Reps’ll Ensure Nigerians Participate in 2024 Budget Process- Speaker, Abbas
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen, has disclosed plans by the 10th House to convene a town hall meeting with stakeholders on the 2024 Appropriation Bill about to be laid before a joint session of the National Assembly by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR.
This, he said, would allow Nigerians to participate in the consideration and passage of the budget.
Speaker Abbas made this known while declaring open a one-day capacity building retreat for chairmen and deputy chairmen of House committees held in Abuja on Monday.
At the event were the Deputy Speaker, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Okezie Kalu; Chief of Staff to the President and former Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila; a former President of the Senate and ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; many members of the House as well as representatives of Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and YIAGA Africa, who provided support for the retreat.
The Speaker stated that in line with its mantra, ‘Peoples House,’ the 10th House was committed to greater and more transparent engagement with the public.
Speaker Abbas added that this was necessary for reducing suspicion, building trust and generating support for the work of the National Assembly.
He said: “As we expect to receive the 2024 Appropriation Bill in a few days, I wish to state that the House will convene a Budget Town Hall Meeting to enable citizens to make inputs into the 2024 Appropriation. It is the first time such an engagement is planned at the national level.
“I invite our partners to work with us in preparing for a vigorous and all-inclusive budget process.
“To ensure speedy passage of the 2024 budget, I charge all committees to double their efforts and finalise all considerations in two weeks.
“However, this does not imply haphazard and superficial consideration of the budget. Rather, it is a challenge to you to deploy all resources and make the needed sacrifices to ensure we pass the budget in good time for the good of all Nigerians.”
Speaker Abbas noted that committees play a crucial role in the legislative process, and have been called the ‘engine room’ of the parliament.
He said through committees, members develop subject matter expertise and undertake more detailed review and scrutiny of bills and other government policies.
More critically, committees have contributed in no small measure to improving accountability through its oversight function, the Speaker said.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the National Assembly, especially the House of Representatives, has progressively exercised its powers to ensure that the executive is always answerable to the Nigerian people,” he added.
The Speaker also noted that despite the growing assertiveness of the Nigerian legislature and its centrality in promoting good governance, committees face several challenges that impede their overall effectiveness.
These, he said, include a high turnover rate and its attendant effect on legislative expertise.
“For instance, the 10th House of Representatives has recorded the highest attrition rate since the return to democracy in 1999. As a result, critical knowledge and expertise have been lost in the process,” Speaker Abbas decried.
The Speaker listed other factors militating against committees’ effectiveness to include insufficient resources particularly inadequate funding, staffing and resources, all of which he said limit their ability to conduct thorough analysis and research.
He said: “Despite the widely held belief, the House and its committees are grossly underfunded, making it nearly impossible for them to function optimally.
“Anyone familiar with the inner workings of the legislature knows the quantum of resources required to undertake robust oversight adequately, hire experts and consultants, undertake inspection visits and draft quality legislation.
“Ironically, while Nigerians expect the best representation from the National Assembly and its members, they do not always understand that this is only possible through adequate funding.”
Speaker Abbas, while noting that the theme of the retreat was ‘Improving Legislative Performance through Effective Committee Management,’ said it was deliberately chosen to provide a comprehensive understanding of the tasks ahead, especially for many of those who were taking up these legislative responsibilities for the first time.
He stated: “The legislature is central to our democracy, and a strong House is integral to ensuring that governance is conducted in an open, accountable, and representative manner.
“As chairmen and deputy chairmen of various committees, we must ensure that the House delivers on its Legislative Agenda. All committees should study the relevant sections of the Agenda and incorporate them into their work plans. You are encouraged to rely on the Agenda and generate bills, motions and other legislative interventions. The success of the Agenda hinges on the efficiency, effectiveness, and integrity of our committees.”
In his remarks, Deputy Speaker Kalu stated that at the heart of Nigeria’s parliamentary democracy lies the House of Representatives, “an institution tasked with the solemn responsibility of representing the will of the Nigerian people.”
Hon. Kalu also noted that the committees of the House, as the engines of legislative oversight, play a pivotal role in scrutinising government policies, investigating public misconduct, and ensuring that the executive branch remains accountable to the people.
He said, “As Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of these committees, you bear immense responsibility. Your leadership, your expertise, and your dedication are essential in steering the legislative agenda, shaping public policy, and upholding the principles of good governance.
“This retreat serves as an invaluable opportunity to reinforce your capacities, enhance your skills, and foster a shared understanding of effective committee management. Through interactive sessions, engaging discussions, and insightful presentations, you will delve into the intricacies of committee leadership, explore best practices for effective oversight, and strategize innovative approaches to enhance legislative performance.”
In his goodwill message, Gbajabiamila said the Federal Government budget would be presented to the National Assembly “in a matter of days.”
The former Speaker of the House urged leaders and members of the standing committees to unite while scrutinising the budgetary proposals during defence sessions.
Gbajabiamila also noted that committees were key to the legislative process, urging the chairmen and their deputies to work harmoniously.