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We reject N70bn allocation for lawmakers

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent N817.54 billion supplementary budget to the National Assembly, containing N70 billion for furnishing the offices of the 10th National Assembly…

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s recent N817.54 billion supplementary budget to the National Assembly, containing N70 billion for furnishing the offices of the 10th National Assembly members, has continued to generate reactions among Nigerians, with many wondering if such provision should be made for the  lawmakers at this point in the country’s history.  

This is even as the National Assembly spokesperson, Senator Yemi Adaramodu, provided an argument for the supplementary budget, by saying the offices being occupied by the new senators and House of Representatives members needed the necessary facilities to enable them operate.

Senator Adaramodu’s sophistry reads in part: “A visit to the suites, offices and the general structures of the National Assembly complex would reveal a yawn and the need for exigent attention. Many senators had to bring their chairs, tables, and electronics and in many cases, do sundry repairs. The much debated allocation will not be paid to any legislator. This will be managed by the National Assembly bureaucracy. It’s pertinent to also note that the National Assembly complex does not house only the legislators. There are thousands of workers and service providers whose working environment needs a face-lift and with necessary tools. Since the Assembly complex is not owned by legislators who are merely political birds of passage, such allocation cannot be termed by anyone as a palliative to the legislators.”

This argument does not hold water for several reasons. First, over the years, furniture for new National Assembly members were supplied from the annual appropriations for the National Assembly. In spite of the loud outcry over the huge annual budgetary allocation to NASS, the amount has continued to increase. In 2006, the figure was put at N45 billion, but in 2010, it was raised to N150 billion, while in the 2023 Appropriation Act, it was raised to N228.1 billion. If previous National Assembly provided for lawmakers’ furniture  from the huge budgetary allocations, why would the Tinubu administration vote as much as N70 billion as supplementary budget for furnishing new lawmakers’ offices and the National Assembly complex, especially at this point when the subsidy removal is taking a toll on most Nigerians.  What impact will the new policy  have on the country if the poor Nigerians are tightening their belts and at the same time the lawmakers are living as though nothing has changed?

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There are many areas where such money can be put and majority of Nigerians will feel the impact, like the health sector, where resident doctors are currently on strike among others. While we call for a review of that allocation, it has also become necessary for government to review how the furniture supplied for use by lawmakers every four years is managed. In June 2023, there was an ugly spectacle in the National Assembly complex, where items were moved out of the assembly. The furniture, television sets, filing cabinets, computers, printers, air conditioners, rugs, solar panels, and the like were moved out of the offices used by the outgoing senators and House of Representatives members. There were reports that even aides of re-elected lawmakers were involved in the movement of the items. When journalists reported the ugly incident, officials of the National Assembly claimed those items had been sold to the lawmakers at the cost of the depreciated values, and that contracts for new sets of the items would be awarded at the inauguration of the 10th National Assembly.

There is no better definition of waste than the tradition of allowing lawmakers to cart away items that may not have been damaged. Even if they were damaged, there is a functional maintenance department in the National Assembly, whose task it is to engage in the repairs of the complex’s assets.

We consider the N70 billion supplementary budget for NASS members as unnecessary and a waste of resources. These same lawmakers are entitled to billions of Naira in allowances. For instance, House of Representatives members, in 2019, officially, received N5.9 million for furniture; N3.970 million for accommodation; and N7.94 million for vehicle. In the Senate, the amount was higher.

President Tinubu and the leadership of the National Assembly should realise that this approach to governance is no longer acceptable to Nigerians, at this time when life is made difficult for the people, no thanks to an era devoid of subsidy on petrol among others. There must be a deliberate effort to cut cost of governance. It cannot be business as usual if indeed this administration seeks to improve the fortunes of the country. The elite cannot maintain an extravagant lifestyle when ordinary Nigerians are tightening their belts.

The N70 billion can change the lives of millions of Nigerians in one way or another, if invested in health, education, water, agriculture, and even in the acquisition of luxury buses for transportation. We, therefore, call on the president to expunge this provision from the bill and instead redirect the N70 billion to areas that will have direct impact on majority of Nigerians.

 

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