NASS renovation: FG slashes N37bn request, okays N9.2bn

In what looks like a response to the deafening opposition (by Nigerians)  that greeted the N37billion vote for the renovation of the National Assembly in the 2020 budget, the federal government may have slashed the request to N9.2billion.

 The controversial N37 billion is different from the N128 billion originally allocated for the federal legislature in the appropriation bill.

The decision angered Nigerians, most of whom expressed their disdain for the decision they described as a misplaced priority.

Addressing journalists Sunday in Abuja ahead of the first anniversary of the Ninth Senate scheduled for Thursday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the new allocation-N9.2billion- had been accommodated in the revised appropriation bill for the lawmakers’ approval.

He said: ”The renovation was misunderstood but sometimes you allow criticisms so that you give the people the feeling that this is democracy and people criticized it, we took it very calmly. 

“It’s not a National Assembly building, it’s an FCDA building. We need to ensure that something as important as an arm of government, the people’s complex, is not allowed to deteriorate. N37 billion was estimated by the FCDA to be expended to rehabilitate the National Assembly complex because they have the technical capacity and this is their building just like the Presidential Villa. They maintain it. So it’s not our own.”


On the state of the nation’s security, the Senate president said the worsening state of insecurity in Nigeria arose from international politics stalling arm procurement.

He said efforts to buy equipment for Nigerian armed forces were usually frustrated by international politics.

Lawan said the requests were only taking longer than expected unlike when other countries made similar requests from some foreign governments.

“To some extent, we are suffering from international politics, I know that in our efforts to try to buy spare parts for combat  jets from some foreign countries, it takes six to nine months while another country will write to the same government and maybe get it in one or two months. 

“So, something is not right, but that’s to say that it’s now one of our challenges that we will continue to engage with countries that we feel don’t understand what we are doing here,” he said.

The lawmaker said more resources were needed for virtually all the security outfits for effective and efficient fight against insurgency, armed banditry and crimes generally.

 “For security, we need more resources. By resources, I don’t mean just money, we need more personnel for the armed forces, we need more personnel for the police, Nigerian immigration service and almost all the agencies and paramilitary as well. 

“And then, of course the resources in terms of equipment, machinery and then training. But what we experience today is we don’t have sufficient personnel, the resources available to the security office are inadequate. Government is doing a lot to get more resources in terms of equipment and machinery,” Lawan said.

Constitution amendment  

On what Nigerians should expect from the ongoing constitution amendment being carried out by ad- hoc committees of both Chambers of the National Assembly, Lawan said local government autonomy was top on the agenda.

He said:  “We want to do constitutional amendment as well as amendment of the electoral act to further make the process better and we want to see a situation where all pre-election matters are determined before the elections. That’s to say that if there are issues regarding the primaries by political parties and their candidates, then such legal matters should be settled, before anybody is presented for election so that you don’t go with pre-election problems or matters into the general election. 

“We want to ensure that in our constitutional amendment, local government autonomy is further entrenched because we’ve lost it, we don’t talk about local governments anymore like they don’t exist.

“This is a tier of government that can do a lot to help us to deal with small and local issues. We believe that we should work to ensure that local government autonomy is protected by the constitution. We have a lot of interest in ensuring that we carry out constitutional amendment as well as working on the electoral act. 

“But for the electoral act, the emphasis will be to engage with major stakeholders. INEC is the one that operates most of these things so we need to have a clear understanding of what they need so that we are able to give them that.

“We also believe that we look at constitutional ways of getting community policing, everybody says the police are over centralised, I think there’s a consensus on how we should do community policing. 

“The police force has been working hard to ensure that it establishes community policing in all the states. We had serious engagement with them, we had a report of our ad-hoc committee on security and that report was very emphatic on the need to decentralize and disaggregate the police force as it is today. We believe in security, especially at local level. We are working on it.”

Executive/legislature relationship

On the relationship between the legislature and the executive, Lawan said there must be mutual respect among the three arms of government.

He said the National Assembly or the legislature should not succumb to the desires of the executive but rather they should cooperate.

 ”The principle of separation of powers is what establishes and sustains the government, especially in democracies that believe in that. I believe in it strongly, the legislature should always be there to provide the legislative intervention, but here I also believe that separation of powers should always be considered alongside checks and balances, that’s what makes the separation of powers more effective in terms of ensuring that there’s good governance.

”That’s to say that there’s absolute application of the legislative interventions of parliament and particularly when it comes to checks and balances, you will be looking at how the parliament oversights the executive arm of government so that  it prevents or stops possible recklessness. 

