By Christiana Ekpa
The House of Representatives has again confirmed that it is facing financial crisis, which is negatively affecting its activities, even as it stressed that the House is very broke financially.
Spokesman for the House, Hon. Benjamin Kalu who confirmed this in Abuja at a press conference also said the lower chamber was owning contractors and consultants.
“Yes, the House is broke, I have said it before and I am saying it again and I am not afraid to say it. The House is broke and it is afraid to appropriate the sufficient amount for them to do their job.
“The House is broke and is afraid of your complaints as Nigerians to make provision for what will make them run the activities of the House effectively. That is why today, here is hot; that is why the hearing rooms are not fixed; that is why the house is indebted to contractors who provide one form of service or the other”, he stated.
Explaining why the N128 billion National Assembly budget is inadequate, Kalu said “This is the fact. Until Nigerians believe that the appropriation that was made for the running of the National Assembly, which happened when naira was 160 to the dollar, is less now than what it used to be.
“The dollar equivalent of naira today has gone up to over N400. The purchasing power of the budget as it is now is weaker than it was 10 years ago. The budget of the National Assembly is supposed to be reviewed, in view of its purchasing ability, of the services that will help the parliament to move forward.
“At the moment, it is a weak budget and that is the truth. I have actually fought with the leadership of the House and I have asked the question, ‘Why are you afraid to raise the budget of the National Assembly that will enable us to conduct our services efficiently and effectively?’
“We appropriate for agencies to run effectively, yet we are in penury to our own constitutional mandate. It is a disservice to Nigerians; the poor budget of the parliament is a disservice to Nigerians”
The House mouthpiece who insisted that the National Assembly was underfunded said “Let us be fair in our analogy; let us wear the right spectacles when we analyse and you will find out that this N128bn of the National assembly, that is divided among all the agencies of the National Assembly; that is divided among all the staff – over 3000 to 6000 members of staff; that is divided among all the aides, five aides per lawmaker.
“Sometimes, people wonder if we really need those aides. How do you think we will function is making good laws? You need solid expert to work for you. If you go to America, you see professors who are consulting and working directly with members of the parliament.
“That is why when they come out with their laws and their bills and motions; it is what addresses the problems of the country. But can we afford that as we are? The answer is no, we cannot. So, if you ask me 20 times, whether the National Assembly is broke, until they improve the budget of the National Assembly, I will say, ‘Yes, we are broke.”
On the seeming sour relationship between the House and the Senate, Kalu denied that all was well between both chambers.
“First of all, I don’t want to agree that the 8th Parliament was better than the 9th Parliament. I speak for the 9th Parliament and I can assure you that the image, when done comparatively through the spectacle of an unbiased observer, the 9th Assembly has so far fared well on so many fronts.
“It is not self-serving to say that; it is not blowing our trumpet. We strive to push nation-building and good governance from the stage where it is at the moment. Are there gap? Do we have space for more? The answer is yes. And we will keep moving; we will keep covering the gaps until we get there.
“On the issue of the relationship between the two houses of the parliament, people have always imagined that there is a superiority kind of status between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“The Constitution did not say so. If it said so, you would see the House of Representatives always seeking concurrence (from the Senate) while the Senate will not seek for concurrence (from the House).