President of the Senate, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has stated that despite the widespread perception that the National Assembly is being overfunded, it is actually grappling with funding constraints in carrying out it statutory functions.
Saraki, according to a statement by his Special Assistant on Print Media, Chuks Okocha, disclosed this when he paid a working visit to the Chairman and members of the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) at their temporary office located in Utako, Abuja on Wednesday.
Responding to the request of the Chairman of the Commission, Mallam Adamu Fika, to have a permanent office of the Commission inside the National Assembly complex, Saraki pledged the support of the leadership towards the project, while noting that adequate funding remains the major challenge of the National Assembly.
Saraki said: “One of the things that I see here today is the issue of budgetary constraints. However, the impression around the country is often that the National Assembly has too much money. But we have seen the challenges of the last few years.
“As we work through the number of bills passed, the public hearings held, and the number of ad-hoc committees that have been established — we know the challenges of not being able to fund some of our activities.
“So far, I am happy to report that despite these constraints, the 8th Senate has been able to surpass all previous Senates in the number of Bills that we have passed in 2-years — despite the funding gaps.
“We know that as we continue over time, people will begin to have more confidence in the National Assembly. However, right now, the challenges that we have are the issue of perception, and the issue of funding. We need to work hard to change this”, he said.
Saraki who is also the Chairman of the National Assembly further noted that it has not been easy for Nigerians to appreciate the various roles of the legislature as an arm of government being the youngest of the three arms of government.
“Therefore, we all have a lot of work in trying to make the people appreciate the role of the legislature in our democracy,” Saraki said. “This has not been easy, this is why I am sure that working with the Commission, we can work towards this together so that we can improve the image of the National Assembly.”
Earlier, the Chairman of the NASC, Dr. Adamu Fika, lamented that the commission still operates from a rented apartment with the attendant cost.
He enjoined the leadership of the National Assembly to come to its aid by supporting it to build a befitting permanent office within the National Assembly complex.
He however commended Saraki for being the first President of the Senate and Chairman of the National Assembly to have visited the office of the commission.
In a another development, Dr. Saraki, on Thursday announced a six-man committee of senators to reconcile the Senate’s version of the amended Electoral Act with the version passed by the House of Representatives.
The Senate’s conference committee has the Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Senator Suleiman Nazif, as Chairman.
Other members of the committee are Senators Shehu Sani, Biodun Olujimi, Hope Uzodinma, Dino Melaye and Peter Nwaoboshi.
The committee is expected to meet with the House of Representatives to harmonize the version of the amended electoral bill before being sent to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
The Senate had in 2017 passed an amended version of the 2010 Electoral Act.
While the House of Representatives Tuesday amended the Electoral Act to change the order of 2019 general elections’ time table. This came barely a month after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the time-table for the general elections.
With the amendment, the National Assembly election is to hold first, followed by gubernatorial and state assembly polls and presidential election to be conducted last.
The amendment was made at the Committee of the whole House, presided by the Deputy Speaker, Yussuff Lasun.
The lawmakers amended the Act while considering the report of the House Committee on Electoral Matters which proposed amendment of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). The House amended section 25 of the Principal Act and substituted it with a new section 25 (1).
According to the section, the elections shall be held in the following order: (a) National Assembly election (b) State Houses of Assembly and Governorship elections (c) Presidential election.
Similarly, section 87 was amended by adding a new section 87 (11) with a marginal note “time for primaries of political parties”.
“The primaries of political parties shall follow the following sequence (i) State House of Assembly (ii) National Assembly (iii) Governorship, and (iv), President.
“The dates for the above stated primaries shall not be held earlier than 120 days and not later than 90 days before the date of elections to the offices.”
The House also amended section 36 to allow running mates of candidates who die before the conclusion of elections inherit his votes and continue with the process.