Nigerians want National Assembly attendance and voting records, salaries and budgets made public

Posted by News Express | 22 December 2016 | 2,338 times

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National Assembly Complex.

The majority of Nigerians want more openness from the government, especially the National Assembly, a survey by two civil society organisations has shown.

The result of the survey of the OpenNASS Project was made public at a press briefing in Lagos on Tuesday. OpenNASS Project is a collaboration between Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria) and Voto Mobile.

The survey report says under ‘Open Government Policies’: “74% of Nigerians support electronic voting. 71% of Nigerians support opening National Assembly attendance records. The same pattern of responses was recorded for the other open government policies which include voting records, salaries and budgets of the National Assembly.

“There is clear correlation with educational attainment and open government policies as 81% of those with tertiary education stated that attendance records should be open, with only 32% of those with no formal education requesting the same. This again, presents a huge opportunity to educate and build support.

“It is clear that despite low levels of civic knowledge there is already huge support for EiE’s #OpenNASS campaign, especially with regards to making the breakdown of the 2016 National Assembly budget public after several promises and assurances to do so by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“Lack of accountability in the National Assembly is very dangerous for our democracy because those who are elected to provide oversight over the executive arm’s implementation of our budget cannot be expected to provide leadership and ensure accountability when they have refused to be accountable with resources allocated to them.

“Over the last three years, the National Assembly has refused to respond to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and a court order to provide its detailed budget. The National Assembly was recently taken to court by SERAP for failing to respond to an FOI request about its running costs.

“It is of great concern to Nigerians that members of the National Assembly do not know the content of their own budget, yet they hold court over how the budget of the country is spent. Public auditing of spending by the National Assembly and several reports on allegations of corruption that have been investigated remain shrouded in secrecy. This does nothing for an institution that seeks to be ‘responsive, accessible, representative and accountable’.

“The budgets of the National Assembly, the National Judicial Council (NJC), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), amongst others, are a first line charge. As such, it is not necessary for these institutions to provide a detailed breakdown of their budget as part of the annual budgeting process. This is a great disservice to Nigerians as it does nothing for transparency and accountability.

“For example, between 2006 and 2016, approximately N1.3 trillion has been allocated to the National Assembly ($4.2 billion) and there are no records of how most of these monies were spent. The National Assembly should publish the breakdown of its 2016 and 2017 budgets; Maintain a functional website, provide contact information of its members, activate the switchboard in the National Assembly complex so citizens can engage their representatives and make attendance records public; Replace voice voting with electronic voting and making voting records public.

“The National Assembly is a critical institution in our democracy and we will ensure that it is repurposed to serve all Nigerians, not just a few. They are currently on recess until January and we encourage citizens to engage them at home and demand for accountability so they can start the New Year delivering on their promise.”

On the modalities for the survey, EiE and Voto Mobile said it was “a scoping survey randomly selecting telephone numbers and collecting 1,200 responses to 39 questions between June 29 and July 4, 2016.”

They disclosed that “the sample was recalibrated to get a 48-52 gender split, and proportional representation by geo-political zone. The survey was run in five languages – Yoruba, Pidgin, Igbo, Hausa and English – to ensure it was inclusive. Each respondent was asked 27 multiple choice questions relating to the governance and democratic processes in Nigeria to understand the level of civic education, and if there was a link between this and a willingness to support the OpenNASS campaign. The results were fascinating.”

Source: News Express

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