REPORT CARD: Nigerian Senators, Reps cornered N600bn in 4 years but passed only 106 bills

Nigerian lawmakers managed to approve only 106 new laws out of 1,063 brought before them in the last four years, despite spending more than half a trillion naira within the period, earning the notorious title as the world’s highest paid legislators.

The figures mean for the National Assembly, with a combined annual budget of N150 billion since 2011, returned 10 per cent in efficiency and averaged about two bills each month.

Each year, the Senate, House of Representatives and allied institutions, compete for government funding with projects designed to provide jobs, healthcare, education and roads to the citizens.

While the Goodluck Jonathan administration has shown its preparedness to cut financing to those vital services to Nigerians in the face of dwindling revenues, the government has helped the lawmakers retain their super N150 billion budget per year in the last four years.

Not even the present oil crisis has been enough to force the government to minimize the lawmakers’ comfort, by redirecting funds to critical areas badly starved of resources.

A typical example is the 2015 budget, affected massively by sliding oil price. The dwindling revenue forced the government to slash spending for roads – Ministry of Works – from about N160 billion to N11 billion for the entire nation. But the federal lawmakers refused to allow even a dime to be sliced off their N150 billion annual budget.

While the National Assembly budget also covers legislative aides, the National Assembly Commission and the Legislative Institute in Abuja, the biggest chunk of the appropriation goes to the 109 Senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives, each year.

But while the lawmakers take so much, their work rate has been dismally poor, PREMIUM TIMES analysis show.

The miserable worth of Nigerian legislators’ output is amplified when compared with their American counterparts, for instance.

While the legislature, under the leadership of David Mark and Aminu Tambuwal at the Senate and House of Representatives respectively managed to clear 106 bills in four years, the U.S. Congress passed 29​7​ just between 2013 and 2014.

That figure was indeed one of the lowest for any U.S. Congress session as the two chambers passed 604 in just 1999, and 460 between 2007 and 2008.

Yet, the Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid, according to a 2012 analysis by the UK-based Economist.

The report compared lawmakers’ earnings with their countries’ GDP – what each citizen is worth if their nation’s total wealth was shared by the population.

The analysis found Nigeria ahead of all other countries of the world, with its lawmakers taking 116 times what an average citizen takes of the GDP.

Kenya and Ghana followed with ratios of 75 and 29.8 respectively.

Norway’s ratio was 1.8, while U.S. lawmakers took 3.8 of what their citizens received.

The United States pays its lawmakers an average annual salary of $174,000 while Britain pays parliamentarians $105,000.

Nigerian lawmakers officially receive a modest pay of about $50,000(about N12m) yearly.
But they also pocket several illegal allowances, including the huge quarterly allowance which is nearly a $1m (N220m) a year.

Bills passed in the 7th assembly

Even with the limited numbers of enacted laws, records show most of the bills came from the Executive. Many were budget bills.

While the lawmakers’ turnover has been poor, several critical bills lie abandoned.

The most notable is the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been at the National Assembly since 2008/2009.

Pressed on why the few bills passed by the Senate are mainly executive-sponsored, the Chairman of the Senate Business and Rules Committee, Ita Enang, said the upper chamber gives no preference to bills before it.

“We don’t select bills to pass, we pass bills based on priority. We don’t say we pass a bill because it is an executive bill,” Mr. Enang said.

Sam Tsokwa, the House of Representatives chairman on rules and business, did not respond to our questions despite scheduling several meetings with our correspondent.

The infographic below illustrate how the N600 billion spent on the National Assembly would have served Nigerians, if well deployed.

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