18 months on, Saraki fails serial promises to disclose National Assembly budget

Bukola Saraki

After 18 months in the saddle as President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly, Bukola Saraki has refused to honour repeated promises to Nigerians to publicly disclose the details of the lawmakers’ budget.

Mr. Saraki came to office in June 2015 promising accountability and transparency, but ever since, he has reneged on every promise to open the budget of the National Assembly to the public.

With N23.347 billion in 2003, the National Assembly’s budget now stands at about N115 billion, representing over 492 per cent rise in 13 years. Until 2016, the budget had often gone as high as N150 billion.

In 2010, when the budget hit a shocking record sum of N154.2 billion, David Mark, Mr. Saraki’s predecessor, decided to block Nigerians from knowing details of how the National Assembly’s jumbo allocations were spent, especially how much members earned in allowances, thus wrapping up the federal legislators’ finances in utmost secrecy.

So, in one masterstroke of legislative brinkmanship, the National Assembly’s budget, hitherto open to public scrutiny, like those of ministries, departments and agencies, suddenly became secret after the body legislated, in 2010 under Mr. Mark, to make itself member of an exclusive club of opaque agencies whose budget details are never disclosed but whose finances are deducted en-bloc (first-line charge) via statutory transfers.

Mr. Saraki clinched the Senate leadership in June 2015, days after Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated Nigeria’s president. In the spirit of the high hope that waste, corruption, impunity and opacity would be fought in the country’s public institutions, Nigerians reignited calls for an open budget at the National Assembly.

Apparently conscious of the popular wish, Mr. Saraki included in his inauguration speech the vow to “change from impunity and elite arrogance to a life of accountability,” and then circulated a text in which he named a committee “to review NASS budget, to make it open and more realistic.”

The said committee, as mentioned in the text, included Dino Melaye, Ben Bruce, Shehu Sani and Gbenga Ashafa.

With his initial promise of accountability yielding no result, on November 15, 2015, Mr. Saraki again promised to open the NASS budget.

“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,” he said.

Then on February 2, 2016, Mr. Saraki again promised a detailed breakdown of the NASS budget while addressing journalists during the commissioning of the renovated press centre at the Senate.

“I can assure you that we are going to move away from the time of one item line National Assembly to National Assembly where there will be breakdowns according to the different sections,” he said.

On March 13, 2016, the promise was repeated. That day, Mr. Saraki in a statement promised the budget details would be released ‘next week’.

March 13, 2016 was a Sunday. Therefore, Mr. Saraki’s promise should have materialised between March 14 and 19, being the workdays within his ‘next week’. But again, he failed to keep the promise.

Towards the end of 2016, it was becoming clear Mr. Saraki was not sincere about his vaunted commitment to #OpenNass, thereby becoming a target of criticisms by Nigerians trying to hold him to account.

“We knew from our engagement with the leadership of the National Assembly that the budget doesn’t exist,” said Yemi Adamolekun of Enough is Enough, a civil society group.

But the National Assembly actually has a budget, though, it is so mysterious that many of the lawmakers do not know its details.

In March 2016, PREMIUM TIMES had a rare access to the general framework of the NASS budget and made it public. 

Against the background of the renewed criticisms in December, Mr. Saraki, through his media aide, Bankole Omishore, promised the budget details would be released in a “few days’ time”.

The last promise was made on December 20; but 15 days later, the promise is yet to be redeemed.

The National Assembly may commence work on the 2017 budget proposal by Mr. Buhari when it resumes next week without fulfilling the pledge to disclose details of its 2016 budget.

After #OpenNass, Mr. Saraki is currently preoccupied by #madeinNigeria on Twitter, promoting goods made in the country.

The Senate President’s spokesperson, Yusuph Olaniyonu, Thursday morning justified his principal’s false statements.

“Are you people not tired of this thing,” said Mr. Olaniyonu when pressed for comment on his principal’s failure to make the NASS budget public.

“We are no longer in 2016; this is 2017.”

He said it was “not logical” to account for what was promised last year in the current year.

“It is like asking me to predict a match that had been played. Event has overtaken it.”

While Mr. Saraki continued to make unfulfilled promises to Nigerians, the Senate as a body does not appear to believe in the need to allow Nigerians see details of its finances.

When PREMIUM TIMES spoke with the spokesperson of the Senate, Aliyu Abdullahi, on Wednesday, he claimed that the Senate’s “budget has always been open as far as I am concerned”.

The repeated public demand for the budget is baseless, said Mr. Abdullahi, adding that, “the National Assembly does not have same budget structure with the Executive and it is not in the public interest to see everything in the budget (of the NASS).”

He was reminded that the budget of the NASS pre-2010, when Mr. Mark enthroned the culture of secrecy, had detailed breakdown like those of the ministries.

“I don’t know because I was not there,” he replied.

He however said a committee was working on improving the budget process of the National Assembly.


