By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Senate President Bukola Saraki on Friday released details of 2018 budget of the National Assembly. Business Hallmark gathered that the release of the fiscal document, hitherto held secret, was in line with the directive of Saraki, who asked Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolari, to release the document for public view.
Saraki, however, confirmed this on Friday, via his verified Twitter handle in a tweet publicly addressed to BudgIT, a civic tech organisation which helps to raise the standards of transparency in public finance.
On Thursday, BudgIT held a meeting with the outgoing senate president. According to Budgit, Saraki promised to release details of the 2018 National Assembly budget.
On their twitter handle a statement was issued to that effect: The statement read: “Senate President Bukola Saraki has re-assured that details of NASS 2018/19 budgets would be made public. Saraki, yesterday at a dialogue session with BudgIT on appropriation process and constituency projects, vowed that #OpenNASS is now a permanent policy. Will this policy stand?”
On Friday, the senate president kept his promise by releasing details of 2018 budget. He made this known via his twitter handle @BukolaSaraki.
He tweeted: “Dear @BudgITng:
“Find the details of the 2018 Budget of the National Assembly here:
“This is in accordance with the commitment of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly to accountability and transparency. #OpenNass.”
The 45-page document shows that a total of N139, 500,000,000 (N139.5 billion) was budgeted for the National Assembly in the year 2018. The #OpenNASS campaign was launched in 2015 by a group called Enough is Enough, a coalition of young Nigerians promoting good governance and citizen engagement.
Since then, there has been pressure on the leadership of the National Assembly to be more transparent. Despite the pressure, details of the budgets in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were not released. Many people are asking why details of the 2018 budget were released by Saraki at the end of their term. To some this may be his way of paving the way for a more open National Assembly. For others, he only did it because he will not be part of the 9th senate and trying to redeem his image.
Muraina Adewale a social commentator is one of those who share the latter view. She tweeted, “It is easier for him to #OpenNass as he is by the exit door. However, if not backed by an act, I doubt it being upheld. Anyway if this be true, Nigerians win thanks to @BudgIT.”
Victor Joel, another Nigerian who is concerned about the budget of the National Assembly is also not convinced about Saraki’s latest move. He said, “Saraki is a very selfish person. He always wants to take credit for a collective decision.”
For Monsur Akorede “It is a right step in the right direction. The next senate president should continue from here. Saraki has his baggage but this is one act that we must all commend.”
Meanwhile, the Enough is Enough group via its twitter handle @EiENigeria commended the senate president for keeping his promise. “Good move by the senate president to ensure the Budget is open. We hope it doesn’t contain figures not in syntax with realities of the ordinary Nigerian.”
It would be recalled that in 2010, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi accused the National Assembly of spending 25 per cent of the overhead of the Federal Government budget insisting that he would “quit without a fight” if he was asked to do so by the National Assembly.
While delivering a lecture at the University of Benin in 2010, Sanusi was quoted to have said that “a situation whereby 25 per cent of the overhead of the Federal Government was spent by the National Assembly is unhealthy for the country and its economy.”
“If you look at the budget, the bulk of government revenue expenditure is on overhead, which is a big problem. 25 per cent of overhead of the Federal Government goes to the National Assembly. We need power, we need infrastructure so we need to start looking at the structure of the expenditure and make it more consistent with the development initiative of the country.” Sanusi said.