The Nigerian 8th National Assembly (NASS) has been synonymous with many unpleasant attributes since its inauguration; hence Nigerians expect little or nothing great from its confederation.
In a move that surprised most of the citizenry, the NASS released a 33-page document detailing the expenditure of the two-chambered body for the first since its inception in 1999. The assembly has been described as the most financial secretive arm of government/agency after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC). Just like the annual budget of the country, the document is populated with items calling for more questions.
Many Nigerians appreciated this bold step towards instilling transparency and accountability in governance, yet the details as presented brought back to life the need to discuss the size and cost of our current democracy.
A budget of N125 billion ($409 million) for a house whose total population is 468 members can be adjudged too expensive.
This translates Nigeria using N267.1 million/per year to manage each of its legislators, while over seventy percent (70%) rarely attend plenary sessions or contribute constructively to discourses which directly impact national development in the country.
In a tight and slow economic atmosphere like Nigeria, one should be alarmed by this budget, and the need to revisit the discourse around reducing the legislative arm to just one house is more necessary now than ever.
The development cost of using our limited resources to satisfy a few mouths is more expensive than what we can estimate.
The NASS 2017 budget is larger than that of 18 states in the country. For a more appropriate description, the budget is larger than a combination of 2017 budgets of three states in Nigeria (Nassarawa – 67.103 b, Anambra – 58.9 b among other states budget that could be peered).
Development cost of huge National Assembly 2017 budget
Constrained revenue potentials and huge deficit are basic features of Nigerian annual budget, and in most years, developmental projects are sacrificed to cater for the huge recurrent spending of government.
In the same vein, the National Assembly 2017 budget as released clearly show misplacement of development priorities for many non-developmental related expenditure items. Allocations for these items as shown would have been allocated to cater development of infrastructural facilities, which have directly impact on economic life and welfare of the populace.
The document showed a whopping N9.6 billion ($31.5 million) was allocated to cater for legislative aides in a country that its citizenry hardly lives above $2 a day.
Putting this in the context of infrastructural development, the amount budgeted for the aides would have executed all expect one capital projects of the Aviation sector as planned in the country’s 2017 budget. Worthy of note is that the quality of a country’s aviation sector and airport facilities is directly linked to the volume of foreign direct investments it would attract.
For the argument of the importance of these aides to the effectiveness of the legislators, their salary should have been deductible from their principal’s salary not bundled on the taxpayers and meagre resources of the country.
Other areas of huge resources misapplication are the overhead cost of the NASS. Sometime in 2012, the former CBN Governor (now Emir of Kano), HRM Muhammadu Sanusi II, stated that over 78% of the budget overhead are being on the management of the 468 national assembly members. A fact confirmed by the details of the released NASS budget.
A whopping N85.9 billion ($28.2 million) is budgeted for taking care and ensure effective legislative processes in the country. This would not have been the issue if these legislators would put in their best for the purpose they're elected for.
Since the beginning of the 8th legislative assembly, the total bill introduced by both houses was estimated at 124 bills (add the NASS website).
In monetary terms, the estimated cost of the legislative bill is N1.2 billion, simply because the parliament spends more time on probes of many irrelevant issues.
Just like every nation that concern about optimal use if its scarce financial resources, Nigeria government should ensure financial discipline across tiers and arms of government in the country.
We simply cannot afford this misapplication of funds anymore.