‘We are broke’- Senators, Reps seek more funds


The two chambers of the National Assembly are pushing for more funding for the legislature, complaining that the money meant for running that arm of government is inadequate.

This is even as some Nigerians insist that the N134bn allocated to the legislature in the 2021 budget is too much and unjustifiable. There have also been concerns over continued secrecy around the expenditures of the federal lawmakers.

Checks indicate that the budgetary allocation to the National Assembly had risen from N23.3bn in 2003 to N134bn this year.

Twice the spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia), cried out that the parliament was broke and could not afford to carry out its constitutional mandate effectively.

On Thursday, the lawmaker said the budget of the National Assembly should be reviewed upward to enable it cope with the situation.

“Yes, the House is broke. I said it before and I am saying it again. I am not afraid of saying it.

“This is the fact. The appropriation made for the running of the National Assembly, which was done when the exchange rate of the naira to dollar was N180, is less now than what it used to be. The dollar equivalent 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,” Kalu said.

But despite the complaint over funds, the lawmakers have been going on with their legislative activities the usual way, aside the cut in sitting days for plenary.

A senior staff of the National Assembly who spoke on the condition of anonymity yesterday said paucity of funds for the law-making body would have manifested in the inability to conduct activities of committees, which he said was capital intensive.

“Plenaries do not have financial implications, unlike committee sittings. Committees are where funds are needed to hire consultants, do advertorials, provide refreshment and allowances for members. If they claim that the NASS is broke, that is where it should manifest,” he said.

Aside their salaries, each senator gets N13.5million monthly, while every member receives N8.5m as running cost per month.

During the last Assembly, Senator Shehu Sani, who represented Kaduna Central, opened up on their earnings. He said aside the running cost, they earned N750,000 monthly as consolidated salary.

“What I am saying is that that money (N13.5m per month) must be receipted for what you do with it. What you are given to spend without any accountability is N750,000.00.

“The constituency project itself is given on a zonal basis and almost every senator will go with a constituency fund of about N200m; but it is not the cash that is given to you.

“You will be told that you have N200m with an agency of government for which you will now submit projects equivalent to that amount. And it is that agency of government that will do those projects for you,” he said in 2018.