• Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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National Assembly seeks self-serving budget hike amid cost-of-living crisis

National Assembly seeks self-serving budget hike amid cost-of-living crisis

The House of Representatives is seeking to increase the budget for the National Assembly with the plan to amend the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), 2007 in the next few weeks.

The planned increase to their budget comes amid rising cost of living across the country.

The proposal stems from a bill introduced by Oluwole Oke, a member representing Oriade/Obokun Federal Constituency, in Osun State.

The bill proposes adding a new section guaranteeing the National Assembly and federal judiciary each 5 percent of the budgetary allocation in the annual Appropriation Act.

“It is absolutely nonsensical to approach budgeting that way. There isn’t any other country in the world that offers a precedent for such,” a source with knowledge of the matter said.

“Resource allocations should be strictly need-based in line with national priorities. This is simply driven by a cake sharing mentality. In any case, NASS members currently surreptitiously corner more than 20 percent of the capital budget annually,” the source said.

The FRA, enacted in 2007, focuses on prudent resource management, macro-economic stability, and fiscal transparency.

Section 54 currently allows technical and financial assistance to states and local governments adopting similar legislation.

However, the lawmakers are planning to insert Section 54(a) stating that, “Notwithstanding any other provision of the Principal Act, the National Assembly and the Federal Judiciary shall each be entitled to a minimum of five per cent of the entire budgetary provision in the Appropriation Act for each year. This Bill may be cited as the Fiscal Responsibility Act (Amendment Bill), 2024.”

Nigeria’s bicameral legislature, comprising the 360-member House of Representatives and the 109-seat Senate, has long been a target for criticism over funds allocated to it.

BusinessDay had earlier reported how the legislative arms spent N280 billion in 2023 while millions of Nigerians struggle under tight state budgets. The National Assembly 2023 budget was more than the budgets of 19 states combined.

President Bola Tinubu, in the Supplementary Appropriation Bill in July 2023, allocated N70 billion to help the lawmakers settle in.

The National Assembly raised its 2024 budget allocation by N74.23 percent to N344.85 billion. The initial allocation in the budget submitted by Tinubu was pegged at N197.93 billion.

The rise in allocations to the Senate and House of Representatives comes amid rising cost-of-living crisis in the nation with millions of Nigerians battling for survival.

In the 2024 Appropriation Bill passed by the lawmakers in December, the National Assembly increased the budget by N1.2 trillion to N28.77 trillion from the earlier proposed N27.5 trillion by the executive.

The National Assembly’s N344.85 billion allocation can fund the combined budget of more than 27 federal universities.

Some of the universities include the University of Lagos with an allocation of N19.4 billion, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (N17.02 billion), University of Ilorin (N14.3 billion), University of Abuja (N12.09 billion), University of Port Harcourt (N19.58 billion), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) (N9.3 billion), Maddibo Adama University N8.billion, Federal University Oye (N7.7 billion), Federal University, Dutse (N8.3 billion), Alex Ekwueme University (N9.5 billion), University of Lafia (N6.8 billion) and University of Dutsin-Ma (N8.3 billion).

Others are Federal University, Kashere (N6.5 billion), University of Lokoja (N6.2 billion), University of Wukari (N9.6 billion), University of Birnin Kebbi (N4.78 billion), University of Gashua (N5.2 billion), University of Gusau (N6.7 billion), Maritime University Okerenkoko (N3,4 billion), Army University, Biu (N3.4 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (N2.3 billion), University of Babura (N2.2 billion), Federal University of Technology Ikot Abasi (N2.4 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Azare (N1.8 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Ila Orangun (N10.4 billion), Federal University Katsina (N2.1 billion).