There are growing concerns over the failure of the National Assembly to release the details of its 2020 budget more than a month after President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the fiscal document.
Against the N125bn proposed by the executive, the National Assembly had raised its budget for this year to N128bn but withheld the details, thereby generating uproar by civil society organisations.
The legislature’s budget covers the salaries and allowances of the 109 senators, 360 House of Representatives members, aides, National Assembly Commission and the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS).
At the eighth senate, then-Senate president Bukola Saraki released the details of the National Assembly’s 2017 budget to the public following public outcry. Saraki only released it once throughout his tenure. The ninth senate under the leadership of Lawan has left the details in secrecy.
Daily Trust reports that the development has generated concerns among Nigerians and civil society groups over the transparency of the ninth National Assembly as it reconvenes today from its six-week recess.
Contacted, Lawan’s media aide Ola Awoniyi declined to comment, saying he had not been briefed. He referred our reporter to the chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Godiya Akwashiki. Efforts to get Akwashiki, however, were unsuccessful as his mobile phone was switched off.
The Chief Whip, House of Representatives, Muhammad Tahir Monguno, said there was the need for proper enlightenment of Nigerians on how the National Assembly is run to dispel the wrong notion that monies budgeted are spent on members only.
“It is not something that is hidden. In fact, it will be better if people know because they will be better informed.
“The National Assembly Service Commission, the National Institute for Legislative Studies, staff salaries are all being paid from the budgeted funds. The money is not for us only. I believe one can get the details from Appropriation,” he said.
CSOs slam lawmakers
Meanwhile, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and YIAGA Africa Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) have expressed reservations over the failure of the National Assembly to publish the details of its 2020 budget.
In separate interviews with Daily Trust, the organisations were unanimous in berating the lawmakers for not leading by example.
The Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, said it was not enough for the National Assembly to merely publish the figures of its expenditure in the budget as that was not the expectation of Nigerians or the promise of the leadership of National Assembly.
On her part, the director of CDD, Idayat Hassan, said the practice of the National Assembly increasing its appropriation was fast becoming a norm, yet the details were not known.
“The lawmakers should not be taking Nigerians for a ride. What are they hiding in the details of their budget that it cannot be released to the people who are the taxpayer from which parts of the monies were being derived?” she said.
Also, the executive director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, urged the lawmakers to be respectful and responsive to Nigerians whom they are meant to serve.
What we will do this year – Lawan
Lawan yesterday told newsmen in Abuja that the upper chamber will constitute the Constitution Review Committee in a week’s time.
He assured that the expeditious treatment accorded the appropriation Act will be extended to the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) to ensure its passage before the year runs out.
“The Petroleum Industry Bill that has defied passage, we (National Assembly) want to break that jinx.Whatever the mystery, we are determined to ensure that we pass the PIB before the end of this year by the grace of God,” he said.