National Assembly budgetary allocation surpasses total allocation for 26 universities

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The N197 billion budget of the National Assembly is higher than those of 25 federal universities combined, an analysis of the 2024 Appropriations Bill has revealed.

This huge allocation to the federal Legislature, a remnant from the past, is a continuation of President Bola Tinubu’s pampering of the lawmakers at a time ordinary Nigerians are enduring the pains of the reform initiatives of his administration like fuel subsidy removal and merger of the exchange rates of the Naira.

Mr Tinubu’s first Money Bill to the National Assembly was a Supplementary Appropriation Bill in July, and it contained a whopping N70 billion to help the lawmakers “settle in.” Thanks to that “generous allocation,” the parking lot of the lawmakers now hosts luxury Sports Utility Vehicles reported to have been bought for them at a unit cost of N160 million.

Therefore, it was not surprising that at the presentation of the budget, Senate President Godswill Akpabio declared: “Our old boys are running the Executive.”

The statement was about the fact that the government is now dominated by former members of the National Assembly. President Tinubu and his wife Remi are former senators just like Vice President Kashim Shettima and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume. The Chief of Staff to the president, Femi Gbajabiamila, is a former member and Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The alumni issue may partially explain why the president continues to pamper the lawmakers; however, there are other factors. Mr Tinubu, unlike his predecessor, Muhammadu Buhari, has never hidden his intent to have a grip on the institution.

Mr Tinubu endorsed and lobbied for candidates in the leadership contests of both chambers of the National Assembly. The bizarre singing of the “On your mandate, we shall stand” campaign anthem of the president during the budget presentation joint session, painted a disturbing picture. Critics of the president described the scene as evidence of state capture.

National Assembly budget under Jonathan, Buhari

The budget of the National Assembly has always been controversial for its size and non-disclosure of its breakdown. Due to the two factors, lawmakers can pay themselves “jumbo allowances.” Between 2011 and 2014, the National Assembly had a fixed budget of N150 billion but it was slashed in 2015 to N130 billion due to the crash in the price of crude oil.

Under Mr Buhari, the budget was further reduced to N125 billion, until it was increased to N128 billion in 2021, N134 billion in 2022 and N228 billion in 2023. Many believe that the “stagnant budget” in the 8th Assembly (2015-2019) was due to the strained relationship between the leadership of the National Assembly and Mr Buhari.

The former president proposed a budget of N169 billion for the National Assembly in 2023, but the lawmakers increased it to N228 billion. One of the reasons given by the lawmakers for the increase was that “certain projects were not catered for in the initial budget.” In addition, the lawmakers allocated N30 billion for payment of severance allowance for their aides and ex-lawmakers.

False campaign of stagnant budget

In the past couple of weeks, the leadership of the National Assembly, specifically of the House of Representatives, has been running with the false narrative that the budget of the National Assembly has not increased in over 13 years despite the increment in cost. The lawmakers have launched a coordinated
effort to gain public sympathy with the claim.

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“Our budget has been stagnant for 13 years but our expenditure has gone up within that period,” the Speaker of the House, Tajudeen Abbas, said in September.

Contrary to that statement, however, evidence shows that the budget has enjoyed a steady increment for the past four years, from N125 billion to N228 billion in the current budget cycle, which is the highest budget of the National Assembly. The proposed N197 billion for 2024 is the second highest in the Fourth Republic.

While the lawmakers are moaning about their budget and perks, they earn more money than most workers in Nigeria. On average, a senator takes home over N13.5 million monthly, while a member of the House of Representatives goes home with over N9 million in a month.

A former member of the House of Representatives, Adejoro Adeogun, in an interview with our source  recently, stated that he earned over N450 million in the four years in the House. This is in a country where the monthly minimum wage is N30,000.

The proposed 2024 budget of N197 billion for the Legislature is higher than the combined budget proposed for 26 federal universities for 2024. This amount is also higher than the allocations proposed for 41 polytechnics. Some of the allocations to individual federal polytechnics reviewed by this newspaper are as low as N1.7 billion, including the funds proposed for their personnel, overhead and capital expenditure.

The budgets of the universities reviewed by our source also included total allocations for wages and salaries, overheads and infrastructure

The National Assembly gets its budget in lump sum as a first-line charge from the Federation Account and is then shared by the management among all the various entities.

