Reps canvass higher allocation, say National Assembly is broke

The House of Representatives has said the paucity of funds was hampering legislative functions of members of the National Assembly.

The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, raised the alarm during a news conference in Abuja on Thursday.

The National Assembly had a budget of N139.5bn in 2018, N125bn in 2019 and N128bn (N125bn proposed, N3bn added) in 2020.

While the sum of N125bn was proposed for the National Assembly in 2021, the sum of N134bn was approved for it and all other affiliates such as the National Assembly Service Commission, National Legislative Institute among others.

Kalu said, “Yes, the House is broke. I have said it before and I am saying it again, and I am not afraid to say it. 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.

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“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 N160 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.

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“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.

“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 Kalu, parliaments and parliamentarians in other climes spend more, making them perform better.

“Let us be fair in our analogy; let us wear the right spectacles when we analyse and you will find out that this N128bn of the National assembly, that is divided among all the agencies of the National Assembly; that is divided among all the staff – over 3,000 to 6,000 members of staff; that is divided among all the aides, five aides per lawmaker.

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“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 the 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.”

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