Jan 15,2024.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
A group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the National Assembly to reduce its budget of N344.85 billion, to reflect the current economic realities in the country and cut the cost of governance.
SERAP, which made the demand in an open letter addressed to both the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, insisted that if the budget is not cut it would have significant fiscal consequences and exacerbate the country’s debt crisis.
The civil society organisation also demanded the lawmakers to send a request to President Bola Tinubu to present a fresh supplementary appropriation bill which would reflect the reduced budget for the approval of the National Assembly.
It also asked the leadership of the Assembly to promptly publish details of the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion, including the proposed spending details of the N3 billion for the Senate Car Park and N3 billion budgeted for the House of Representatives Car Park.
In the letter dated 13 January 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said passing appropriation bills that are inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is a fundamental breach of the constitutional oath of office by the lawmakers.
SERAP stated that the unilateral and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their allocation also offends the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances and the notion of the rule of law.
It however stated that if it does not receive a response in seven days shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel them and the National Assembly to comply with their request in the public interest.
The letter reads in part, “the increase in the National Assembly budget raised serious questions in the minds of the Nigerian people about how the lawmakers are spending their commonwealth.
“The National Assembly ought to be more responsible to the public interest and more responsive.
The National Assembly has a constitutional responsibility to combat waste and abuse in its spending to effectively exercise its oversight functions and hold the government to account.
“Transparency and accountability in public administration is an essential element of democracy. Transparency in the spending of the National Assembly budget would give the public a tool to hold the lawmakers accountable. It would also protect Nigerians from any potential abuses of governmental or legislative power.
“Nigerians have a right to scrutinise how their lawmakers spend their tax money and commonwealth, especially given the precarious economic realities in the country and the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on vulnerable Nigerians.
“Cutting the N344.48 billion National Assembly budget would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution,“ SERAP stated.
The civil society organisation maintained that cutting the budget would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money. It would serve the public interest and restore confidence in the National Assembly.
SERAP also urged the National Assembly to clarify the details of the N8.5 billion budgeted for ‘National Assembly liabilities’ and to disclose the nature of any such liabilities and how and why they have been incurred.
It also urged the lawmakers to clarify why N225 million is budgeted for the National Assembly E-Library and N3 billion is budgeted to buy books for the National Assembly Library while the ‘take-off grant’ for the National Assembly Library is N12.1 billion.
The budget of N344.48 billion by members of the National Assembly is a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.
“According to our information, the National Assembly increased its allocation in the 2024 budget to N344.48 billion. The new budgetary allocation to the National Assembly is over 70 per cent of the N197bn proposed by President Bola Tinubu for the lawmakers in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly.
“The N344.48bn National Assembly budget, which is an increase of about N147 billion, is reportedly the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly.
“The breakdown of the N344.48 billion National Assembly budget is as follows: National Assembly Office – Senate – N49.1 billion; House of Representatives – N78.6 billion; National Assembly Service Commission – N12.3 billion; Legislative Aides – N20.3 billion; NILDS – N9.09 billion; Service-wide votes – N15.1 billion; Senate Appropriation Committee – N200 million.
“Other budget items include: House Appropriation Committee – N200 million; Public Account committees of Senate and House – N280.7 million, National Assembly Library Take Off Grant – N12.1 billion; National Assembly building (ongoing) – N4.2 billion; and National Assembly Liabilities – N8.5 billion.
“Other items include National Assembly E-Library – N225 million; Constitution Review – N1 billion; and Completion of NILDS HQ – N4.5 billion; Construction of NASC Building – N10 billion; Office of Clerks and Permanent Secretaries – N1.2 billion; and Alternative Power System – N4 billion.
“Other items in the National Assembly budget include National Assembly Zonal Offices – N3bn; Senate Car Park – N3 billion; House of Representatives Car Park -N3 billion; and Furnishing of committee rooms (Senate) -N2.7 billion; Furnishing of committee rooms (House) – N3 billion; Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of National Assembly Ultramodern Printing Press – N3 billion.”
“There are also other items in the National Assembly budget: Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) – N4 billion; National Assembly Hospital Project – N15 billion; National Assembly Recreation Centre – N4 billion; Procurement of Books for the National Assembly Library – N3 billion; and National Assembly Pension Board (Take-Off Grant) – N2.5 billion,” SERAP said.(www.naija247news.com)