After months of public outcry over its lavish annual budget, Nigeria’s National Assembly has finally accepted a N20 billion cut to its budget, the first time it would do so since 2011.
This year, the National Assembly will spend N130 billion, and no longer N150 billion, according to the 2015 Appropriation Act signed this month by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Since 2011, the legislature had maintained a super annual budget package of N150 billion, with details of the spending kept top secret for four years.
Even as Nigeria faced a devastating revenue shortage due to sliding oil price in 2014, the Nigerian government proposed another N150 billion for the lawmakers for the 2015 fiscal year.
But while the lawmakers have now agreed a N20 billion cut following months of criticism, its new N130 billion allocation still outweighs the individual budgets of 19 states in Nigeria, PREMIUM TIMES analysis has shown.
Only 17 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory Administration have budgets that are equal to, or above that of the National Assembly.
The federal legislature consisting of the Senate, the House of Representatives, the National Assembly Service Commission and the Legislative Institute of Nigeria; has just over 2,000 persons.
The National Assembly has 469 members in addition to legislative aides and other support staff which are less than 1, 600 persons.
On the contrary, every state of the Federation have the full complements of the legislature, the executive, the judiciary, a robust civil service, and of course millions of citizens to care for.
Some of the states with smaller budgets include Ebonyi (N80 billion), Yobe (N80.6 billion) Niger (80.8 billion), Ekiti (N80.9 billion), Gombe (N86. 8 billion), Zamfara (N92.8 billion), and Enugu (N96.7 billion).
Others are Taraba, Benue, Jigawa and Adamawa. (See full list below).
Currently, the national lawmakers have been found to be paying themselves salaries and allowances outside the recommendations of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RMAFC.
A former RMAFC’s Chairman, Hamman Tukur, had publicly accused the legislators of paying themselves illegal salaries and allowances.
In a year, the senators pocket over N19.6 billion while members of the House of Representatives earn N38.8 billion in allowances apart from other official perks.
At the beginning of the current oil price fall, the government embarked on austerity measures including cutting the cost of governance and the reduction in the national capital budget to its lowest in a decade.
While the presidency agreed to slash its budget from N36.1 billion in 2014, to N26.7 billion in 2015, the National Assembly was given a proposal of N150 billion it has been collecting since 2011.
The presidency includes the State House, and several offices such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the Bureau of Public Procurement, BPP, and others.
Specifically, the budget for State House, which has the office of the president and vice president, was reduced from N12.15 billion in 2014, to N9.56 billion in 2015.
With the N130billion allocated to the National Assembly, we found out that some states of the Federation with over four million people, will spend far less in their 2015 budgets.
Rising Calls for Budget Cuts
A Senator-elect from Kogi State, Dino Melaye, is one of the new national lawmakers who has vowed to champion a campaign for salary cut for his colleagues.
Mr. Melaye, a former member of the House of Representatives, joined many Nigerians to demand a reduction in the salaries of senators and members of the House of Representatives, saying he will personally champion the cause.
He insisted that lawmakers must sacrifice their comfort and allow a pay cut, to yield money that could be used for development projects and proper oversight role.
Rights activist and Senator-elect, Shehu Sani, also shares Mr. Melaye’s position on the remuneration of the country’s lawmakers.
He argued that the way democracy is practiced in the country is too costly. To save cost, therefore, he canvassed the adoption of a unicameral legislature in the country.
Mr. Sani, however, charged the incoming national lawmakers to try to make sacrifices by accepting the review their allowances and salaries.
“Following the hard times and the state of the nation‘s economy, there is need for our lawmakers to make sacrifices,” said Mr. Sani.
“Elective office should be selfless. The image of the lawmakers for now is not good for the integrity of that office.”
States and their budgets. Eighteen states have figures lower than the National Assembly’s N130 billion for 20115.