The National Assembly has slashed its overhead budget by 25 percent due to Nigeria’s economic downturns, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu has said.
Mr. Ekweremadu said the slash will help free up more funds for capital expenditure.
He made the disclosure at the opening of a two-day seminar organised by the State Accountability and Voice Initiative; and the United Kingdom Department for International Development for Speakers and Clerks to the 36 State Assemblies.
The theme of the seminar was the implications of financial autonomy for state Houses of Assembly and strategies for its effective implementation.
Although the funds of the National Assembly is now on first line charge and comes as statutory transfer, the legislative arm decided to reduce its budget itself, having considered the present economic realities of the country, Mr. Ekweremadu explained.
“This year, because our money is on first line charge and comes as statutory transfer, the executive could not have tampered with it. They brought our overhead the way it should be in the 2015 Appropriation Bill.
“But on our own, we in the National Assembly looked at the state of the economy and decided to cut our overhead cost by 25 percent. We challenged the executive to go back and do the same.
“They accepted the challenge and cut further their overhead budget. So, we are hoping that Nigerians would see a remarkable improvement in the capital-overhead ratio in the 2015 budget,” Mr Ekweremadu said.
According to him, the creation of a first line charge for the state Houses of Assembly “is one of the biggest achievements of the current constitutional amendment efforts in the pursuit of good governance, accountability, and fiscal federalism in Nigeria.”
Continuing, “With a first line charge on the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the state legislatures have become fully self-regulating, self-budgeting, self-reliant and wholly-autonomous from executive control.
“In other words, we have effectively averted a situation where he who pays the piper dictates the tune. We have carefully enthroned the equality of all arms of government and done away with a situation where state legislatures go cap in hand to the executive arm.”
Financial autonomy for Houses of Assembly was one of the clauses supported by the states’ legislatives arms under the bill for altercation of the 1999 Constitution.
But such other important clause as full financial and administrative autonomy of the 774 local government areas of the country was rejected by 20 of the 36 Houses of Assembly, after duly passed by both chambers of the National Assembly.
In the Nigeria laws, amendment of the constitution requires two-thirds majority of each chamber of the National Assembly and two-thirds of the 36 Houses of Assembly.