NASS Budget: Nigerians remain in the dark as Mark, Ribadu clash

By Amako Nneji June 2, 2015 13:39

NASS Budget: Nigerians remain in the dark as Mark, Ribadu clash

A Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu on Monday stirred the hornet’s nest by calling on the lawmakers-elect to make their monthly salaries public and also cut their budgets in line with the current economic realities.

He made this call at a retreat organized for the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, National Assembly Members-elect in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

    “If Nigerians do not know how much is earmarked for the National Assembly or how much money a Senator earns, they will not support you. We must understand the pulse or the mood of the nation.

    “The first step, therefore, is to open up the National Assembly by ensuring transparency. Public office is what it is; public. Also, at this critical time of austerity, be champions by slashing your own budget.

But the outgoing Senate President David Mark, who showed his dissatisfaction with Ribadu’s charge, wondered why “every time, people talk about the National Assembly budget.”

He explained that the National Assembly budget was in the public domain stressing that legislators had always made sacrifices.

    “Our budget is open; what we earn as National Assembly members is open. If anybody wants to receive his salary and donate it, he is free to do so. He does not need to consult us. I think we should not play politics with what is a very serious issue. Our budget is in the open and everybody can see it,” Mark fumed.

Following David Mark’s outburst, Nigerians have been thrown into confusion as to who was speaking the truth.

Two civil society organisations, BudgIT and Public and Private Development Centre had by late April this year threatened to sue the National Assembly for refusing to disclose the details of its budget in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The National Assembly has had a budget of N150 billion per year since 2011.

The organizations said they had collaboratively made an FOI request, dated March 17, 2015, to the clerk of the National Assembly requesting the detailed breakdown of NASS budget of N150bn for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014; a​s​ well as the performance report for National Assembly budget of N150bn for 2011, 2012 and 2013.

According to them, “This request was made following the long-standing secrecy around the budget of the National Assembly,

    “In response, the Nigerian legislative arm excused its refusal to disclose its budget on the basis that it contains personal; third party related and privileged information.”

From 1999 to date, an estimated budgetary provision of N1.26 trillion has been made to the National Assembly, with Nigerians kept in the dark on what or how this huge sum was spent.

However the outgoing Senate President who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly maintained that the NASS budget was not as secret as Nigerians were speculating.

    “We are trying our best more than any Ministry today. I can put my hand on my chest without fear of contradiction at all and say we made a lot of sacrifices in our budgeting system.”

In 2014, Former President Olusengu Obasanjo, who was speaking at the public presentation of the autobiography of Justice Mustapha Akanbi, in Abuja, regretted that every aspect of Nigeria’s National Assembly life was shrouded in secrecy.

    “Apart from shrouding the remunerations of the National Assembly in opaqueness and without transparency, they indulge in extorting money from departments, contractors and ministries in two ways,” Obasanjo had said.