By Ajibola Amzat
AN annual budget of N150 billion for national lawmakers is unsustainable, as the National Assembly (NASS) does not need more than N80 billion yearly, a non-governmental organisation that promotes citizen education on public spending, BudgiT Nigeria, has said.
It also condemned the secrecy that has so far characterised the NASS spending. Responding yesterday to a news publication (not in The Guardian), which revealed that Nigerian senators and House of Representatives spent N600 billion in four years but passed only 106 bills, the BudgiT lead partner, Mr. Seun Onigbinde, insisted that lawmaking in Nigeria should not cost over N80 billion a year.
He said: “If you give N100 million annually for National Assembly members to run their constituency offices, accommodation, upkeep and salaries, which is approximately N47 billion, and give N3 billion for its functional principals’ offices, N15 billion for workforce and allied agencies, N5 billion for oversight and N10 billion for overheads and facility management, you do not need more than N80 billion.”
BudgiT said that its investigations on Nigeria’s budget performance produced several reports on public finance in Nigeria, therefore, the entire package per year for each lawmaker should not be over N100 million, “anything more is wasteful.”
He also criticised the secrecy over the NASS budget, noting that the Budget Implementation Report of the Budget Office of the Federation shows that only N150 billion is being disbursed yearly to NASS based on its budget, but no returns to the Federal Government treasury have been recorded.
Nevertheless, Onigbinde said that reducing the 2015 budget to N120 billion is a welcome development, though it is still huge considering that the amount is higher than the actual revenue of over 26 states in the country.
“We want more transparency so that external stakeholders can suggest more cuts in line with the need for austerity,” he said. “We believe it is necessary that we see the details of what N120 billion will do before we can determine if such cuts are necessary or more cuts are needed.”
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