What is the True Financial State of the National Assembly?

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Spokespersons for the Senate and the House of Representatives, Senator Basiru Ajibola and Hon. Benjamin Kalu respectively disagree on the financial situation of the National Assembly, prompting Chuks Okocha to ask if National Assembly is broke

Despite an increase of over Three Billion Naira in the yearly budget for the National Assembly, there are indicators that the Senate and the House of Representatives are in deep financial crisis.

It is even more apparent as the House of Representatives last week acknowledged that it is broke and needed more financial 4allocations.

But many analysts are quick to ask, how the National Assembly with such a huge budget could go down financially.

For the records, the National Assembly under Senator David Mark had a yearly budget of N150 billion, while the 8th National Assembly under Senator Abubakar Bukola Saraki received a reduced budget of N125 billion for four years.

But in the 9th National Assembly, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration increased the budget to N128 billion and the National Assembly is on the first line charge in the disbursement of their budgetary allocations.

In 7th and 8th National Assembly, aides of the presiding officers fared better, but in the 9th National Assembly, the aides earn about half of what their colleagues earned in the former assemblies.

The legislative over sight functions are indirectly sponsored by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Only five committees’ oversights are funded. They are Rules and Business; Ethics, Public Account; Anti-Corruption; and Senate Services. Other committees rely on MDAs to fund their oversight functions. Lawmakers’ salaries and other renumerations are delayed. Lawmakers who took loans to fund their elections are struggling to pay back
It is still in doubt if the National Assembly sat up to the 181 legislative days stipulated for it to sit in a year. This contention was imminent in the 2019/2020 legislative year before the Coronavirus pandemic

In terms of their basic salaries, the senators receive N13. 5 million per year, while the members of the House of Representatives receive N11 5 million, but the recent constant adjournment and sitting for one day only every week or twice in one week, has raised the question on whether the National Assembly is broke or facing any financial crunch.

The second chamber of the National Assembly, that is , the House of Representatives last week said in clear terms that it was broke and could not afford to carry out its constitutional mandate effectively.

The spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) disclosed that the Green Chamber is financially broke and therefore could not discharge its constitutional duties. .

The lawmaker said the budget of the National Assembly should be reviewed upward to enable it cope with the situation.

“Yes the house is broke, I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid of saying it.

“This is the fact until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly which was done when the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar was 180 is less now than what it used to be.

“The Dollar equivalent today has gone up to over N400, the purchasing power of the budget as it is now, is weaker than it was 10 years ago,” he said.

Kalu said that he had fought with the leadership of the House, while asking the question.

“Why are you afraid to raise the budget of the National Assembly that will enable us to conduct our services efficiently and effectively?

“We appropriate for agencies to run effectively and yet, we are in penury trying to run our own constitutional mandate, it is a disservice to Nigerians. The poor budget of the parliament is a disservice to Nigerians,” he said.

The spokesman explained that the N128 billion appropriated for the National Assembly was divided among all the agencies in the parliament about 6,000 members of staff and lawmakers aides.

Kalu said that legislators needed professional experts to work with them to produce laws and motions hat would address the needs of the people.

“If you go to U.S., you see professors who are consulting and working directly with members of parliament,” he said.

But his counterpart in the Senate, Senator Ajibola Basiru, All Progressives Congress, APC, Osun Central countered Kalu’s position by insisting that the Senate was not broke or facing any financial crisis.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja, Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, All Progressives Congress, APC, Osun Central said that the National Assembly does not require money before it could sit.

Senator Basiru who was apparently responding to the cash crunch story, said, “We are in the 9th of March and we have a 12-month calendar. There is nothing that says we won’t sit for 180 days. It is therefore irresponsible for anybody to insinuate that we would not sit for 180 days. Those who are saying we won’t achieve the mandatory 180 days are just creating unnecessary tension where there is none.

“Nobody can predict that we won’t sit for 180 days, it is too early in the year to determine that. Despite last year’s lockdown, we achieved our mandatory 180 days sitting.

One thing is clear from the comments of the spokespersons of the Senate and House of Representatives, one is speaking tongue in-cheek, while the other is saying it as it is.

QUOTE

The legislative over sight functions are indirectly sponsored by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Only five committees’ oversights are funded. They are Rules and Business; Ethics, Public Account; Anti-Corruption; and Senate Services. Other committees rely on MDAs to fund their oversight functions. Lawmakers’ salaries and other renumerations are delayed. Lawmakers who took loans to fund their elections are struggling to pay back

It is still in doubt if the National Assembly sat up to the 181 legislative days stipulated for it to sit in a year. This contention was imminent in the 2019/2020 legislative year before the Coronavirus pandemic in terms of their basic salaries, the senators receive N13. 5 million per year, while the members of the House of Representatives receive N11 5 million, but the recent constant adjournment and sitting for one day only every week or twice in one week, has raised the question on whether the National Assembly is broke or facing any financial crunch. The second chamber of the National Assembly, that is , the House of Representatives last week said in clear terms that it was broke and could not afford to carry out its constitutional mandate effectively. The spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu (APC-Abia) disclosed that the Green Chamber is financially broke and therefore could not discharge its constitutional duties. .The lawmaker said the budget of the National Assembly should be reviewed upward to enable it cope with the situation. Yes the house is broke, I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid of saying it.

This is the fact until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly which was done when the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar was 180 is less now than what it used to be. The Dollar equivalent today has gone up to over N400, the purchasing power of the budget as it is now, is weaker than it was 10 years ago,” he said