As Nigeria navigates through the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led dispensation, a lot of dissatisfaction has been expressed by the Nigerian masses towards the exorbitant budget and spending of the National Assembly in Abuja. Many civil society groups, and citizens-at-large have begun making strides to ensure that both houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly adopt considerate budgets by embarking on considerable budget cuts in order to allow such funding to permeate other crucial sectors of our economy.
It is important to point out, that Nigeria finds itself at an important crossroads, as it now has the famed-anti-corruption crusader, Muhammadu Buhari, at the helm of its affairs. This is important because if the country – as exhibited in recent times – is serious about fixing its economy, by plugging many of the loopholes in its revenue streams, as well as making its budgetary systems more transparent and accountable, it should also be serious about cutting down on the sort of unnecessary spending that has characterised its national legislature in the past.
Many Nigerians, currently believe that the country’s 8th Senate, under the leadership of the Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has demonstrated a public commitment to actualising the requests of Nigerians to cutting down the cost of running the legislature. Dr. Saraki, who had previously served as a banker, and has over the years demonstrated a sound understanding of economic policies, at his inauguration, promised that the 8th Senate would work to effect positive change in vital areas.
Dr. Saraki, who many believe to be a reform-minded politician, has further acknowledged this need for a ‘narrower’ National Assembly budget by saying: “the 8th Senate under our watch recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running office, most especially with the economic challenges facing our nation.” Based on this, a 10-man committee, led by veteran Senator, James Manager, was instituted to look at the best strategy to align with the current administration’s efforts to ensure reduction in cost of governance.
The Manager-led committee was further tasked with finding out the details of the salaries and allowances of each senator, and making recommendations on deserved remunerations for the senators “with a view to unravelling the ambiguity in the monthly salaries of legislators and their allowances.”
No doubt, such a committee – which comprised of members that made up less that 10% of the entire Senate, would have been met with some pushback. However, it would speak to the commitment of the APC-led Senate, under the ‘watch’ and leadership of Dr. Saraki, if they can in fact pass the required budgetary cuts.
On the Executive side, with less that 100 days under his belt, the President has recently engineered a surprising increase in the gross revenue of the federation from N409.3 billion to N630.98 billion. In this regard, the National Assembly now has an opportunity to demonstrate that they too are partners in the quest to reform Nigeria by complimenting the President’s efforts to generate much-needed funding to run the country.
The argument that the National Assembly only caters to less than 500 members is very genuine. The argument that a National Assembly that only caters to 500 members and about 4500 staff members, is run on a budget of N120 billion is quite scary. What this means is that millions of Nigerians are not enjoying the dividends of the nation’s democracy due to the fact that those with the power to allocate funding, are allocating a substantial share of it to themselves.
It is time that the National Assembly, particularly, the 8th Senate – because of the commitment demonstrated by the Senate President in the past to this issue – begins to work towards demonstrating they are partners in the quest to form a positive change-oriented Nigeria.
Akorede is a writing speaker and a leadership blogger. You can contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @akorive001
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