The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), yesterday, urged the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr Tajudeen Abbas, to reduce the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion to reflect the current economic realities in the country, and cut the cost of governance.
SERAP urged them “to request President Bola Tinubu to present a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the reduced National Assembly budget for the approval of the National Assembly”.
It also urged them to publish details of the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion including the proposed spending details of the N3 billion for the Senate Car Park and N3 billion budgeted for the House of Representatives Car Park.
In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP 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.
“The arbitrary increase by the lawmakers of their budgetary allocation if not cut would have significant fiscal consequences and exacerbate the country’s debt crisis”.
The statement reads: “The unilateral and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their allocation also offends the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances and the notion of the rule of law.
“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 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.
“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 urged them 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.
“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 allocation in the 2024 budget to N344.48 billion. The new budgetary allocation to the National Assembly is over 70% of the N197 billion proposed by President Bola Tinubu for the lawmakers in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly.
“The N344.48 billion National Assembly budget, which is an increase of about N147 billion, is reportedly the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly”, it stated.