Hon. Benjamin Kalu, The Spokesperson of the Nigerian House of Representatives, has said that the National Assembly, particularly the Green Chamber is short of funds and its budgetary allocation needs to be increased, Njenje Media News reports.
While addressing journalists on Thursday in Abuja, Kalu said the funds accrued to the National Assembly were grossly inadequate, adding that it was ironical that an institution that appropriates enough funds for Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) was itself underfunded and posited that giving the national parliament a raise was necessary to enable it to serve the Nigerian people effectively and efficiently.
In his words:
“The House is broke, I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid to say it. The House is broke and it is afraid to appropriate the sufficient amount for them to do their job. That is why today, here (briefing room) is hot. That is why the hearing rooms are not fixed. That is why the House is indebted to contractors who provide one form of service or the other. This is a fact.
“Until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly which happened when Naira was 160 to the dollar is less now than what it used to be. The dollar equivalent of naira today has gone up to over N400. The purchasing power of the budget as it is now is weaker than it was 10 years ago.
“The budget of the National Assembly is supposed to be reviewed, in view of its purchasing ability, of the services that will help the parliament to move forward. At the moment, it is a weak budget and that is the truth. I have actually fought with the leadership of the House and I have asked the question, ‘Why are you afraid to raise the budget of the National Assembly that will enable us to conduct our services efficiently and effectively?’ We appropriate for agencies to run effectively, yet we are in penury to our own constitutional mandate. It is a disservice to Nigerians; the poor budget of the parliament is a disservice to Nigerians.
“Let us be fair in our analogy; let us wear the right spectacles when we analyze and you will find out that this N128bn budget of the National Assembly, that is divided among all the agencies of the National Assembly; that is divided among all the staff – over 3000 to 6000 members of staff; that is divided among all the aides, five aides per lawmaker. Sometimes, people wonder if we really need those aides.
“So, if you ask me 20 times, whether the National Assembly is broke until they improve the budget of the National Assembly, I will say, ‘Yes, we are broke”, he said.
The two chambers of the National Assembly currently have a budget of N128 billion annually to cater to the lawmakers, all staff, legislative aides, and all other agencies under them.