House of Reps spokesman says N134bn for National Assembly in 2022 budget is too small

THE SUM of N134 billion allocated to the National Assembly in the 2022 Appropriation Bill is too small, according to the spokesman of the House of Representatives.

Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs Benjamin Kalu complained about the amount during a debate on October 14.

The lawmaker suggested that the National Assembly was being underfunded.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had, on October 7, presented a proposed total budget of N16.39 trillion for 2022 to the National Assembly.

Out of the amount, N134 billion was allocated to the National Assembly, which comprises the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Speaking during a debate on the proposed budget, Kalu noted that a 58.7 per cent increase in statutory transfers in the 2022 budget was not reflected in the allocation to the National Assembly.

The House of Representatives spokesman also suggested that budgetary allocations to the National Assembly had been declining in recent years.

He said the development was a major concern for the lawmakers.

“It concerns the House because the statutory transfer, as we have mentioned, there is an increase from N484.49 billion to N768.28 billion and that is a reflection of 58.7 per cent increase. An increase of about N283.79 billion.

“Do you know that this increase does not reflect in the amount that comes to the National Assembly?

“But remember, when we had a budget with lower aggregate expenditure, it was reduced from N150 billion to N128 billion.

“Though we have the challenges with our foreign exchange and the challenges of the purchasing power of the currency, why are we depending on N134 billion?

“Do you know what N134 billion represents for the statutory transfer?

“Let me give you this example. In 2019, we had N125 billion given to the National Assembly and that is at the level of 1.42 per cent of the N8.83 trillion.

“In 2020, we had N128 billion given to National Assembly. That was a reduction from 1.42 to 1.18 percentage of that N10.8 trillion.

“In 2021, we were given N134 billion which now represents 0.98 per cent of N13.1 trillion but this year, we are given N134 billion again which is now representing 0.82 per cent here,” Kalu said.

The sum of N100 billion was proposed for the execution of constituency projects for all the 479 members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the 2022 budget.

The N100 billion for constituency projects, when added to the N134 billion for the National Assembly captured under Statutory Transfers, makes it a total of N234 billion for the legislative arm in the 2022 fiscal year.

In the last six years, a total of N700 billion have been allocated to constituency projects, captured in the budget as Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP).

The ZIP was designed as a vehicle for the execution of intervention projects in all constituencies across the country in line with the government’s bid to deliver the ‘dividends of democracy’ to the grassroots.

The Federal Government funds the constituency projects, but it is widely believed that members of the National Assembly nominate the contractors.

The lawmakers also select the concerned projects in their constituencies.

In 2019, Buhari had observed that there was nothing to show for trillions of naira spent on constituency projects.

“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects, yet the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.”

Kalu, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC), represents Bende Federal Constituency of Abia State in the House of Representatives.

    He had previously served as the chairman of Bende Local Government Area in Abia State.

    Kalu also served as the senior special adviser to the then Governor of Abia State Orji Uzor Kalu on local government and chieftaincy affairs, before becoming the senior special adviser to the governor on Millennium Development Goals and International Relations.

    Nigeria houses the poorest in the world, with 105 million citizens extremely poor, living on less than $1.90 daily, according to  World Poverty Clock.

    Yet, politicians enjoy large-than-life lifestyle.

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