Good day folks.
I have seen a few online petitions going around lately and one has caught my attention. The petition requesting the National Assembly (NASS) to open its book regarding the perennial N150 Billion (Approx. $600 Million) budget is a feel good one, but really doesn’t open up the matter. It’s okay to sign the petition, but more informative to understand the issues.
Let’s remember that the cold war between the Presidency and the NASS started in 2011, when President Jonathan refused to approve the NASS budget that was increased from N112.24 billion to N232.74 Billion (over 100% increase). The President had proposed N120 Billion, but eventually both parties agreed to settled for N150 Billion, which has remained the yearly budget till 2014 (Their budget was slashed in 2015 to N115 Billion). From that point on, the NASS practically stood in the way of the Executive over several issues, for which Nigerians paid the ultimate price. Can you imagine that if left unchecked, the NASS would have been blowing over N200 Billion on themselves????
Prior to 2011, there was some level of budget breakdown for the monies allocated to the NASS. We could tell what went to the Senate, House of Representatives, NASS Service Commission, etc. For the past 4 years however, no one has been able to breakdown this budget of N150 Billion despite the various demands by pressmen relying on the Freedom of Information Act.
But to understand how the money is shared, we must know the various arms of the National Assembly. These are:
1. The Senate
2. The House of Representatives
3. The National Assembly Service Commission
4. The Nigerian Institute for Legislative Studies
5. National Budget and Research Office
6. Public Complaint Commission
There is also allocation to the internal management system for both the Senate and House of Reps through which they manage their going business.
However, what is critical to note is that the largest chunk of this yearly budget is expended quarterly on what is called “Constituency Allocation”, which is cash advance for overhead cost. This is a bulk sum given to Legislators to cover things like travels and maintenance of constituency offices, and is usually retired every three months to qualify for the next quarter’s allocation. Senators each receive about N55 Million/quarterly and Reps each receive about N40 Million/quarterly. Put that together for the 474 members of NASS, you will arrive at a figure bordering around N80 Billion for the year.
The remaining monies is what will cover salaries for these Legislators, their Aides, staff of the NASS, as well as cost of running the the outfit. So half of the monies allocated as a Statutory Transfer to the NASS is spent on unbelievable allowances that cannot be justified under any circumstance. This is where the problem lies, the statutory allocation that has no breakdown, so none can tell what goes to what. I have attached a screen shot of the current budget allocation to the NASS so you understand what I mean.
Undoubtedly, there are truly honourable members of the NASS that have put their people first by investing these allocations on profitable ventures and have tangible proofs for this. But this ‘monetisation’ of the Legislature has practically crippled the noble art of Law Making. What we don’t see is the unquantifiable damage and unintended negative consequences this has had on the quality of life for Nigerians. Until we can tie every misused Naira to the quality of life of one Nigerian, I’m afraid this is all totally lost on us.
Yes the National Assembly has reduced their 2015 allocation to N115 Billion as a proof of their ‘austere’ approach, I am of the opinion that much of that N115 Billion should be reallocated by the Executive through virement. That is the challenge before the Buhari Administration and I certainly hope he gets it right from the beginning.