The Nigerian parliament secretly spent over N1.752 trillion in 17 years, a civil society organisation, which deals with budgeting and open governance, has said.
The group, BudgIT, released the figure in a statement it made available to Vanguard on Wednesday with a breakdown of the cash the National Assembly had allocated and spent between 2003 and 2019.
The organisation however blasted the NASS for operating the budget in an opaque manner despite its claim to open governance and public pressure for it to open up its book for Nigerians to scrutinize the line items.
The group is shocked that the NASS, whose budget was a mere N23.5 billion in 2003 astronomically rose to N55.5 in 2005 and climbed to N150 billion in 2011 and maintained the same amount till 2014.
BudgIT also wondered how the same NASS that had been spending N150 billion yearly was able to ‘manage’ a reduced appropriation of N115 billion between 2015 and 2016 and finally came down to N125 billion in 2017, N135 billion in 2018 and N125 billion in 2019.
In the statement signed by Signed Shakir Akorede, Communications Associate of BudgIT, the group noted with dismay the failure of the NASS leadership to honour its promise to make the process transparent and open to Nigerians.
The statement said: “That Nigeria’s National Assembly, an arm of government that supposedly upholds accountability, has remained an impregnable black box which defies public scrutiny is an irony of all ironies.
“Aside from the lawmakers being ranked as world’s top-paid legislators, at public expense, the annual budget of the National Assembly is a one-line statutory transfer which is neither reviewed by any authority nor, at the very least, made accessible to the public thus enabling unbridled corruption.
“At this age of digital governance plus global calls for transparency in public institutions, it is a national disrepute that the parliament has refused to eschew anti-democratic practices, as it continues to bury its yearly allocations under the hallowed chambers.
“More disappointing is the fact that, despite Nigeria’s membership in Open Government Partnership and tons of pledges by Senate President Bukola Saraki to run an “open NASS,” the National Assembly immediately relapsed into its default setting after a breakdown of the budget was made public in 2017, thanks to public pressure.
“Asserting that the 2017 record must be made permanent, we are making a renewed demand from the leadership of the eighth assembly to fully redeem its promise. Starting again with the 2019 budget, a line-by-line breakdown of the NASS allocation must be made public going forward.
“That is the ultimate way the legislature can lead by example in making public accountability a Nigerian culture,” said Gabriel Okeowo, BudgIT’s principal lead.
“It is worth the call that Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara should leave behind a great legacy, one that history would never forget, by truly and finally opening NASS,” the group pointed out.