Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen on Monday, November 27, dropped a hint that the 2024 budget will be presented to a joint session of the National Assembly in the next few days.
Although he was not specific on when the budget will be presented, the Speaker told Chairmen and Deputy Chairmen of standing committees of the House that they must consider and finalise the budget within two weeks without compromising the integrity of the process through or engaging in haphazard and superficial consideration.
Speaking at a one-day retreat for chairmen and deputy chairmen of standing committees of the House, the speaker reminded them that committees play a crucial role in the legislative process and have been called the ‘engine room’ of the parliament, adding that through committees, Members develop subject matter expertise and undertake more detailed review and scrutiny of Bills and other government policies.
He said the House will convene a budget town hall meeting to enable the Nigerian people to participate and make input into the 2024 budget, adding that it will be the first time such an engagement is planned at the national level.
He said further that the House was committed to greater and more transparent engagement with the public as a necessary step towards reducing suspicion, building trust, and generating support for the work of the National Assembly.
He reminded the Committee Chairmen and their deputies that the legislature was central to the nation’s democracy, stressing that a strong House was integral to ensuring that governance is conducted in an open, accountable, and representative manner.
He said: “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 order to encourage compliance, we established the Committee on Monitoring and Evaluation of Standing and Ad-hoc Committees for the first time in the history of the Nigerian legislature. Its mandate is to ensure that all Committees live up to their mandates and operate effectively.
“The Committee will submit regular reports to the House and Leadership on the activities of all committees. I wish to encourage Committees to operate as ‘teams, consisting of chairmen, deputies, and all their members, not just a few individuals. To be effective, Committees must hold regular meetings, develop and adhere to annual work plans, report regularly, and engage with the public. However, the general effectiveness of Committees is contingent on a clear understanding of your mandate and objectives.
He said the committees must avoid conflict as much as possible and promote synergy, adding that in the past, Committees have functioned in silos resulting in friction and general inefficiency. I call on all Chairmen and deputies to provide robust leadership and coordination.
According to him, this involves fostering teamwork, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring that all members contribute meaningfully to the committee’s work, adding that the House cannot afford individual Public Hearings on all Private Member Bills due to the increased number of committees.
He stressed the need for transparency and accountability which he said are fundamental principles that must underpin committee activities while embracing professionalism, diligence, and ethical conduct in discharging their responsibilities.
He told them that in interfacing with MDAs and conducting oversight, their actions should be guided by integrity, impartiality, and a commitment to serving the public good, by upholding these values, we can foster public confidence in the legislature.
He said further that committees have contributed in no small measure to improving accountability through its oversight function, adding 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 lamented 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, including the high turnover rate and its attendant effect on legislative expertise.
He said: “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.
“Other factors that limit the effectiveness of our Committees include insufficient resources, particularly inadequate funding, staffing, and resources, all of which limit their ability to conduct thorough analysis and research. 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 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.”