A member of the House of Representatives has said the ₦37 billion fund for the renovation of the National Assembly complex as well as the ongoing purchase of vehicles for lawmakers, should be jettisoned. Instead, the money should be channelled into educating out-of-school children, he said.
Although the 2020 budget has been signed into law by the president, Farah Dagogo (PDP, Rivers) urged the House to “thoroughly consider” the use of “legislative backing to rework the ₦37 billion already budgeted for the renovation of the National Assembly” for the menace of out-of-school children.
Mr Dagogo, who spoke at an interactive session with journalists in Abuja on Monday, made this comment after his party member from Delta State, Ndudi Elumelu, also the Minority Leader, gave a similar suggestion.
Mr Elumelu, last Thursday, had said to reduce Nigeria’s out-of-school children, every Nigerian lawmaker needs to donate a share of their quarterly allowances to return the children back to school.
Last Thursday’s plenary was devoted by the green chamber to hatch a way forward on the menace of out-of-school children.
Nigeria nurses a sore thumb of about 10.5 million of its children not being in school, the highest by any country, UNICEF says.
Apart from inept policies and poor implementation, funding is believed to be a major underbelly to education in Nigeria. Allocation to the sector has largely hovered around five to 7 per cent of national budgetary spendings.
The country’s ₦706.8 billion allocation to education is a paltry 6.6 per cent of the 2020 budget. Although UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report recommended between 15 and 20 per cent of national budgets for education in developing countries.
PREMIUM TIMES has also shown that with the recommended target not met, 69 per cent (₦490.3 billion) of the amount earmarked to the sector is for settling bills, paying of salaries, among others.
But Mr Dagogo, who represents Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency, said funding can be improved if the ninth assembly would “prove it is a group (of lawmakers) who are willing and ready to sacrifice their comfort for the benefit of the masses, who are also our constituents.”
“We all know the financial quagmire the country is into today. All levels of government are working round the clock to improve the lives of the masses. If we are truly desirous of getting this out-of-school children debacle right, the renovation of the National Assembly, purchase of cars and other sundry matters should be shelved.
“How to better the lives of our children for the future should be the priority,” he noted, adding, “Even if most people would not want to admit it, the National Assembly is an institution known for taking proactive steps and measures that serve the interest of the country. This is another moment to test that character.”
Mr Dagogo’s view was shared by Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun), who called the intended spending for NASS renovation wasteful and needless. It is the same thought held by Akin Alabi, (APC, Oyo).
“I see no reason why we should spend N37b renovating the National Assembly,” Mr Alabi wrote in a tweet. “Yes, we need an upgrade on some aspects like the electronic systems (sound system, voting system etc) as they are outdated but N37b? No. Let’s spend that on our schools and hospitals.”
Another lawmaker, Armaya’u Abdulkadir (APC, Katsina), also believes the ₦37 billion “can transform thousands of lives if channelled into proper use.”
The leadership of both the upper and lower Houses have downplayed all criticism, saying the fund is not within the purview of the National Assembly but with the Federal Capital Territory Authority (FCTA).
They were, however, silent on why both chambers overlooked this during the screening of MDAs budgets.
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