Nigeria’s House of Representatives has said the parliament is broke and underfunded, which has made it not to function effectively, describing its poor budgetary allocation as a disservice to the citizens.
Spokesman of the House, Benjamin Kalu at a weekly briefing on Thursday told journalists that the paucity of funds has made the working environment unfavourable for lawmakers.
While the National Assembly had a budget of N139.5 billion in 2018, it reduced to N125 billion in 2019. In 2020, the proposed budget of N125 billion was increased to N128 billion. Again, in 2021, while the sum of N125 billion was proposed for the National Assembly, it got about N134 billion.
“Yes, the House is ‘broke,’ I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid to say it,” Kalu told journalists in Abuja.
“The House is ‘broke’ and it is afraid to appropriate the sufficient amount for them to do their job. The House is broke and is afraid of your complaints as Nigerians to make provision for what will make them run the activities of the House effectively.
“That is why today, here is hot; that is why the hearing rooms are not fixed; that is why the house is indebted to contractors who provide one form of service or the other. This is the fact.
“Until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly, which happened when naira was 160 to the dollar, is less now than what it used to be. The dollar equivalent of naira 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.
“The budget of the National Assembly is supposed to be reviewed, in view of its purchasing ability, of the services that will help the parliament to move forward. At the moment, it is a weak budget and that is the truth,” the lawmaker noted.
Honourable Kalu further observed that “I have actually fought with the leadership of the House and I have asked 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, yet we are in penury to our own constitutional mandate. It is a disservice to Nigerians; the poor budget of the parliament is a disservice to Nigerians.”
According to him, “the N128 billion of the National assembly, that is divided among all the agencies of the National Assembly; that is divided among all the staff – over 3000 to 6000 members of staff; that is divided among all the aides, five aides per lawmaker.
“Sometimes, people wonder if we really need those aides. How do you think we will function by making good laws? You need solid experts to work for you. If you go to America, you see professors who are consulting and working directly with members of parliament. That is why when they come out with their laws and their bills and motions; it is what addresses the problems of the country. But can we afford that as we are? The answer is no, we cannot.
“So, if you ask me 20 times, whether the National Assembly is broke, until they improve the budget of the National Assembly, I will say, ‘Yes, we are broke,” he added.
By Abel Ejikeme