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Three Years Later, NASS’ Budget is still not Available

September 29, 2022

Tolutope Agunloye

The 9th Assembly is going to be OPEN to the PUBLIC for citizens to have an understanding of what we do… I believe we should continue with the #OpenNASS” – Senator Ahmed Lawan, Senate President

The 9th National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a bicameral legislature inaugurated on June 11, 2019, and the assembly will run its course until June 11, 2023. Before the 9th Assembly, we had the 8th that saw the need to be transparent and accountable, especially to the citizens they represent. Twice, the 8th Assembly’s budget was published online for citizens to access and scrutinise. A laudable gesture as perceived by BudgIT and other CSOs who have consistently asked for an #OpenNass on fiscal transparency and other issues, including the use of electronic voting and e-register.

This laudable gesture by the 8th Assembly was a huge sigh of relief for the civil society, seeing that one out of three demands was granted. For the civil society, it was time to make other demands, including adopting e-voting and e-register for legislators. Unfortunately, these other demands could not be met before the 8th Assembly’s tenure ended. However, organisations like BudgIT and EiE had hoped that the 9th Assembly would continue from where the 8th Assembly stopped and even do better by meeting all three demands. Alas, this was not the case.

Three years later, what has changed?

On June 25, 2019, Senator Ahmed Lawan, the President of the Senate (9th Assembly), held a press conference where he reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the NASS budget is passed early, before January. He also committed to enhancing #OpenNASS, after which he declared his basic salary of N750,000 to Nigerians. It’s been three years since that press briefing, and the 9th Assembly is yet to publish its budget.

A public budget is a critical tool for any government as it helps it measure performance and avoid waste of resources. The citizens have elected their representatives in the National Assembly to ensure their needs are met through legislation and oversight. For example, one of these functions is exercised during the budget defence, where MDAs, through Ministers or Permanent Secretaries, have to defend their budget in different committees. Legislators help to scrutinise the budget to avoid wastage; however, it is ironic that the budget of “scrutinisers” is not available to the citizens they represent.

In four years, the 8th Assembly opened their budget twice to the public, while the 9th Assembly is yet to implement fiscal transparency with just a few months left in its tenure. Fiscal transparency must be the priority of a government that claims to uphold the ideals of Open Government Partnership. The press conference was an avenue for the Senate President to engage Nigerians on #OpenNASS, and it is high time Nigerians started seeing the fruits of this commitment.

How can citizens demand transparency?

The campaigns for the new election year will kick off in the coming weeks, and the legislators would like to be voted back into office. Before you cast your vote, kindly ask candidates questions about their commitment to fiscal transparency, especially regarding the NASS budget. 

Citizens have the right to know what makes up the National Assembly budget; thus, we must keep demanding #OpenNASS.

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