Nigerian lawmakers’ flair for budgeting enormous funds for themselves without consideration for decaying infrastructure and ordinary Nigerians going through difficulties has again been highlighted as it moved from N23.3 billion in 2003 to N150 billion in 2014.
The increase, according to details released by transparency monitor outfit, BudgIT, represents a whopping 552 per cent within the period in view.
Meanwhile, Nigerian lawmakers are among the highest paid in the world. Last year, a Nigerian senator revealed that the legislators receive N14.25 million (over $40,000) monthly.
Further details, however, shows that the budget moved steadily for another period of five years from 2015 to the current year.
According to the details, while the lawmakers budgeted N115 billion for 2015/2016, it, however, increased by N10 billion in 2017 to N125 billion, increased by N14 billion to N139 billion in 2018 before dropping by N11 billion to N128 billion in the current year.
BudgIt, whose founder, Seun Onigbinde, recently resigned from the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over barrage of criticism from supporters of the administration, is, however, demanding from the office of Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to give a breakdown of how the whole budget amounting to N668.8 billion over the years was disbursed.
According to the transparency body, Nigerians should give their tacit support to the Freedom of Information request sent to RMAFC so as to unravel whatever secrets are behind the disbursements.
The letter dated September 4, 2019, referenced BN/FOI/RMAFC/2019/001, and addressed to the Chairman of the commission, Engr. Elias Mbam, was posted on BudgIt’s twitter handle, @BudgeITng.
The letter, signed by Principal Lead, BudgeIT, Mr. Gabriel Okeowo, is titled ‘Freedom of Information Request for Details/Breakdown of Salaries and Allowances to Legislators in Nigeria.’
It read in part, “On behalf of BudgeIT Nigeria in accordance with Freedom of Information Act 2011 and in the spirit of transparency and accountability, we request the following information; breakdown of salaries and allowances of 469 legislators in the National Assembly.
“We would appreciate if explicit responses are given to each of these questions above and within 7 days as stipulated in the Freedom of Information Act 2011. Kindly note that refusal to respond is subject to prosecution under the law.
In May this year, BudgIT demanded a big cut from the annual budget of the National Assembly, saying that 50 per cent of the budget be centralised in the General Service Unit for efficiency.
Proposing a 58 per cent slash from N125 billion to N52 billion, it also called for a probe into the buying and selling of certain items by the lawmakers.
“NASS budget ballooned from N23.3 billion to N125 billion between 2003 & 2019. On a yearly basis, 50 per cent of this money is spent on stationery, computers, cars etc – all for sale below. Surely there’s a cartel within NASS mgt. Who’ll probe this?” the agency tweeted.
It listed some of the materials for sale to include a Samsung double door refrigerator was given out for N25,000; HP Envy Core 13, N49,000; Apple Ipad Air computer, N41,980; LED TV Samsung UA4600AR 50, N59,500. Shredding machine, N19,800; Water dispenser with bottle, N8,990.
“Photocopying machine Sharp Copier AR 6021 N57,172; Scanner HP Scanjet Pro 3900 Fi N20,130; HP Laserjet Pro M201 N10,038; Desktop Computer Model Envy 23” Touch screen; and Suit hanger N1,900.
“Any member taking the entire 11 items would pay N349, 970.50 with N17,498 .83 as VAT.”
At the moment, a lawsuit to stop the lawmakers from spending N5.5 billion on vehicles is on with thousands of Nigerians seeking to block members of the Senate from using public money to buy luxury cars. The suit was initiated by rights groups that became tired of government corruption.
More than 6,700 Nigerians have joined suit that aims to prevent parliament from releasing 5.5 billion naira — equal to about $15 million — that would enable leaders of the Senate to purchase luxury vehicles.
Three domestic rights groups originated the suit, which was filed with the Nigerian Federal High Court.
BudgIT’s Communications Associate, Shakir Akorede, while speaking on the class action suit, said: “This is living the luxury life by the so-called representatives of the people. How in any way does this plan show the seriousness, the commitment on the part of the government to solve our socioeconomic crisis?”