Sequel to the recent presentation of Nigeria’s annual spending plans for the next fiscal year to a joint session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, it is increasingly becoming a subject of interest as pundits and critical stakeholders from different endeavours decipher contents of the document.
While President Muhammadu Buhari seems to be actualising his administration’s commitment to maintaining a January to December budget cycle, the issue of resentment over what many see as a misplaced priority in the allocation of huge funds to the National Assembly is featuring prominently once again.
The country’s legislature since the return to civil rule in 1999 has been enjoying jumbo allocation of funds every fiscal year amidst government’s failure to vote more money for healthcare, education among others pressing needs. So, when the executive presented the 2021 Appropriation Bill with N128billion expected to go to NASS against N125billion last year, it evidently sparked a widespread outcry from citizens outraged at an additional N3billion for the federal lawmakers at a time when the government is supposed to be cutting the cost of governance with a view to saving scarce resources that can be channelled towards improving services to the Nigerian people, especially in this era of an economic downturn occasioned by dwindling oil revenues as well as the COVID-19 pandemic which has adversely affected the global economy.
Even in the days of the oil boom that swelled the nation’s coffers, the issue of jumbo salaries and allowances for Nigerian federal lawmakers comprising 109 members of the Senate and 360 legislators in the House of Representatives featured prominently as a matter of waste that needed to be addressed. Such calls have even become more imperative as the government explores ways of cutting costs including the recent total removal of subsidy on petroleum products.
Not a few are at ease that while the masses wallow in poverty, the National Assembly members continue to enjoy remunerations that leave their counterparts in more prosperous nations with mouths agape. It is worthy of note that the total proposed expenditure of N13.08 trillion with a crude oil benchmark price of $40 per barrel and daily oil production estimate of 1.86 million barrels will be financed in part with huge borrowings from international lenders like the IMF, World Bank and the Chinese government among others.
Judging from the lean resources at government’s disposal and an array of socio-economic challenges facing the nation, we align with the numerous voices of reason against not only the additional N3billion which shored up the N125billion budgeted for the National Assembly in 2020 to N128billion for next year, but equally agree that there is a need for a downward review of the pay packages of federal lawmakers in Nigeria. Besides, we make bold to say that a situation where the Nigerian masses are constantly slipping into aggravated poverty, and their elected representatives at the National Assembly are living fully cocooned lives courtesy of over N13million monthly salary for each Senator and over N9million for a House of Representatives member, to say the least, makes the nation a laughing stock among the comity of nations. Meanwhile, we also advocate the change to a unicameral legislature like it was practised in the First Republic as a way of cutting the cost of servicing the National Assembly members.
That, in our candid view, will not only conserve scarce resources that can be deployed to other sectors for the government to improve the quality of life for the people but in addition reduce encumbrances in running the National Assembly as well as other inherent benefits