The House of Representatives is to receive the highest allocation in National Assembly’s N115 billion budget for 2016, details of the proposal exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES ahead of an official release, shows.
The public release of specific allocations to the various arms of the assembly will be the first time in five years.
Despite public criticisms against the assembly’s huge budget, details seen by this newspaper show the N115 billion aggregate may be retained after all.
In the budget President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the joint sitting of the Senate and House of Representatives December 22, the sum of N115 billion was allocated to the National Assembly without breaking down the details of the allocations to its arms.
The bulk allocation to the National Assembly began in 2011. Since then the legislature has resisted demands for a breakdown of allocations to its arms and has rebuffed calls for transparency in its annual spending.
Since taking office in 2015, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who is the chairman of the National Assembly, repeatedly assured that henceforth the details of its budget would be made known to Nigerians as part of the efforts to ensure transparency in its operations.
The draft budgetary allocations to the National Assembly shows that out of the N115 billion allocated to the legislature, N105.4 billion has been set aside as recurrent expenditure while N9.6 billion is for capital projects.
The draft breakdown, expected to be adopted by the Senate and House of Representatives at their plenary sessions Thursday barring any last minute change of mind, also shows that the 360-member House of Representatives will get N47.2 billion.
Of that figure, proposed recurrent expenditure is N44. 6 billion while the capital expenditure is N2.7 billion. The personnel cost for the lower chamber is N4.9 billion while the overhead cost is N39.6 billion.
The proposed allocation to the Senate is N30. 2 billion. The breakdown shows that the upper house would spend N3.3 billion on capital projects and N26.97 billion on recurrent. Its personnel cost is N1,856,510,517 and overhead cost is N25,111,332,147.
The Public Accounts Committee of the Senate was allocated N115,008,000 while its House counterpart got N138,009,000.
The management arm has a total allocation of N11,625,392,906 with N10,048,616,823 as recurrent expenditure and N1,576,776,083 as capital votes. Its personnel cost is N6,372,434,997 and overhead cost N3,676,181,826.
The sum of N9458,800,803 was allocated for General Services. When broken down, the recurrent profile is N,669,079,143 while the capital expenditure profile stands at N789,721,660.
Other arms of the federal legislature that received allocations are National Assembly Service Commission and the National Assembly Legislative Institute.
The NASC got N1,971,833,327 with N1,858,033,532 as recurrent expenditure and N113,799,795 for capital projects. Its personnel cost is N810,084,566 while the overhead is N1,047,950,966.
On its part, the NALI secured a total of N4,208,813,051 with N3,844,990,172 as capital and N363,822,879 as recurrent. A further breakdown shows that its personnel cost is 363,522,879 while overhead is N3,019,355,811.
A total of N9,668,983,512 has been set aside for the legislative aides of the lawmakers while the Service Order Vote is N374,405,631.
The expected release of the detailed budgetary allocations to the various arms of the National Assembly will be the first since 2011.
Until that year, allocations to the arms had been detailed in the budget presented by the past presidents to the legislature.
The budgets prepared by the Goodluck Jonathan administration for the National Assembly between 2011 and 2015 did not provide specifics.
Similarly, the then Senate President, David Mark, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, never bothered to disclose the details of the budgetary allocations to the National Assembly, which came to N715 billion.
The sum of N150 billion each was allocated to the legislature in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 while it got N115 billion in 2015.
The secrecy with which the National Assembly engaged in financial transactions attracted public outcry with many demanding that such transactions should be made open.
In January, a former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter he addressed to Mr. Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, said the practice in the National Assembly “detracts from “distinguishness” and “honourability” because it is shrouded in opaqueness and absolute lack of transparency and could not be regarded as normal, good and decent practice in a democracy that is supposed to be exemplary.”
Since he assumed office last year, Mr. Saraki had repeatedly assured that the financial transactions of the National Assembly would be open.
In an interview with a team of editors of the London based magazine- the Economist last Sunday, the senate president said the budget breakdown of the lawmakers would be published this week.
He said the decision to publish the details of the budget was in line with the anti-corruption stance of the 8th National Assembly, adding that the legislature would not cover any form of corruption.
“For the first time we promised Nigerians that the Senate will disclose its budget breakdown, the committee will make its report available by next week. We are resolved to break the tradition of one line item,” he said.
Mr. Saraki said that the Senate would partner with President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the success of the anti-corruption war.
He had made similar promises in the past. In his inauguration speech on June 9, 2015, the senate president told Nigerians that the era of impunity and arrogance in the country was gone.
He said there would be “a change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability and respect for every citizen, regardless of tribe, gender, religion and political persuasion. We must justify the privilege of representation conferred in us by the people.”
“As the President of the 8th Senate and chairman of the National Assembly, I shall be guided by the enormity of the responsibilities that this moment imposes on all of us,” he stressed.
In another media interview, Mr. Saraki, He said, “By the time we come in to the 2016 budget at the end of the year, it will be even clearer because people just see one item line.
“But that is not going to happen now, you will see what goes to the Senate, what goes to the House of Reps, you are going to see what goes to management, what goes to Legislative Institute, we are going to make all these open and clear. That is part of the openness we promised.”
Again, while receiving the leadership of the All Progressive Congress Youth Forum in his office as part of the celebration of this year’s International Youth Day in August, Mr. Saraki said the Senate had nothing to hide.
He said, “I want to assure you, despite all what you read in the papers, be rest assured that we are here for serious business. We are all committed to make a difference and my doors are open.
“Very soon, from what I am being told from the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, we are trying to move fast about the e-parliament so that everybody here can know what we are doing and they can also contribute to some of the discussions.
“We want to make this place as open as possible. There is nothing here we are hiding. What is our great motivation? Nigerians spoke at the last elections and I don’t think they spoke for things to be the same and we must not let it be the same. We must ensure that it is positively different.”