Legislators spend N5.2 billion per bill in two years

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July 15, 2013 | 10:17 am
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In the budget proposal under utilities, electricity charges got the lion shares of N17,570,589 for the National Population Commission

The NASS which comprises a Senate and House of Representatives has passed 69 bills out of a total of 725 bills in various stages of progress

Nigeria’s National Assembly (NASS) which is facing a backlog of unfinished business and increasing public dis- approval, has spent N5.2 billion on average, to pass a bill in the past two years.

The legislators are on pace to pass less than 10 percent of bills before them, since the inauguration of the 7th Assembly (2011-2015) on 6th June, 2011.

The NASS which comprises a Senate and House of Representatives has passed 69 bills out of a total of 725 bills in various stages of progress before it, according to BusinessDay’s analysis of the bill progression chart of both houses, gotten from the assembly’s website.

Meanwhile 73 percent of people in Nigeria thought that parliament or legislature was affected by corruption, data from Transparency Internationals (TI) most recent global corruption barometer shows. Ninety-four percent of respondents in the same TI survey said Nigerian political parties were affected by corruption.

The Nigerian legislature had a budget of N232.7 billion for 2011, N150 billion for 2012, and N150 billion for 2013.

The prorated cost of running the 7th NASS since its inauguration in 2011 till date, amounts to N360.74 billion ($2.2 billion), meaning N5.22 billion was spent on average, by the legislature, to pass one bill.

Major pieces of legislation left undone by the legislators include the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which aims to unify all the necessary legislation in one bill and provide a clear framework for investment in Nigeria’s energy sector.

“The slow pace of progress on key legislation is a concern for investors,” said Razia Khan, regional head of research, Africa, at Standard Chartered Bank, in response to BusinessDay questions.

“Even in the case of the budget, if Nigeria were forced to act swiftly to any new external developments, the long-drawn out process of approving budget amendments does not inspire much confidence that the country might have the budget flexibility required to take prompt action in the event of an external shock.”

The PIB which may help improve job creation and revenues for the government at all levels (Federal, State and Local)  and in theory better the lives of the 70 percent of Nigerians who live below the poverty line, has been stuck in parliament for over four years.

This has led to lost or deferred investment of at least $28 billion in Nigeria’s oil sector since 2010, according to ExxonMobil’s Nigerian producing unit, with the beneficiaries being other producers in the sub-region, such as Angola and Ghana.

Other important bills awaiting passage are a Health insurance amendment bill, Railway act amendment bill, Housing trust fund bill and a whistle blower bill.

The legislator’s 2013 budget of N150 billion amounts to N319.8 million per legislator per annum, or $1.97 million, and is about 1,400 times the Nigerian minimum wage of N18, 000 per month or N216,000 per annum.

The NASS budget for 2013 is also equivalent to 9.2 percent of the FG’s 2013 capital expenditure budget.

“The FG is faced with a huge infrastructural deficit but has limited means to address it, given the predominance of non-discretionary spending such as wages in the 2013 budget… including 8 percent of the total for statutory transfers, principally to the National Assembly and National Judicial Council,” said FBN Capital analysts, led by Gregory Kronsten, in a note released July 9.

The cost of running the Nigerian National Assembly has serially been named as one of the highest in the world. The upper and lower houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly consists of a 109-member Senate and the 360-member House of Representatives.

“Anything that contributes to a high recurrent expenditure bill is a concern for investors,” Khan said.

“This also impedes budget flexibility. The higher the spend on recurrent expenditure, the greater the concern.”

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July 15, 2013 | 10:17 am
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