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CSOs decry high overhead, ask N’Assembly to prune committees




A COALITION of 43 civil society organisations (CSOs) has raised concerns that ongoing efforts by President Muhammadu Buhari to cut down on the cost of governance in the country may be jeopardised by legislature following what it described as “the obesity of the National Assembly.”

In a report prepared by the coalition under the aegis of Citizens Wealth Platform (CWP), it decried the bogus committees being set up by both chambers of the National Assembly and called on their leaderships to prune the current number of committees they have from 161 to 50.

The coalition advised the Nigerian legislature to emulate its South African counterpart, which has a higher number of lawmakers, yet less committees.

It said:  “To run a committee involves a lot of resources and this number of committees spread the resources of NASS too thin.
“Committees need rooms, computers, printers and general consumables, communication gadgets, furniture, cost of travels, interactive sessions, public hearings, hire of consultants and ad-hoc staff, study tours and capacity building activities, etc
“It is therefore imperative that the Senate and House of Representatives in the exercise of their power to establish Committees under section 62 of the Constitution, consider cutting down the number of these ‎Committees as a means of reducing costs.
“For instance, ‎the Committees on Land Transport and Marine Transport can be merged to one Committee on Transport.

The Committees on Air Force, Army and Navy can become one committee on Defence. Similarly, all Health related Committees could come under the umbrella of Committee on health.

The coalition contended that for the past six years, the cost of maintaining the legislature in Nigeria far exceeded that of Ghana and South Africa put together.
“For the six years (2010- 2015), while the South African Parliament got an average of 0.14% of the budget, NASS got 3.15%.
“While Nigerian lawmakers appropriated $735.9million to run their affairs out of a $23.4billion federal budget, South Africa Parliament took $101.7million out of a budget of $74.2billion.

Essentially, the South African budget is more than thrice the Nigerian federal budget but our legislators appropriated a vote more than seven times the value of the budget of South African legislators.

The parliament of Ghana got an average of $31.2million every year. When divided per capita by the number of legislators, the figure stood at $1.57million; $0.21million and $0.14million per Nigerian, South African and Ghanaian legislator respectively”.

“The allocations of NASS between the year 2000 and 2015 amounted to an average ‎of 2.98% of the overall budget compared to the judiciary that got 1.91% of the overall budget during the reviewed period.
“The total remuneration of Senators over a four year period amounts to N9.586bn while that of members of the House of Reps amounts to N26.728bn, bringing the total to N36.314bn. When other allowances and perks of office that have ‎not been monetised and the emoluments of staff of NABRO, NILS and the National Assembly bureaucracy is added, the figure shoots up to N61.735bn over the four years. This amounts to N15.433bn a year as personnel costs,” the group added.

Besides, it noted that since 2011, the NASS budget has become a first line charge as a statutory transfer, decrying that “the details are no longer available to the public as it is stayed as a lump sum”.

As a way forward, the group, among other things, recommended that all statutory transfers including the allocation to NASS should be published in detailed line item format as is the practice with the allocations of other MDAs.

It said: “New laws re‎viewing the allowances of NASS members and other political, public and judicial office holders should no longer be made to have retroactive effect.
“The Senate and House House of Reps should equally consider reducing their committees to tally with international best practices from the current 161 to 50 committees.

How can we reconcile the austere stance of President Buhari who has even expressed his desire not to assign portfolio to some Ministers, with an expansionary attitude of the legislators that has gone ahead to constitute 161 committees?
“For the desired change to happen, there is need for us to change the way we do things in this country”, the coalition insisted.

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