Nigeria's inept National Assembly, most expensive in the world


Our National Assembly is very expensive. Nigerians have spent over N452 billion of tax payers' money to maintain senators and representatives for the past nine years.

This amount does not include the non-regular allowances occasionally given to the 109 senators and the 360 members of the House of Representatives.

It does not also include the over N72 billion approved last year, for priority projects in the six geo-political zones which are being handled by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in Nigeria.

The figure also excludes the N106.6 billion allocated to the National Assembly in the 2009 appropriation bill as harmonised by the joint committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The N452 billion was mainly from the main and supplementary budgetary allocations to the two chambers as well as other agencies of the federal legislature.

These are the National Assembly office, which is the management arm; the National Assembly Service Commission which is responsible for the recruitment and punishment of staff; and the National Assembly General Services. Other expenses include the legislative aides and public accounts secretariats of both the Senate and the House.

All, except the Public Accounts Secretariats, legislative aides and National Assembly General Services are also allocated money for both recurrent and capital expenditure.

New allocation
Only on Thursday, the two chambers passed the harmonised 2009 Budget of N3,101,813,750,626. If President Umaru Yar'Adua assents to the budget, the National Assembly will end up receiving a total of N106,642,333,760 for the year. This amounts to N5,250,000,000 for its capital expenditure and N101,392,333,760 for recurrent expenditure.

The total figure shows an increase in National Assembly budgetary allocation by about N50 billion from the President's proposal when he presented the 2009 Appropriation Bill to a joint session of the National Assembly last December 2.

On the capital profile, the break down showed the lawmakers increased the allocation of the National Assembly Office from N400 million to N100 billion, Senate's was reviewed upwards to N1 billion from N900 million and House of Representatives' from N1.45 billion to N2 billion just as National Assembly Service Commission's was raised from N11.5 million to N300 million.

Curiously, the National Assembly does not defend its budgetary allocations. The constitution is silent on this. The ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) appear before the standing committees of both chambers to defend their allocations.

Sections 80 (2) says: "No money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that is charged upon the fund by this Constitution or where the issue of those moneys has been authorised by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act or an Act passed in pursuance of section 81 of this Constitution.

Huge allocations, bad performance
But have these huge allocations translated to satisfactory performance? The Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP) says no.

Spokesman of the opposition group of parties, Osita Okechukwu told NEXT on Sunday that the money appropriated for the National Assembly is not commensurate with the quality of service it offers. He added that no parliament on earth is as expensive as the Nigerian National Assembly.

"Our lawmakers know, themselves, that they have not done well. This is not in dispute; they know themselves that the country wasted money in some areas, funding the National Assembly. The lawmakers are engaged in the culture of impunity. There is no parliament that is as expensive as our parliament," Mr. Okechukwu said.

Coordinator of the Alliance for Credible Election (ACE), Emma Ugboaja said the allocation to the National Assembly yearly is "alarming", adding that the Presidency and the lawmakers engage themselves in "scratch my back I scratch your own" game every year to get money approved.

Mr. Ugboaja noted that the National Assembly members are always reluctant to pass popular bills such as minimum wage and Freedom of Information (FoI) bills but approve, with dispatch, enormous funds for themselves.

He also said that Nigerians may soon begin to ask for part-time lawmaking as advocated last year by Pat Utomi.

Courtesy 234Next