The Senate has urged Nigerians seeking to know details of the National Assembly budget to direct their enquiry to the Clerk of the nation’s parliament, Mr. Olatunde Ojo
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Ajibola Basiru, stated this while responding to an enquiry on why the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had yet to publish details of the National Assembly budget, despite his pledge to do so in 2019.
Civil Society Organisations had, in separate interviews with The PUNCH last week, challenged the presiding officers of the National Assembly to disclose details of the 2022 budget of the federal parliament.
The National Assembly got N134 billion from the N16.39 trillion 2022 federal budget announced by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), penultimate Thursday.
President of the Senate in the 8th National Assembly, Bukola Saraki, had on April 12, 2019, released a summarised version of the National Assembly’s 2018 budget.
The current Chairman of the National Assembly, who is also the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had pledged to provide comprehensive financial details of the nation’s parliament while seeking the mandate of his colleagues, as contained in his published agenda.
The presiding officer had yet to fulfil his promise since he took over in June 11, 2019.
But the Senate’s spokesperson said the Clerk to the National Assembly, and not Lawan, has the right to supply the budget breakdown.
He said, “Your question should be addressed to the Clerk to the National Assembly, because even me, (as a Senator), has not seen a copy of the budget breakdown before.
“It is not our job, going by the constitution. Our job, including that of the Senate President, is to make law, perform oversight functions and to confirm appointments of the President’s nominees.
“We are not the one running the bureaucracy of the National Assembly as elected senators.
“So, the budget of the National Assembly is not that of the senators. It is the budget of the bureaucracy of the National Assembly headed by the Clerk.
“So, I will implore you to go and find out from him.”
Heads of civil society groups who spoke with The PUNCH on the issue lamented the development, and noted that it had become a burden of accountability on the part of the federal legislature.
The Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, had said, “The continued refusal of the National Assembly to disclose breakdown of its annual budgets has become a burden of accountability on the legislative arm of government.”
Similarly, the General Secretary of the Campaign for Democracy, Ifeanyi Odili, said non-disclosure of the National Assembly budget details, could encourage corruption.
The Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, Auwal Rafsanjani, called for the establishment of Budget and Research Office for the nation’s parliament.
Also, the founding Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, had said the National Assembly, by its action, cannot pass transparency and accountability test.