The N70 billion allocated to the National Assembly from the N819 billion Supplementary Appropriation Act Bill is not a “gift” to Senators and House of Representatives members, the Senate has clarified.
It said that reports by a section of the media that the National Assembly members “padded” the bill in their favour were “spurious, inaccurate and irreverent misinterpretations.”
President Bola Tinubu had on Thursday sought a review of the bill to enable him to deploy N500 billion for palliative measures and the balance of N319 billion on other Federal Government needs.
The Senate passed the bill the same day with the following as a breakdown of the N319 billion: N185 billion for rehabilitation of roads impacted by floods; N192 billion for fixing farmlands damaged by floods; N35 billion for National Judicial Commission(NJC); N10 billion for Federal Capital Territory projects and N70 billion for the National Assembly.
Chairman Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Senator Yemi Adaramodu (APC – Ekiti South), said in a statement at the weekend that the N70 billion was not meant for individual federal lawmakers but for the ”facelift” of the National Assembly.
Adaramodu added that presently, some lawmakers bring their personal effects like “chairs and tables” to the makeshift chamber of the Assembly pending the completion of the undergoing renovation of offices in the edifice.
According to the Ekiti South lawmaker, “a visit to the suites, offices and the general structures of the National Assembly complex reveals a yawning gap and the need for exigent attention.”
He said that it was necessary for people to understand that Supplementary Appropriation Act Bill passages are a part of the constitutional duties of the National Assembly.
The statement reads: “After the passage of the Supplementary Budget to accommodate funding for Federal Government’s palliatives for the Nigerian public, among other urgent national demands, the socio-political space has been inundated with spurious, inaccurate and irreverent misinterpretations.
“Suffice to say that the passage is part of the absolute constitutional duty of the Senate. We would, therefore, not wish to join issues with the mischief and misrepresentation that a portion of the just passed Amendment Act that appropriated N70 billion was a ‘gift’ to the Legislators.
“Many Senators had to bring their chairs, tables and electronics and in many cases, do sundry repairs.
“The so-much debated allocation will not be paid to any Legislator. This will be managed by the National Assembly’s bureaucracy.
“It’s pertinent to also note that the National Assembly complex does not house only the Legislators. There are thousands of workers and service providers, whose working environment needs a face-lift, and/with necessary tools.
“Since the Assembly complex is not owned by legislators who are merely political birds of passage, such allocation cannot be termed by anyone as a palliative to the legislators.
“The alleged padding of the palliative budget by the National Assembly only exists in the minds of those who are all out to discredit the 10th Assembly. There is nothing like padding as being alleged.”
The Senate Spokesman enjoined Nigerians to view the National Assembly as partners in the progress.
“The National Assembly is the soul of democracy and the 10th Senate shall join hands with other arms of government and forward-looking Nigerians to sing new songs of progress, development, safety and all-round economic recovery and growth.”
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Just as Adaramodu made the clarification and sought the understanding of the public, a group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), called on the National Assembly to “repeal the 2022 Supplementary Appropriation Act and reduce its budget.
This, it said, should be done “to reflect the current economic realities in the country and address the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on the over 137 million poor Nigerians.”
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SERAP argued that at a time Nigerians are passing through hardship, it amounts to insensitivity for the National Assembly to spend N40 billion on bulletproof Sports Utility Vehicles(SUVs) on its principal officers.
The organisation urged the federal lawmakers to request President Tinubu to present a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, to redirect the N40 billion for SUVs and N70 billion for National Assembly rehabilitation to address the issue of over 20 million out-of-school children in Nigeria.
Also, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN), Femi Falana, described the reported plan by the National Assembly to spend N40 billion on bulletproof SUVs as illegal and contemptuous.
Falana, who chairs the Alliance on Surviving Covid 19 and Beyond (ASCAB), said the decisions of the National Assembly contravened Section 70 of the 1999 Constitution :
The section states: “A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.”
Falana urged the Revenue Allocation Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to take urgent steps to prevent the National Assembly from further usurping its constitutional functions
He reminded the National Assembly of court decisions which stopped its members from fixing their salaries, and allowances amongst other emoluments that have not been set aside.
Bishop tasks FG on disbursement of N8,000 palliative
Meanwhile, the Auxillary Bishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Anslem Umoren, has urged the Federal Government to ensure even disbursement of the N8,000 palliative to the poor Nigerians.
Umoren made the call on the sidelines of the Mass and Charter presentation ceremony of Serra Club in Abuja yesterday.
He said: “I want to call on the government to do all it planned to alleviate the sufferings of the people, it cannot be business as usual.
“I don’t want to believe all that I am seeing in the media is true; 8,000 households, which data are you using? who is going to benefit from it? we are over 200 million.
“They need to rethink what they are trying to do to make sure that what they are doing will reach out to everyone, otherwise it will be the same as before.”