…warns arbitrary budgetary increase has significant fiscal consequences

…as lawmakers postpone plenary resumption to Jan. 30

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on the National Assembly leadership to cut down the budget for lawmakers in response to the current economic realities in the country.

SERAP, in a letter dated January 13 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, specifically asked the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, to “promptly reduce the National Assembly budget of N344.85 billion, to reflect the current economic realities in the country, and cut the cost of governance”.

The National Assembly had in December passed the 2024 Appropriation Bill, raising the total budget sum to N28.7 trillion from the initial N27.5 trillion presented by President Bola Tinubu in November.

SERAP also asked the National Assembly leadership 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”.

The group further asked the National Assembly leadership to “promptly publish details of the National Assembly budget of N344.85bn, 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”.

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It warned that the arbitrary increase by the lawmakers of their own budgetary allocation, if not cut, would have significant fiscal consequences and exacerbate the country’s debt crisis.

“The unilateral and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their own allocation also offends the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances and the notion of the rule of law,” SERAP said in the letter.

“The increase in the National Assembly budget has 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 own 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.”

Meanwhile, the National Assembly has postponed its plenary resumption to 30 January 2024 from the earlier scheduled resumption date of 23 January.

A message addressed to all members of the House of Representatives by the Clerk to the House of Representatives, Yahaya Danzaria, to that effect stated, “I am directed inform Hon. Members that the resumption date for both Senate and House of Representatives has been shifted upwards from Tuesday, 23rd January 2024 (earlier announced) to Tuesday, 30th January 2024 at 11:00 am prompt. All inconveniences are regretted.”