After years of campaigns for an open national assembly — or #OpenNASS as it has now been dubbed on social media, the national assembly made ‘history’ earlier this month when it finally made its budget public.
While this is a positive step in the right direction one is still left wondering why it took so long.
Channels TV anchor Maupe Ogun confronted Bukola Saraki, Nigeria’s Senate President, with some critical questions concerning the 2017 Senate budget and creating a more open National Assembly during her show Hard Copy on Saturday.
What was, however, most attention-grabbing was Saraki’s response when the anchor asked him why it has been so difficult to make the dealings of the National Assembly more open.
Saraki, who had promised in 2015 and 2016 to open the National Assembly — and failed, initially could be seen trying to claim that the process of opening the national assembly wasn’t difficult, but probably upon second thought he decided to come clean.
His defense for the delay in opening the national assembly budget was that the senators were afraid of change. They felt things had been this way for years, so why change it?
“Once people are used to a certain process on how things are done, change is always difficult,” he said.
There was resistance from his colleagues. Some felt they’ll never be able to please the public.
He also said formation of factions within the senate with opposing points of view prevented the senate from making the budget open in 2016, considering that everybody needed to be on the same page in order to make
At least, he admitted — as most Nigerians would — that keeping the budget secret only made the senators look like they had something to hide.
Yes, progress has been made, but Nigerians are not satisfied yet. The #OpenNASS campaigners are asking for a lot more than an open budget.
Some of the things in demand are:
- that the voice voting system be replaced
- a functional website for members attendance to be taken
- a review of NASS member salaries
- an audit of the funds received by the national assembly
The good news is, Saraki doesn’t think they’re asking for too much. He believes that the fact that the national assembly has solved the difficult part which is making the budget open, the rest will gradually fall into place.