A Member of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Dickson Tarkighir, has explained the increase in the 2017 National Assembly budget.
The National Assembly, had on Thursday, passed the 2017 Appropriation Bill, which was presented by President Muhammadu Buhari, December 2016.
In the proposed budget, the sum of N125bn was appropriated for both chambers of the 8th Assembly, the figure which represents about 2% of the total budget of the federation.
Some social critics have, however, raised eyebrows over the geometric increase of the National Assembly budget from N115bn in 2016 to N125bn,
“at a time the nation is struggling to recover from economic recession “.
Hon. Tarkighir, however, gave a succinct explanation on why the budget was jacked up by N10bn.
According to him, the present economic realities and the subsequent increase in the foreign exchange had drastically affected the operations of the National Assembly.
“The cost of dollar virtually affects all facets of life. Almost everything we do here, we have to exchange naira for dollars.
“We import papers from abroad, including the ones we used to produce the budget you are holding. Now, we can’t even buy operational vehicles because there is no money”, Tarkighir said.
He said there were oversight functions that lawmakers also attend outside the country.
“We just arrived the country, last week, from an Offshore Technology Conference in USA.
“You would believe that, with the current exchange rate, this budget is less than N100bn, you are just seeing the figures in the surface”, he said.
Tarkighir, who represents Makurdi/Guma federal constituency of Benue State, also disclosed that the budget was actually N150bn in the 7th Assembly, but it took patriotic efforts of the leadership and members of the 8th Assembly to reduce it to what it is now.
“When we saw the economic situation then, we resolved amongst ourselves to make sacrifices for the country, so we reduced the budget from N150bn. But as you can see, it is no longer possible, due to increase in dollars. We can no longer sustain that figure.
“Even when the budget was N150bn, the exchange rate was 199 naira to a dollar, today, the official exchange rate is 305, but you can’t get it. You need to buy at the black market at high rate”, he added.
The lawmaker also hailed the leadership of National Assembly for making the 2017 budget open for the public, where breakdowns of figures appropriated to each department were published.
He said, for the first time, the National Assembly organised public hearings, whereby, Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders monitored the budget process.
According to him,
“it is Nigeria’s money. The money belongs to the people. So, they should know what goes to where, and also monitor its implementations”.