“National Assembly is broke” – Reps demand bigger budget

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The House of Representatives says the National Assembly is broke and therefore unable to fulfil its constitutional mandate.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu stated this Thursday at his weekly press briefing.

He lamented that while the National Assembly annually appropriates funds for other arms and organs of government to function effectively, it could not allocate sufficient funds to itself because of fear of backlash from Nigerians.

As a result of this, he said, the lawmakers are unable to function to the best of their abilities.

The annual budget of the National Assembly has fluctuated in recent years.

The Assembly got N139.5 billion in 2018, N125 billion in 2019, N128bn (N125bn proposed, N3bn added) in 2020.

Although N125 billion was proposed for the Assembly in the 2021 budget, it eventually got N134 billion along with its affiliates.

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Responding to a question on whether the House reduced the number of days for plenary in a week from three to two days to save costs, Kalu replied in the negative, saying the COVID-19 pandemic caused it.

However, he emphasised that the National Assembly was broke.

“Yes, the House is ‘broke,’ I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid to say it. The House is ‘broke’ and it is afraid to appropriate the sufficient amount for them to do their job. The House is broke and is afraid of your complaints as Nigerians to make provision for what will make them run the activities of the House effectively.

“That is why today, here is hot; that is why the hearing rooms are not fixed; that is why the house is indebted to contractors who provide one form of service or the other. This is the fact.

“Until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly, which happened when naira was 160 to the dollar, is less now than what it used to be. The dollar equivalent of naira today has gone up to over N400. The purchasing power of the budget as it is now is weaker than it was 10 years ago.

“The budget of the National Assembly is supposed to be reviewed, in view of its purchasing ability, of the services that will help the parliament to move forward. At the moment, it is a weak budget and that is the truth.”

Explaining why the National Assembly cost not increase its budget, Kalu said, “I have actually fought with the leadership of the House and I have asked the question, ‘Why are you afraid to raise the budget of the National Assembly that will enable us to conduct our services efficiently and effectively?’

“We appropriate for agencies to run effectively, yet we are in penury to our own constitutional mandate. It is a disservice to Nigerians; the poor budget of the parliament is a disservice to Nigerians.”

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