The demand by active citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the National Assembly to open up its budget to a level that provides full details and also to ensure that both the Nigerian Senate and House of Representative explains how approximately N1.3 trillion has be allocated to the National Assembly (~ $4.2 billion) between 2006 and 2016, and there are no records of how most of this monies were spent.
The National Assembly is statutorily entitled to N115bn and N150bn in 2016 and 2017 respectively as a first line deduction, which means top priority is granted to the needs of Nigeria’s lawmakers. Regardless of the dynamics of Nigeria’s finances at the relevant time, the lawmakers get their allowances and salaries. The details of this transaction, as significant as the funds are, remain shrouded in secrecy; no public details exist on how the funds are spent and a proper audit is not made available to citizens.
In the typical budget of most Ministries, including the Presidency, it is clear how much is budgeted for cutlery, travels and salaries. However, the National Assembly does not disclose a single item on how it allocations are spent and its budget is higher than individual budget of 23 states in Nigeria.
Even more remarkable and inimical to our democracy is that the same respect accorded to the National Assembly where taxpayers’ monies are disbursed as a matter of priority into lawmakers’ pockets has not been accorded to Nigerians. Sixteen years and 5 elections into our democracy, no one seems ready to let the people know precisely how their money is being expended, much less if the lawmakers are providing value for money to the populace.
We will be increasing our engagement using mobile technology and additional media platforms to enable Nigerians to get engaged, informed and most importantly, take action. A toll-free line is now available for citizens to sign the petition on the National Assembly budget breakdown and get other information on governance issues.
The ‘flash’ service toll free lines to call are 08139861001 and 08139861002. 'Flash' service meaning upon dialing, the call drops up and calls you back immediately. The hotline is in English, Igbo, Pidgin, Hausa and Yoruba. Through the hotline and our engagements on social and traditional media, we will promote three advocacy goals:
The National Assembly should publish the breakdown of its 2016 and 2017 budgets;
Maintain a functional website, provide contact information of its members, activate the switchboard in the National Assembly complex so citizens can engage their representatives and make attendance records public;
Replace voice voting with electronic voting and making voting records public.
The National Assembly is a critical institution in our democracy and we will ensure that it is repurposed to serve all Nigerians, not just a few. They are currently on recess until January and we encourage citizens to engage them at home and demand for accountability so they can start the New Year delivering on their promise.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.