Some civil society organizations have condemned the budget allocations of N30.1bn for compensation packages and the opening of the 10th Assembly.
On Wednesday, the National Assembly increased the 2023 budget proposal from N20.51 trillion to N21.82 trillion and approved it, indicating an increase of more than N1.3 trillion against the N20.5 trillion proposed by the president. , Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retired), in October.
Buhari submitted a budget proposal of N20.51 trillion to parliament on 7 October 2022 with a deficit of N10.782 trillion. He also pointed out that the 2023 budget would be financed by foreign loans.
Under the statutory transfers of N967.48bn, the Office of the National Assembly has N30.492bn; the Senate obtained N33.267bn; the House of Representatives, N51.994bn; Service Commission of the National Assembly, N10,555bn; legislative assistants, N16,520bn; general services N11.307bn; National Institute of Legislative and Democratic Studies, N7.411bn.
Others are: N30.173bn for the separation/inauguration of the outgoing and incoming legislators of the 9th and 10th Assembly; N10bn for the construction of the NASC building; N2.5bn to complete NILDS headquarters etc.
The new figures N228.1bn approved by the National Assembly against the N169bn proposed by the president revealed a N59.1bn increase in the allocation by lawmakers.
Despite an initial increase by the president of N125bn in previous years, to N128bn for 2021, N134bn for 2022 and N169bn for 2023, lawmakers still made an upward revision to his 2023 budget.
Commenting on the issue, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Center for Legislative Advocacy, Auwal Rafsanjani, noted that it was sad that the National Assembly had to budget such an amount that had nothing to do with the public good.
He said: “This clearly shows that the leadership of the National Assembly is not on a par with the effective management and utilization of public funds. They are the custodians of national resources in terms of ensuring that budgeted money is used properly.
“They should make sure that money is not wasted, diverted, embezzled or (allowed) anything that abuses resources. He lamented that they have “prompted to budget such an amount for the tip in the midst of inflation, recession, economic difficulties and the stress that the country is going through.”
Rafsanjani also lamented that the allowance was even unethical, due to the fact that lawmakers receive monthly salaries and allowances.
And he added: “It is absolutely unfair to the country. We are crying about education funding, the Universities Academic Staff Union has been crying for improvements in education and their salaries, and some people are sitting there budgeting for tips.
“What is a severance package if not by other means of stealing and diverting taxpayer money? Every month, you receive salaries and allowances, so why should you budget such a huge amount of money? This is the reason why political violence occurs because of this unnecessary money.”
Rafsanjani added: “There is no way we should be shouting about poverty or lack of funds for development programs and now we allow a few people to put such a huge amount of money away.
“It is absolutely an unfair and unjustifiable expense. It is unfair and a breach of public trust for them to budget for such money. We condemn such spending in full and complete such appropriations known as severance packages at both the national and state levels.”
Analyzing the situation, he noted that some of the legislators in the 9th Assembly, when re-elected, would receive both tips and inauguration allowances and would continue to receive the same at the end of the 10th Assembly.
Rafsanjani lamented: “That means that in every election, they would continue to receive the severance package. Someone like the President of the Senate who has been in the National Assembly since 1999 has been getting this money because he has been re-elected over and over again in the National Assembly.
This is not fair. Why should such a person be raising such a large amount of money? It is very unfair. We totally and exhaustively condemn and call on well-meaning Nigerians to stand up and call for the discontinuation of this so-called severance package.”
Furthermore, United Global Resolve for Peace Chairman Shalom Olaseni stated that the Nigerian system of government was horribly flawed and this is reflected in what is portrayed as the priority of the elected political class.
He said: “While it goes without saying that a worker is worth his salary, the question arises of what weight the National Assembly has in a legislative mandate for a struggling nation to go into debt with such excessive and overwhelming sums.
“It is beyond imagination for any arm of government to conceive and allocate to itself such enormous sums as in a terrible time like now when wages are delayed, wages are not paid and the gap between rich and poor is widening.
“It is more than understandable that such a proposal would be conceived and considered at a time like this and I must express the hope that well-meaning members of the public and civil society organizations will fight it to a stop.”