The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, has challenged Nigerians to a debate on the real essence of the National Assembly vis-a-vis the emoluments of the members, which many citizens consider to be bogus.
Lawan also criticised the executive for allocating only N128 billion to the National Assembly in the 2021 budget, which according to him, is less than one per cent of the N13 trillion national budget.
He spoke while flagging off the two-day retreat for top management of National Assembly and the National Assembly Service Commission at Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja.
His words: “May be I should also mention that in a budget of over N13 trillion, the National Assembly will have N125 to N128 billion. What percentage is that? It is less than one per cent. So, where is the remaining 99 per cent?
“Yet instead of trying to see how N128 billion would be utilised by the National Assembly; what would be the output from the National Assembly and how useful are the output to the Nigerian populace, we would always argue that the funding to the National Assembly is bogus.
“I am not here to defend the National assembly but to encourage the debate on what the National Assembly means to us as a country and as a people.
“If we don’t like the set of members of the 9th National Assembly, change all of us in 2023; vote in better people but we have to support the system to function because that is your foundation.”
Lawan added: “The other one that I will say, may be a little bit controversial, but I will not run away from it is; what does National Assembly mean to Nigerians?
“What does the legislature mean to Nigeria? Can we debate what the functions of the National Assembly members and legislature should be rather than talking about jumbo pay? Where is the jumbo pay?”
He challenged Nigerians to seek for value for their money, noting that without the National Assembly in the country there would be nothing like democracy.
“So the value of the National Assembly or the legislature is democracy, because take out the legislature you will have not necessarily dictatorship but not democracy.
“So we always debate on jumbo pay instead of what our functions should be and holding us responsible for what we are able to do and what we are not able to do.
“Ask for what you think we should be doing rather than saying close the Senate or close National Assembly. Do we understand the implication of closing the National Assembly or the Senate?” he added. Lawan disclosed that the lawmakers were working hard to pass the 2021 budget by the second week of December.
“We are working very assiduously to ensure that there is every possible scrutiny of the budget estimates presented to us by the government. We achieved that in 2020 budget because we promised Nigerians that we would do that and it is going to be part of our legacy in the 9th National Assembly,” he added.
On the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), he said the lawmakers intend to pass it before the end of the second quarter of next year. He, however, stated that they would take their time because of the delicate and sensitive nature of the legislation.
“This is to ensure that what comes out of the National Assembly in the PIB is a product of legislation that will ensure that Nigerian earns its revenue from this industry,” he stressed.