The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila over their “failure to cut the unlawful National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion, including the N30.17 billion severance payments and inauguration costs for members.”
The suit by the advocacy group followed the move by the National Assembly to increase its 2023 budget from N169 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N228.1 billion, representing an increase of about N59.1 billion.
What SERAP is seeking in the suit
- In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/152/2023 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Dr. Lawan and Mr. Gbajabiamila to review and reduce the budget of N228.1bn the leadership and members of the National Assembly allocated for their own benefit.”
- SERAP is also seeking: “an order restraining and stopping Ms. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing to the National Assembly the budget of N228.1bn, until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public goods and services and the country’s debt crisis, is carried out.”
- It also sought, “an order restraining and stopping Dr. Lawan and Mr. Gbajabiamila from demanding or collecting the National Assembly budget of N228.1bn, until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public goods and services and the country’s debt crisis, is carried out.”
In the suit, SERAP argued that it is a grave violation of the public trust and constitutional oath of office for the members of the National Assembly to increase their own budget at a time when some 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty.
It noted that the National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion is higher than the statutory transfer to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which is N103.3 billion.
Increase unreasonable and unjustifiable
SERAP argued that the increase is unreasonable, as it would substantially increase the cost of governance, and exacerbate the country’s debt crisis. It is unlawful, and unfair to the Nigerian people.
SERAP also argued that cutting the National Assembly budget would reduce the growing budget deficit, address the unsustainable debt burden, and serve the public interest.
- SERAP is arguing that, “by increasing its own budget, the National Assembly has unjustifiably and disproportionately reduced the budget for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).”
- SERAP is also arguing that, “This is a travesty, especially given that Nigeria currently has over 20 million out-of-school children, and half of all poor people in the country are children.”
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Atinuke Adejuyigbe, with no date fixed for the hearing.
Joined in the suit as Defendants are President Muhammadu Buhari; the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN; and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
SERAP and other well meaning groups need to do more of this. That is one of the only remaining ways of keeping our “rulers” excesses in check.