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Budget cut, Senate must not fail Nigerians

Akorede Shakir

As Nigeria navigates through the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led dispensation, a lot of dissatisfaction has been expressed by the masses towards the exorbitant budget and spending of the National Assembly. Many civil society groups, and citizens-at-large have begun making strides to ensure that the upper and lower legislative houses adopt considerate budgets by embarking on reducing their salary and allowances in order to allow such funding to permeate other crucial sectors of our economy.

It is important to point out that Nigeria is in a crossroad, as it now has the famed-anti-corruption crusader, Muhammadu Buhari, at the helm of its affairs. This is important because if the country, as exhibited in recent times, is serious about fixing its economy, by plugging many of the loopholes in its revenue streams, as well as making its budgetary system more transparent and accountable, it should also be serious about cutting down on the sort of unnecessary spending that has characterised its national legislature in the past.

Many Nigerians believe that the eighth Senate, under the leadership of Bukola Saraki, has demonstrated a public commitment to actualising the requests of Nigerians to cut down the cost of running the legislature. Dr. Saraki, who had previously served as a banker, and has over the years, demonstrated a sound understanding of economic policies, at his inauguration, promised that the Senate would work to effect positive change in vital areas. 

Saraki, who many believe to be a reform-minded politician, further acknowledged this need for a ‘narrower’ National Assembly budget by saying: “the eighth Senate under our watch recognises the concerns raised by Nigerians about the cost of running office, most especially with the economic challenges facing our nation. Based on this, a 10-man committee, led by veteran Senator, James Manager, was instituted to look at the best strategy to align with the current administration’s efforts to ensure reduction in the cost of governance.’’

 

The Manager-led committee was tasked with finding out the details of the salaries and allowances of each senator and making recommendations on deserved remunerations for each lawmaker “with a view to unravelling the ambiguity in the monthly salaries of legislators and their allowances.”

No doubt, such a committee which comprised of members that made up less than 10 percent of the entire Senate, would have been met with some pushback. However, it would speak to the commitment of the APC-led Senate, under the ‘watch’ and leadership of Saraki, if they can in fact pass the required budgetary cut.

On the executive side, with less than 100 days under his belt, the president has recently engineered a surprising increase in the gross revenue of the federation from N409.3 billion to N630.98 billion. In this regard, the National Assembly now has an opportunity to demonstrate that they too are partners in the quest to reform Nigeria by complimenting the president’s efforts to generate the much-needed funds to run the country.

The argument that the National Assembly only caters for less than 500 members is very germane. That the National Assembly which only caters for 500 members and about 4,500 staff members is run on a budget of N120 billion is quite scary. What this means is that millions of Nigerians are not enjoying the dividends of democracy due to the fact that those with the power to allocate funding, are allocating a substantial share of it to themselves.

It is time that the National Assembly, particularly, the eighth Senate, because of the commitment demonstrated by its president in the past on this issue, begins to work towards demonstrating that they are partners in the quest to form a positive change-oriented Nigeria.

Akorede, a leadership blogger, posted this piece on Abusidiqu.com 

 

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