“That’s what we are doing and it’s something we fought for since when we came to the fourth session of the National Assembly,” the lawmaker further said.

Shedding more light on the executive, legislature relationship, the Senate president revealed that in order to sustain the relationship that enhances their productivity, the two arms of government had constituted  a special joint committee, that works behind the scene towards ensuring effective and efficient consideration of some legislations.

He said: ”The Senate Leader, House of Representatives leader, the Senior Special Assistant to the President in both chambers of the National Assembly are members, the office of the Attorney General has a representation and the relevant committee chairmen of the two chambers. 

“When there’s a bill that has to do with an area the committee oversees and this is a decision that whenever there’s going to be a bill that’s significant and could cause misunderstanding, the Executive should bring that bill, we sit down, let them explain to that committee, let them work on it. Where the legislature will feel no this is too obvious, we cannot accept this, this is where we think it should be, and then we have a Bill that will eventually come to the National Assembly and when it comes, most of the areas that have the potential to cause friction would have been resolved.

“It doesn’t mean that once a Bill comes, it will be passed, because we still have majority of the National Assembly who have their say, at least the possible misunderstanding would have been reduced to the barest minimum, the main grey areas would have been settled and of course the relationship will continue to be good enough for us to operate and work to the benefit of Nigerians.”

He recalled that there was a situation in some of the past sessions of the National Assembly where some important bills were always dead on arrival owing to serious misunderstandings and the inability to create the environment for the legislature and the executive to resolve the issues.

This, the lawmaker said, led to such bills either being stagnated or probably if they originated from the National Assembly, assent would be withheld. 

”We believe that this is a challenge for the present National Assembly and mistakes can remain costly only if no lessons are learnt from them.

“But if you’re able to learn some lessons then there would have been benefits. We believe that this is as a result of what we’ve experienced in some of the National Assembly sessions. That gap between the legislature and the Executive that will not be resolved or narrowed easily has created so much loss to the country. It’s our challenge,” Lawan added.

Delayed PIB Bill

On the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), the Senate President said the Bill was not yet before the National Assembly, adding that the executive arm of government was discussing with the legislative body on what they were doing about it.

He expressed optimism that the bill would probably be submitted within June.

Lawan said contrary to what happened when it was submitted in previous Assemblies, the 9th Senate had decided to adopt a different approach by bringing the executive and legislature together, work on the bill, so that it comes to the National Assembly only when they were sufficiently on the same page. 


On the criticisms trailing the recent loans approved by the legislature for the executive, he said: ”We have a shortfall of almost 14.2 billion dollars funding gap for 2020 budget, and with COVID-19 came so many negative things that visited adverse outcomes on our people, we didn’t make hay while the sun shone. We didn’t diversify the economy or invest in the real sectors of the economy.

”Now we’ve come to a point where we have to address the infrastructural gap that we have. But the resources are so low; crude oil at one point was selling for 10, 11 dollars per barrel around when this pandemic started around March. We have very significant projects that we need to put in place, like the second Niger Bridge, Mambilla hydropower, East West road, Lagos – Kano rail line etc, but we don’t have the money.

“If you don’t have the resources and still need these projects, would you because you want to run away from taking loans, say let me abandon all these projects? For us in the National Assembly, we are conscious of the fact that this economy was affected by the pandemic, if it persists, you could lose over 20 million jobs in this country. 

“The economy will go into a serious recession. So, you need to have the resources to invest so that the economy doesn’t go into recession and ensure that people don’t lose their jobs. So we feel we should grant the request but we needed to scrutinize everything, the conditions of the projects which we did. We approved the loans to ensure that our infrastructural development continues.’


On the issue of electronic voting being canvassed for future elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Lawan said this would require the National Assembly engaging the electoral umpire on the nitty-gritty of the proposal.

 “This is something we need to sit down with INEC, because INEC is the operator of the electoral environment, and anything it thinks is necessary for us to operate during this time of COVID-19 challenge, we should look into it. But before then, we believe that the electoral environment should be as dynamic as it is, and should receive our attention that will make it possible for elections to hold and outcomes to achieve the integrity that we will have the confidence of voters.

“I don’t want to comment too much on what INEC said because they need to explain to us what they mean by e-voting, the scope, what type of technologies they are going to deploy, how they are going to do it. I don’t want to comment further on that so that I don’t cause unnecessary debate about it,” he said.

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