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SERAP Asks Akpabio, Abbas To Cut N344.85 Billion NASS Budget

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abbas to significantly reduce the National Assembly’s hefty budget of N344.85 billion.

This appeal is made in light of the pressing economic challenges facing Nigeria.

In a move advocating for fiscal responsibility and transparency, SERAP has urged the legislative leaders to request President Bola Tinubu to submit a revised supplementary appropriation bill reflecting the reduced budget for the National Assembly’s approval.

Furthering their push for accountability, SERAP has also demanded the publication of detailed breakdowns of the National Assembly’s budget, including specific allocations such as the N3 billion earmarked for the Senate Car Park and another N3 billion for the House of Representatives Car Park.

In the letter dated 13 January 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Passing appropriation bills that are inconsistent with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution is a fundamental breach of the constitutional oath of office by the lawmakers.”

SERAP said, “The arbitrary increase by the lawmakers of their own budgetary allocation, if not cut, would have significant fiscal consequences and exacerbate the country’s debt crisis.”

According to SERAP, “The unilateral and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their own allocation also offends the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances and the notion of the rule of law.”

The letter reads in part, “The increase in the National Assembly budget raised serious questions in the minds of the Nigerian people about how the lawmakers are spending their commonwealth.

“The National Assembly ought to be more responsible to the public interest and more responsive to it. The National Assembly has a constitutional responsibility to combat waste and abuse in its own spending if it is to effectively exercise its oversight functions and hold the government to account.

“Transparency and accountability in public administration is an essential element of democracy. Transparency in the spending of the National Assembly budget would give the public a tool to hold the lawmakers accountable.

“It would also protect Nigerians from any potential abuses of governmental or legislative power that may exist.

“Nigerians have a right to scrutinize how their lawmakers spend their tax money and commonwealth, especially given the precarious economic realities in the country and the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on vulnerable Nigerians.

“Cutting the N344.48 billion National Assembly budget would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution.

“Cutting your budget would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money. It would serve the public interest and restore public confidence in the National Assembly.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and the National Assembly to comply with our request in the public interest.

“SERAP also urges to clarify the details of the N8.5 billion budgeted for ‘National Assembly liabilities’ and to disclose the nature of any such liabilities and how and why they have been incurred.

“SERAP urges you to clarify why N225 million is budgeted for the National Assembly E-Library and N3 billion is budgeted to buy books for the National Assembly Library while the ‘take-off grant’ for the National Assembly Library is N12.1 billion.

“The budget of N344.48 billion by members of the National Assembly is a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.

“According to our information, the National Assembly increased its own allocation in the 2024 budget to N344.48bn. The new budgetary allocation to the National Assembly is over 70 percent of the N197bn proposed by President Bola Tinubu for the lawmakers in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly.

“The N344.48bn National Assembly budget, which is an increase of about N147bn, is reportedly the highest ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly.”

“The breakdown of the N344.48bn National Assembly budget is as follows: National Assembly Office – Senate – N49.1bn; House of Representatives – N78.6bn; National Assembly Service Commission – N12.3bn; Legislative Aides – N20.3bn; NILDS – N9.09bn; Service-wide votes – N15.1bn; Senate Appropriation Committee– N200m.”

“Other budget items include: House Appropriation Committee – N200 million; Public Account committees of Senate and House – N280.7 million National Assembly Library Take Off Grant – N12.1 billion; National Assembly building (ongoing) – N4.2 billion; and National Assembly Liabilities – N8.5 billion.

“Other items include: National Assembly E-Library – N225 million; Constitution Review – N1 billion; and Completion of NILDS HQ – N4.5 billion; Construction of NASC Building – N10 billion; Office of Clerks and Permanent Secretaries – N1.2 billion; and Alternative Power System – N4 billion.

“Other items in the National Assembly budget include: National Assembly Zonal Offices – N3bn; Senate Car Park – N3 billion; House of Representatives Car Park -N3 billion; and Furnishing of committee rooms (Senate) -N2.7 billion; Furnishing of committee rooms (House) – N3 billion; Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of National Assembly Ultramodern Printing Press – N3 billion.

“There are also other items in the National Assembly budget: Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) – N4 billion; National Assembly Hospital Project – N15 billion; National Assembly Recreation Centre – N4 billion; Procurement of Books for the National Assembly Library – N3 billion; and National Assembly Pension Board (Take-Off Grant) – N2.5 billion.

“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.

“Under Section 16(1)(a)(b), the National Assembly has the obligations to ‘harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy’, and to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen.

“Section 16(2) of the Nigerian Constitution further provides that ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on the National Assembly to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution.

“Section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution, and sections 13 and 18 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act constrain the ability of the National Assembly to unilaterally insert its own allocations in the budget without following the due process of law.”

is an Associate at Naija News. He is a news media enthusiast, he holds a degree in psychology and loves exploring and sharing about the enormous power that lies in the human mind. Email: [email protected], Instagram: adeniyidman