In 2023, the N228 billion budget of the National Assembly was allocated as follows; N30 billion for the payment of severance/inauguration of outgoing
and incoming 9th and 10th Assembly, National Assembly Office N30.4 billion, Senate N33.2 billion, House N51 billion, NASC N10.5 billion, Legislative aides N16.5 billion and General Services N11 billion.

Other allocations include NILDS N7.4 billion, Office of retired clerks and permanent secretaries N1.09 billion, service-wide votes N671 million, appropriation committees N125 million and N165 million for the Senate and House respectively, public account committees of Senate and House, N260.7 million.

Also, the National Assembly building (ongoing) N4.2 billion, NASS liabilities N8.5 billion, NASS E-lbrary N225 million, NASS dashboard N118.5 billion, constitution review N850 million, completion of the National Assembly library complex N7.5 billion, completion NILDS HQ N2.5 billion and Construction of NASC building N10 billion.

Universities that National Assembly’s N197 billion budget can fund

The 2024 allocation to the institution of the National Assembly is higher than the combined allocations to 26 federal universities in the federal budget proposal. These are the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife with an allocation of N17.02 billion, University of Ilorin (N14.3 billion), University of Abuja (N12.09 billion), University of Port Harcourt (N19.58 billion), Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) (N9.3 billion), Maddibo Adama University N8.billion, Federal University Oye (N7.7 billion), Federal University, Dutse (N8.3 billion), Alex Ekwueme University (N9.5 billion), University of Lafia (N6.8 billion) and University of Dutsin-Ma (N8.3 billion).

Others are Federal University, Kashere (N6.5 billion), University of Lokoja (N6.2 billion), University of Wukari (N9.6 billion), University of Birnin Kebbi (N4.78 billion), University of Gashua (N5.2 billion), University of Gusau (N6.7 billion), Maritime University Okerenkoko (N3,4 billion), Army University, Biu (N3.4 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo (N2.3 billion), University of Babura (N2.2 billion), Federal University of Technology Ikot Abasi (N2.4 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Azare (N1.8 billion), Federal University of Health Sciences, Ila Orangun (N10.4 billion), Federal University Katsina (N2.1 billion).

These 26 universities have an aggregate expenditure of N195.07 billion as proposed expenditure in the 2024 budget. This means that the N197 billion budget of the National Assembly is higher than the total budget of these universities by N1,93 billion.

Also, although the National Assembly is yet to release the breakdown of its N197 billion in the 2024 budget, the allocation to each chamber of the assembly is not expected to be less than that of 2023: Senate – N33.2 billion – and House – N51 billion.

This implies that the 360 members of the House – or the 109 members of the Senate – cost Nigeria more money than each of the universities mentioned above.

While federal universities also generate funds internally and draw additional funds from intervention funds like the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), their low allocations in the federal budget have been a key component of the disputes between university workers and the federal government.

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A large part of these schools’ budgets are allocated to payment of salaries and wages to the staff with little left for research, capital projects and overheads. For instance, out of the N22 billion allocated to the University of Maiduguri in 2024, N21 billion is for personnel costs, with less than N1 billion earmarked for capital projects.

The clamour for improved funding to the educational sector has been a long struggle championed by the different unions in the sector, notably the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Their struggles for better funding often lead to the shutdown of schools for months with students at the receiving end of the strike actions.

Between the union and federal government, numerous agreements were signed. However, the government often reneged on its commitment to those MOUs. Although the government appears poised to transfer the burden of funding from the government to the students through the student loan scheme, a move the ASUU has consistently rejected.

Despite the poor funding, the government had moved to compel universities and other tertiary institutions to remit 40 per cent of their IGR to the federal government account. It took the fierce opposition of the Committee of Vice Chancellors before the government backed down.

Recently, the universities also won the battle over the controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as the government allowed them to pull out of the system.

Shakedown of universities by lawmakers despite the poor funding

Amidst this poor funding, over the years some committees of the National Assembly engaged in the shake-down of the universities under the guise of legislative investigations.

Some months ago, our source published an investigation that revealed how a rogue committee of the House of Representatives, set up to investigate recruitment by government agencies, demanded N2 million from each federal university.

The investigation uncovered this grand extortion scheme by the lawmakers targeting a sector that is already underfunded. However, President Tinubu, who had vowed that there would be no strikes in the universities during his administration, appears to be keener on keeping the lawmakers on the gravy train.

Source: Premiumtimes Ng

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