• Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Budgetary bonanza: NASS celebrates unprecedented 160.12 percent surge

Budgetary bonanza: NASS celebrates unprecedented 160.12 percent surge

WHILE Nigerians battle with economic hardships, witnessing a continuous geometric progression in the cost of living, members of the National Assembly (NASS) are in jubilation over a 74.23 percent budget increase, which escalates to a staggering 160.12% when factoring in additional expenditures, to N344.85 billion.

Contradicting the government’s claim of struggling with revenue generation, their squandermania approach is laid bare in the N28.77 trillion 2024 budget, christened ‘Renewed Hope.’ This budget, signed into law by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the first day of 2024, sets a new record as the highest in Nigeria’s democratic history, further inflated by N1.27 trillion from the initially proposed N27.5 trillion.

This development has reignited debates surrounding the National Assembly Budget for 2024, a hefty sum totaling ₦514.85 billion. Initially, the allocation to the National Assembly from the proposed budget by the Executive, as presented by President Tinubu, was N197.93 billion less than the previous year (N228 billion in 2023). However, it later increased to N344.85 billion, marking a 74.23% increment.

Upon factoring in other associated expenditures and votes for ongoing projects, the legislature’s share of the national cake surged to N514.85 billion, as reported by Statisense.

Surprisingly, the proposed 2024 budget of N197 billion for the Legislature is higher than the combined budget proposed for 26 Federal Universities for 2024.

Breaking down the National Assembly’s 2024 Budget according to Statisense, the allocations include Zonal Intervention Projects (₦100 billion), House of Representatives (₦78.62 billion), Outstanding Liabilities (₦50 billion), Senate (₦49.14 billion), National Assembly Office (₦36.73 billion), General Services (₦30.81 billion), Legislatives Aides (₦20.39 billion), Completion of NASC Office Complex (₦20 billion), Service-Wide-Vote (₦15.19 billion), NASS Hospital Project (₦15 billion).

More so, National Assembly Service Commission (₦12.33 billion), NASS Library Complex (Take-Off Grant) (₦12.12 billion), Construction of NASC building (Ongoing) (₦10 billion), NASS Liabilities (₦9.9 billion), National Institute for Legislative & Democratic Studies (NILDS) (₦9.01 billion), Completion of NILDS HQ (₦4.5 billion), Alternative Power Supply (Solar Power System) (₦4 billion), NASS Recreation Centre (₦4 billion), Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of the National Assembly Budget & Research Office (NABRO) (₦4 billion).

Procurement of Books for the NASS Library (₦3 billion), NASS Zonal Liaison Offices (₦3 billion), NASS Car Park Project – Senate (₦3 billion), NASS Car Park Project – House of Representatives (₦3 billion), Furnishing of Committee Meeting Rooms for House Representatives Building Part I & II (₦3 billion), Upgrade of NASS Key Infrastructures (₦3 billion), Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of NASS Ultramodern Printing Press (₦3 billion).

Furnishing of Committee Meeting Rooms & other Offices within the Senate Building (₦2.7 billion), NASS Pension Board (Take-Off Grant) (₦2.5 billion), Office of Retired Clerks And Perm. Secretaries (₦1.23 billion), Constitution Review (₦1 billion), Appropriation Committee Department – Senate (₦200 million), Appropriation Committee Department – House (₦200 million), PAC – House of Representatives (₦150 million), PAC – Senate (₦130 million).

Olamide Adesina, a commentator on ‘X’ (formerly known as Twitter), stated, “The monthly entitlement of an average Nigerian senator is equivalent to the total compensation package of Nigeria’s highest-paid bank MD.” This striking comparison underscores the imperative need for scrutiny and accountability in budgetary allocations.

The allocation of ₦100 billion to Zonal Intervention Projects, a substantial portion of the budget, prompts reflection on the intended impact of such projects. Critics argue that legislators should primarily focus on lawmaking, oversight, and representation functions, leaving developmental projects to state governments and local authorities.

A significant allocation of ₦78.62 billion to the House of Representatives raises questions about the justification for such a substantial budget for the lower house, especially considering the need for fiscal responsibility and prudence.

Olúṣeun Onígbindé, another commentator on ‘X,’ expressed concerns, saying, “The idea that legislators should capture the Federal budget and insert items haphazardly for their political fortune weakens democracy and undermines federalism. Let state governments and LGAs do their jobs.

This is a very worrisome trend – just look at how a College of Education is building roads – that needs to be quickly stemmed. Lawmakers should be primarily judged by lawmaking, oversight, and representation functions.

They can be entitled to constituency projects, not this brazen insertion that has become the norm.”

Amidst the allocations, key concerns emerge regarding the prioritisation of projects. The completion of the National Assembly Service Commission Office Complex, National Assembly Service Commission Library Complex, and the funding of the National Assembly Budget & Research Office raise questions about the urgency of these projects in comparison to pressing national needs.

While the budget includes provisions for alternative power supply, solar power systems, and infrastructure upgrades, it is essential to assess whether these allocations align with broader national priorities, such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure development.

Surprisingly, the proposed 2024 budget of N197 billion for the Legislature is higher than the combined budget proposed for 26 Federal Universities for 2024. This amount is also higher than the allocations proposed for 41 polytechnics. Some of the allocations to individual federal polytechnics reviewed are as low as N1.7 billion, including the funds proposed for their personnel, overhead, and capital expenditure, as reported by Premium Times.

This emphasises the need for a balanced distribution of resources across critical sectors, calling for efficient resource allocation and balancing the needs of different sectors in national budgeting.