The National Assembly leadership has been urged to cut the lawmakers’ budget in line with the current economic realities.
In a statement on Sunday, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) asked the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, to “promptly cut the outrageous National Assembly budget of N228.1bn, including the N30.17bn severance payments and inauguration costs for members (the highest ever).”
SERAP’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, wants them to “propose a fresh budget for the National Assembly that would reflect the current economic realities in the country, address the debt crisis, and prevent retrogressive economic measures.”
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The National Assembly had increased its 2023 budget from N169bn proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N228.1bn. The approved budget shows an increase of about N59.1bn. The country’s budget of N21.89tn is based on a N10.49tn revenue, and N11.34tn deficit.
But the rights group said it is a grave violation of the public trust and constitutional oath of office for the members of the National Assembly to increase their own budget at a time when some 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty.”
“Cutting the National Assembly budget would reduce the growing budget deficit, address the unsustainable debt burden, and serve the public interest,” the statement read.
“By increasing its own budget, the National Assembly has unjustifiably and disproportionately reduced the budget for UBEC. This is a travesty, especially given that Nigeria currently has over 20 million out-of-school children, and half of all poor people in the country are children.
“Rather than exercising its oversight functions to check the persistent borrowing by President Muhammadu Buhari, and scrutinising the apparently unlawful overdrafts and loans obtained by the Federal Government from the Central Bank of Nigeria, the National Assembly is increasing its own budget.
“This outrageous waste of public money would substantially increase the cost of governance, and exacerbate the debt crisis. It is unlawful, and unfair to the Nigerian people.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and the National Assembly to comply with our request in the public interest.”