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  • Höly Wähala

    It is not just the NASS who have reneged on disclosure promises, President Buhari and vP Osinbajo have also not fully disclosed their assets declaration forms as equally promised prior to their elections. @Premium Times can better serve her readers by first finding out the address of Buhari’s mansion in Maitama District so Nigerians would get an idea how much Mr. President pockets as rent from that property alone. Nigerians already know recurrent costs gulp 75% of our annual Budget and the NASS swallows 55% of it so, disclosing line-items details is of no pragmatic use if the lawmakers are not willing to take a salary slash in stinging economic woes as these days… food is our priority not information, it’s the Economy, stoopid!

    • Banga

      You are wrong. Buhari should first declare his true educational status by SHOWING us his certificate. Pure and simple…then and then only can we move on to other issues like full disclosure of assets. Did we not warn e-rabbits like you? In my Niger Delta we are told a parable that a Cock is noticeable even amongst day old Chicks. We knew Buhari to be not only an academic dumb but a serial failure and incapable of succeeding in anything but the bang of misguided elements and the useless US govt ran a campaign of calumny via terrorist attacks against the fisherman…the same they did against Donald but the non cowardly US citizenry stopped them…………………….and by the way what we need is not food but information –

      ….Information about where the Chibok girls were or are actually kept (in Emir’s palaces or politicians’)
      ….Information about who are the SPONSORS of Boko Haram
      ….Information about the exact details of the SALARIES and BONUSES of the thieeeeeeves in NASS
      ….Information about how Buhari and his wife and children eat food worth over 400m Naira in 365 days
      ….Information about number of persons have received treatment @Aso Rock Clinic from May 29th 2015 – date
      ….Information about the cost of treatment & expenditure @Aso Rock Clinic from May 29th 2015 – date, vis-à-vis the over N3bn budgeted
      ….Information about Buhari’s High school (WAEC) certificate
      ….Information about Buhari’s wealth – houses, bank accounts etc and why he is REFUSING to make them public
      ….Information about why crooked Ministers and govt officials like Army Chief Burutai, Ex Governor Amaechi of Rivers
      ….etc, etc, etc

      To say food is the problem is to be naïve and to be a willing accomplice to the pervasive criminality in Buhari’s govt…and it would be comparable to a man who has no money to buy gas to power his Car and then decides to sell the Car to get money to buy gas, only to discover that there is no Car anymore to put the gas in. It has no other name, it is called OLODOnomics!

  • Abdullah Musa

    Nigerians do not care about accountability.
    It is only newspapers and civil societies that bother.
    Otherwise two major parties, apc and pdp are the ones controlling National Assembly.
    So if NASS refuses to be transparent it is these two parties that support it.
    Our misfortune is that there is no third party able to take power at national level.

    • DONALDSON

      dont forget that the senate. is controlled by APC, the government that fight corruption. lol, lol.

      • Abdullah Musa

        I don’t want to forget, that why I wished for a third party.
        But on your part you want to forget that it was Ekweremadu of PDP that made Saraki’s leadership of Senate possible.

        • DONALDSON

          how can Ekweremadu who was in minority political party, facilitated the enthronment of saraki as Senate’s president in a house were APC senators are the majority. pls think well befor making any comment.

          • Abdullah Musa

            Donaldson, you must be a foreigner.
            Saraki used pdp Senators to emerge Senate president.
            If you doubt me ask Tinubu.

  • marig

    Lazy press. Wants to be spoon fed. Always waiting for that envelope. Why don’t you find out by yourselves?

  • Hakeem

    Where is FOIA? Can’t the Press take take the necessary step to invoke the law! Nigerian Press should please wake up to its constitutional responsibility!

  • Hajiya Tunsj Soyemi(mai fura)

    How far with the ‘public declaration’ of Assets by the President and VP?
    They also promised!
    Without making noise, Late yaradua published his COMPLETED assets declaration form as submitted to the CCB for the world to see.
    WHY ARE BUHARI AND OSINBAJO STALLING???
    WHAT ARE THEY TRYING TO HIDE??

  • khalil

    @premium Times, I hope you guys have heard of the latest storm set to hit already impoverished naijas?
    responsible media Org are reporting that with the increase in global prices of crude oil, the landing cost of PMS to the country is now above N200/litre.. and marketers have stopped importing!
    Analysts say two options are open to baba buhari;
    1) return to massive subsidy with NNPC being the sole importer..with return of Naijas to sleeping on long queues as NNPC CANNOT handle it alone.

    2) increase the pump price of petrol..and face the wrath of impoverished Naijas reeling under the harsh APC policies and recession!

    HOW FAR WITH THE N40/LITER APC PROMISED???
    LOL!

  • Kamoru

    This is happening under an APC dominated national assembly.

    Mtcheuw! Change indeed!

    • Vivarevo2

      @disqus_ljMvZPzkpc:disqus Thefts have now so thoroughly
      percolated the entire Nigerian society that there’s no other solution
      to this epidemic of thefts than a root-and-ranch overhaul of Nigeria by
      targeted killings in a bloody revolutionary change.

