Up until a few weeks ago, Ali Ndume was the majority leader of the senate and he had never said a word in support of the cries for transparency in the budget of the national assembly which Nigerians have been clamouring for. Now out of favour and out of power in the senate, Ndume took the first steps towards rebranding himself as a champion of #OpenNass on Wednesday.
“The budget of the Senate is not known to the senators. It should be known this year. This is very important because we cannot be taking blame or credit for what we don’t know,” Ndume said during plenary while contributing to debate on the 2017 budget.
Senate president Bukola Saraki as well as the speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara have made myriad promises since 2015, that they were ready and willing to provide details of the national assembly budget. Unlike former senate president David Mark who repeatedly insisted that he was not going to release details of the budget, the current crop of leadership have openly sworn to be different. But their actions have been as secretive and loathing of transparency as anything witnessed during Mark’s tenure.
Ndume said: “We come here to pass the budget without seeing the details. This is a government of change and this must change. The details of the budget report should be known and as required, must be considered holistically.
“Last year, we had several issues with the budget. In fact, to some extent, very embarrassing and that is because some of us are even innocent. I don’t know what was in the budget because the details of the budget were not provided and this should be done this year.”
The former House leader also said that senators were not given details of what the 2016 budget contained and its performance in relation to the 2017 budget.
“There should have been a column where the 2016 budget details will be enumerated. Then the 2016 budget would have been detailed so that we know, because we could end up having uncompleted projects.
“We could also end up having projects that are new and that will never be executed because we provided for them desperately in order to answer the call of our colleagues, yet they will not be done; or for technical reasons, they will say they will not do it.
“But if the budget of the 2016 column is there and we know what has been released for particular subheads, then we will know what is budgeted for this year. We will know how to do actual budget work. The Committee on Appropriation should do that and know the right thing,” he said.
A spokesman to the senate president, Bamikole Omisore, took to social media afterwards claiming that Ndume’s call for #OpenNass. However civil society group, BudgIT called him out on the hypocrisy and pointed out that the senate president has held that position for almost two years with zero result.