The House of Representatives has announced plans to hold a town hall meeting on the 2024 budget to allow citizens to make input.
The Speaker of the House, Abbas Tajudeen, announced this on Monday during a capacity-building retreat organised for chairpersons and deputies of House committees in Abuja.
President Bola Tinubu will present the 2024 budget on Wednesday at the joint session of the National Assembly.
Mr Tajudeen said the House will adopt the new model to allow active participation of citizens in the budget process.
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,” he said.
The Speaker did not give details of the meeting. He, however, urged the committees to ensure quick passage of the budget.
“To ensure speedy passage of the 2024 budget, I charge all committees to double their efforts and finalise all considerations in two weeks,” he said.
He noted that the “quick passage” does not imply that the budget should be considered in a “haphazard and superficial” manner but that it is a challenge to committee chairpersons to deploy all resources and make the needed sacrifices to ensure that the appropriation bill is passed in good time.
The National Assembly was criticised for passing the 2023 supplementary budget that contains some extravagant line items including billions for official cars for the office of the First Lady.
Mr Tajudeen also raised the issue of funding committees, saying that they are not properly funded even though they are expected 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 legislations.
“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,” he said.
In his remarks, the Chief of Staff to the President, Femi Gbajabiamila, also called for adequate funding of the committees, noting that it is not proper for agencies to be funding committees during oversight.
“Like everything else in life, effective oversight requires resource allocation to be done correctly. Effective oversight requires secretariat operations, data gathering and analysis, travel and other logistics. Without funding, committees often rely on the agencies under their supervision to fund oversight activities.
“Oversight funding for House Committees should be provided to ensure that the standing, special and ad-hoc committees of the House can fulfil their responsibilities effectively without depending on outside parties for support,” he said.
Mr Gbajabiamila, who was the Speaker of the Ninth House, also charged the lawmakers to be professional and not be seen as using investigative hearings for personal gain.
“Legislature must ensure that its investigative authority is never used in such a manner as to suggest abuse of power or other base objectives.
“It is too easy for parliamentary investigations to be cast as exercises in witch-hunting or as distractions from governance,” he said.
The House has 139 standing and special committees.
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