Despite having annual budgetary allocation of N128 billion, the National Assembly still says it is broke and cannot effectively perform its constitutional duties.
Spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu who made the assertion while briefing journalists in Abuja, said the budget of the National Assembly must be reviewed to address contemporary challenges.
This is coming barely a month after Kalu had said the Nigerian National Assembly is one of the poorest parliaments in the world, lamenting that the pressure from constituents was killing lawmakers.
The Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs had said: “This is one of the poorest parliaments; you don’t see lawmakers living in luxury. These guys here are suffering; they are under stress, that’s why most of the sicknesses they are passing through are heart attacks, this and that failures.
“The pressure from the constituents is way out of the scope. Those who are not supposed to build road are asked to build road. They receive pressure even on issues that are not their duty. And the resources to solve the demands of the public are not there”.
Again, Kalu told journalists that National Assembly, particularly the House was broke but was afraid of the complaints of Nigerians to make provision for a budget that would make lawmakers run legislative activities, effectively.
“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. 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,” he said.
According to him, “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. 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.
“Let us be fair in our analogy; let us wear the right spectacles when we analyse and you will find out that this N128bn budget 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.”
“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 argued.
Kalu also dismissed the belief of superiority between the Senate and the House of Representatives, saying both Chambers work in concurrence for the service of the country.
“People have always imagined that there is a superiority kind of status between the Senate and the House of Representatives, the issue still remains that the Constitution does not say so. If it says so, you will not see the House of Representatives always seeking concurrence while the Senate will not seek for concurrence,” he stated.