As Groups flays NASS, others for non-compliance to disclosure
Nigeria’s apex court, the Supreme Court, has finally unveiled the details of its budgetary expenditures for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years.
The development was in response to the application of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by a civil society group, Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE), which demanded for full disclosure of its financial details.
The Supreme Court’s response marks a significant development in efforts to enthrone fiscal discipline, responsibility and transparency as well as a step forward towards achieving a proactive information disclosure culture in the country.
The apex court, in response to the group’s prompting, acknowledged that it spent a capital vote of N2.265 billion out of an appropriated sum of N2.3 billion as at December 2016.
It also admitted that N2.86 billion was spent last year as overhead out of an appropriated sum of N2.88 billion, representing 99.42 per cent.
However, it is uncertain, what became of the balance N35million and N20 million respectively, left from the capital vote and overhead cost.
Nonetheless, BudgIT, a fiscal governance activist group, is irked that with about N1.523 trillion statutory allocations to public institutions between 2013 and 2016, there is little or no information about how the funds were utilised through the years.
In a note to The Guardian, the group said, “N535 billion was allocated for the National Assembly within this period and legislators have failed to open up their books to the public. Other agencies such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and National Judicial Council (NJC), collecting the statutory allocations are identified with similar cases of opacity, except the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), which recently published its budget online.”
The groups lamented that while the Supreme Court eventually responded to the call for transparency on actual spending, the National Assembly has denied access to such information despite multiple assurances from its leadership.
“The National Assembly’s refusal to be transparent is particularly disturbing because members are elected by citizens and are to represent their interests.
“Furthermore, the National Assembly, as the legislative arm of government, is supposed to provide oversight function over the executive and this will be very difficult to do when it continues to refuse to be accountable.
“We expect the National Judiciary Council, Public Complaints Commission, and other agencies under the statutory allocation agencies to cultivate a transmittable, and functioning system of openness, accountability and public inclusion in their activities,” BudgIT and EiE Nigeria, said in a statement to The Guardian.
The Co-Founder of BudgIT, Olusegun Onigbinde, said the call for transparency in the National Assembly fiscal affairs has been ongoing since 2013.
He decried the development, where those at the helm of law and order and the supposed symbol of governance, have wilfully withheld details of its yearly budget, even till 2016.
according to him, “Advocacy to ensure the public knowledge of how the National Assembly spends taxpayers’ funds will not cease. We believe that a functional society is one, which takes into highest regard citizen engagement and participation in all areas.
“We also believe that information dissemination is paramount and crucial to sustainable development and democracy. We implore the citizens to also continually demand accountability from those in charge of their funds and keep them on their toes to ensure that governance works for all Nigerians, not a few,” he added.