OrderPaperToday – The Spokesperson of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Kalu (APC, Abia) has revealed that the 9th Assembly is bogged down by debt obligations inherited from previous assemblies.

Mr. Kalu revealed that some of the debts date as far back as the 4th Assembly and stressed that the fiscal situation is affecting the discharge of parliamentary oversight activities.

Mr. Kalu made this known during second episode of the Online Parliamentary Engagement Nigeria (OPEN) convened by OrderPaper Nigeria on Monday.

The webinar session took place via Zoom with live stream on the verified Facebook page of OrderPaper had the topic, ‘Paradigms of Citizen Participation in the Pandemic Era and Beyond.’

Featured alongside Mr. Kalu as speakers were Mr. Adebowale Olorunmola, Country Representative of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy; and Mr. Frank Tietie, Executive Director, Citizens Advocacy for Economic and Social Rights (CASER). The session was moderated by the Executive Director of OrderPaper Nigeria, Oke Epia and Senior Reporter, Titilope Fadare.

Mr. Kalu said the paucity of funds and the  outbreak of COVID-19 has derailed certain projections of the House under the leadership of Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.

“I have come to find out that the House of Representatives is in debt. We are operating in huge debt which did not start now. It started in past assemblies since the 4th assembly and that is affecting whatever is appropriated to the House and affecting the need to carry out these oversight functions. The paucity of funds is making the committees not to exercise the expected functions,” he said.

He added that lack of funds is also affecting the implementation of the legislative agenda of the 9th House, particularly the implementation of electronic voting system.

“E-voting is one of the things the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila is passionate about. But we have a problem with cost and funding. All these good ideas we cannot roll out without funding. The money allocated to the national assembly is not enough. That is the truth. Take my word to the bank and you will be able to cash it.

“In the next budget, the Speaker is determined to make sure we capture some of these things. If we do e-voting, it is not for us. It is for you to know the pattern of every member,” he said.

The OPEN webinar is the second in the monthly series designed and implemented by OrderPaper Nigeria to bridge the gap between citizens and elected representatives in parliament, especially against the background of the global coronavirus pandemic.

It was convened with technology support from dotCivics and streamed live on the verified Facebook page of OrderPaper Nigeria where hundreds of viewers followed and participated in the conversation.

The inaugural episode held in May, 2020 and had Mr. Akin Alabi, chairman of the House committee on inter-governmental affairs, and Ms. Nimah Arigbabu, a public policy expert, as featured guests.

Download and read the full outcome document of the 2nd OPEN webinar here.


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