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 the National Assembly’s budget.
SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, disclosed this in a statement on Sunday, saying the suit became necessary following their “failure to cut the unlawful National Assembly budget of N228.1bn, including the N30.17bn severance payments and inauguration costs for members.”
In the suit, 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.
He stated that the suit followed the move by the National Assembly to increase its 2023 budget from N169bn proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N228.1bn. While the approved budget shows an increase of about N59.1bn, the country’s budget of N21.83tn is based on a N10.49tn revenue, and an N11.34tn deficit.
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.”
The rights group wants “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 seeks “an order restraining and stopping Lawan and 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.”
“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,” the statement read in part.
“The National Assembly budget of N228.1bn is higher than the statutory transfer to the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which is N103.3bn.
“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. Cutting the National Assembly budget would reduce the growing budget deficit, address the unsustainable debt burden, and serve the public interest.
“By increasing its own budget, the National Assembly has unjustifiably and disproportionately reduced the budget for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.