By Deji Elumoye and Udora Orizu
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajiboka Basiru, yesterday declared that the National Assembly is not cash- strapped.
He also gave an assurance that the two chambers of the legislative arm of government will meet the mandatory 181 annual sitting days as prescribed in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
Reacting to a report that the two chambers of the National Assembly may not meet the mandatory constitutional requirement of 181 sittings yearly because of reduction in number of sitting days to once a week, caused by paucity of funds, the spokesman described the report as a figment of the writer’s imagination, concocted to pitch the National Assembly against the executive or the public and portray them as not living up to expectations.
According to him, the National Assembly is not owing its staff salaries, adding that the management is not owing any lawmaker.
He stressed that the National Assembly does not rely on the MDAs to fund its activities, as they have budget committees and oversight.
He further explained that when there are specific needs in terms of consultancy services or special travels to do the legislative jobs, the bureaucracy supports such assignment.
Basiru said, ‘’The issue of cash crunch hitting the National Assembly is the figment of the imagination of the writers. I don’t see how finance can hinder our sitting. We are not collecting sitting allowance; we only collect salaries at the end of the month. We are in March and all our February salaries have been paid. We are in the 9th of March and we have a 12 month calendar.
“It is totally wrong to say that the National Assembly is relying on the ministries, departments and agencies to fund its committee works. If that is even the case, that will even be conflict of interest. There is no senator that would say he or she cannot go to their constituencies due to non -funding of their constituency projects.
‘’It does not make sense to rely on the same MDAs we are oversighting for funding again. The National Assembly has a first line charge. There is no senator or member of the House of Representatives that can come out and say he or she had not been paid.’’
On the reduced sittings from three to two per week, the Senate spokesman said sittings at plenary does not require money, stressing that the lawmakers are just merely observing Covid-19 health and safety protocols.