and highlights the need for an appropriate legal framework to guide the expenditure of public funds. Therefore, the distribution of palliative relief funds to states necessitates the enactment of laws that clearly outline the criteria, modalities, and oversight mechanisms for allocation and spending. While the establishment of Palliative Relief Fund Law at both the federal and state levels is a significant step towards accountable governance, there are challenges that need to be addressed. One potential concern is the misuse of funds, which can occur if appropriate checks and balances are not put in place. To mitigate this risk, the Acts should include provisions for regular audits, transparent reporting mechanisms, and severe penalties for those found guilty of misappropriation.
This writer has written and attached a proposed palliative relief fund law to the National Assembly through the Senate President and Speaker, and also written to more than 17 State House of Assemblies such as Oyo, Sokoto, Benue, Plateau, Niger, Nasarawa, Lagos, Taraba, Edo, Kwara, Osun, Ogun, Anambra, Ebonyi,. Enugu, Abia, Imo, FCT and others; on the need to follow the dictates of the Constitution and enact a palliative relief fund law.
Importance of Comprehensive Oyo State Palliative Relief Fund Law.
The proposed Palliative Relief Fund Bill, as mentioned above, offers a comprehensive framework that goes beyond immediate relief. By considering aspects such as SME assistance, support for artisans, healthcare, social and transportation responses, and identification of vulnerable individuals and communities, the bill takes a holistic approach to addressing the multifaceted impacts of a crisis. This approach not only provides short-term relief but also lays the groundwork for long-term resilience-building.
Ensuring Transparency and Accountability in Relief Fund Disbursement:
To achieve transparency and accountability in the distribution of palliative relief funds, each state and the National Assembly should enact a comprehensive Palliative Relief Fund law. Such law should establish guidelines for beneficiary selection, equitable distribution, audit processes, data management, and support for vulnerable groups. By ensuring legislative oversight, the Act would not only provide a framework for immediate relief but also set the stage for effective emergency risk reduction, preparedness, and resilience.
Safeguarding the Vulnerable and Ensuring Social Justice:
The enactment of Palliative Relief Fund Acts reinforces the commitment to social justice. By clearly outlining criteria for beneficiary selection, ensuring equitable distribution, and providing support for vulnerable individuals and communities, these Acts uphold the principles of fairness and inclusivity. This approach ensures that relief efforts prioritize those who are most in need, mitigating the potential for favoritism or discrimination.
Preventing Duplication and Inefficiency:
A structured legal framework prevents duplication of efforts and inefficient use of resources. Without proper laws in place, there is a risk of duplication of responsibilities (or even beneficiaries) various levels of government to manage relief funds, leading to confusion, redundancy, and wastage of resources. Enacting Palliative Relief Fund Acts streamlines the process, promoting coordination and effectiveness.
Preserving Public Trust and Confidence:
In times of crisis, maintaining public trust in government actions is paramount. A transparent and legally sound distribution of relief funds assures citizens that their interests are being safeguarded. Confidence in the government’s handling of public funds is a crucial component of maintaining social order and unity during challenging times.
Promoting Good Governance and Accountability Culture:
Enacting Palliative Relief Fund Acts sets a precedent for good governance and accountability. By demonstrating a commitment to legislative oversight, proper reporting mechanisms, and adherence to legal procedures, the government fosters a culture of accountability that extends beyond relief efforts and permeates all aspects of governance.
Blueprint for Future Crisis Management:
The establishment of Palliative Relief Fund Acts creates a blueprint for future crisis management. By codifying best practices, lessons learned, and effective strategies, these Acts lay the foundation for a more agile, efficient, and responsive approach to handling emergencies. This proactive stance reduces the impact of crises and paves the way for a more secure and stable future.
The Role of Oyo State House of Assembly:
The Oyo State House of Assembly has a crucial role in ensuring consistent and coordinated relief efforts nationally and in each state. Enacting a Palliative Relief Fund law at the state level will harmonize relief measures and ensure effective disbursement of palliative measures, under the law.
In conclusion, the principles of accountability, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law are paramount in the distribution of public funds. The Nigerian Constitution, particularly Sections 120 and 121 grants power to the State House of Assembly over public funds.
It is imperative that states enact specific laws for the distribution of palliative relief funds to ensure transparency, equity, and effective oversight. By respecting the rule of law and enacting comprehensive legislation, Nigeria can strengthen its governance framework and provide timely and targeted relief to those in need.
Opatola Victor is a Legal practitioner and policy advocate. He can be reached via email@example.com