      “Only a bloody revolution can save Nigeria”
      said the country’s top constitutional lawyer, Professor Ben Nwabueze who’s
      concluded that genocidal thefts in Nigeria can’t be stopped by just preaching
      against it. Official thefts now reach half the budgets in each of the 36 states
      and verges close to 50% of the federal budget itself – meaning that the 169
      million citizens outside power are being wickedly forced into a deadly struggle
      with extreme poverty for scrappy assets still left un-stolen by the 3,000 rogue
      government officials.

  • emmanuel

    Is it Saraki who has failed or Muhammadu Bokohari? Honestly something is inherently wrong with PTimes, their reporters and certainly the Editors. Where has Buhari succeeded since he came about 2 years ago? He claims to have defeated terrorists but non of them nor their leaders are prosecuted, jailed or executed. Claims of terrorists killed at the battle front are never supported with names of the dead or photos. EVERYTHING about this useless Buhari;’s govt is propaganda and media houses like PTimes are not helping matters at all.

  • wazobia ninja!!!!!!

    crooked saraki …….. that isn’t surprising ……..

    • Elderman

      @disqus_ljMvZPzkpc:disqus

      Bukola Saraki as President Buhari’s ‘criminal burden’

      Whether the Buhari government can be believed as clear-headed, consistent and honest
      will henceforth depend on the triad of cases pending investigation and decision; namely,
      the one [1] billion Naira President Buhari quietly stuffed into the back pocket of retired
      Brigadier Buba Marwa; and two, the Bukola Saraki illicit assets’ concealment case
      at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, and, finally, the over one trillion Naira missing
      and deemed stolen under Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi at the Central Bank –
      as uncovered by an audit in 2014 completed by the federal government
      of Nigeria. Without passing this three-part litmus test, Buhari will only
      invoke his anti-corruption rhetoric in vain to provoke laughter.

  • Dadandidi2017

    DEAR EDITOR,

    Is it true that the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Danladi Umar, has once again adjourned the case against Bukola Saraki until the year 2031 A.D? Somebody in the bus this morning said the case was adjourned till the year 2031.
    I just want to know if it is true.

    I am aware that there were three months adjournment in June and another three weeks adjournment in October. But I was not aware that there’s been a latest adjournment until the next 14 years. If this is true does President Buhari really think he
    is fighting corruption? If he does he’s deceiving only himself and making see him as the worst and most useless president Nigeria has ever had.

    • Jacky

      Has 2017 budget been passed? Are you a small boy? Use your third eye!

  • Echele

    Buhari promised transparency during his election campaign, but has failed 1000% to do anything about transparency. Buhari is pretending to be a by-stander in these matters, but he is the chief executive and not a ceremonial president like Azikiwe. If he truly wants transparency in government he can enforce the law to make it happen. He had promised to publicly declare his assets and also require all lawmakers and political appointees to do same, but he provided only a scanty list of assets, and therefore had no moral authority to compel political office holders to do the same.

  • RAPE on The Niger DELTA

    There is massive poverty in the Niger Delta. There is nothing to show for the wealth of the region as monies from the region are used to develop Abuja and the rest of the country. The only benefit the oil producing and resource owners – Biafra and Niger Delta regions benefit from Nigeria are :
    – Pollution
    – Neglect
    – Violence
    – Military Occupation
    – Wanton arrest of its citizens
    – Harassment
    – Sponsored propaganda to defame
    – Bypass in political appointments
    – Hate, hate and more hate
    – Etc etc, etc

    SECESSION is the only way for the Niger Delta and the people of the East (Biafran) regions if they must achieve their potentials and those of us who do not want to be associated with Nigeria in any way should be left alone to have our separate country. And this is what we must do. May God be with our freedom fighting comrades.

    • Noble

      SECESSION? Good riddance! If this happens then Nigeria will be in peace!

  • westman

    Only the gullible fellows believe these thieves called Nigerian politicians. Very soon they will pretend like they love us by telling us what is ponzi and not.
    While some are being scammed because of false promise of 1000% return in 20 minutes. We are making cool cash in Ultimate cycler. Our Group is acclaimed the best Ultimate Cycler group in Nigeria. I registered 5days ago and I just got paid 50k today. Ultimate cycler is tested,tried and trusted. Register with our group today and make cool cash. Whatsapp +2348063667191

  • Man_Enough

    Is this issue above the freedom of information act? Let some patriots help us to enforce it.

  • real

    PURE CRIMINALS. that is the simple truth to this. we have criminal governing the country and it is Nigerian voter fault. The average Nigeria is the reason why Nigeria is where it is. we Nigerian’s are strong people, and very patient people. we suffer in silence and continue to believe that our suffering would be rewarded by the politician someday. I hope this president would be the final nail in the coffin. if we want change, we need to demand it, pour on the street and demand the change we want. shut down the government with work stoppage and demand change. it is only in Nigeria that government worker would work for years and not get paid. yet the politician are buying new car each year for themselves. in any other country, the people would be on the street demanding their payment. if we want change we must act right now. it is time to demand change and continue to force this politician to make the change.