SERAP sues Buhari, others over N’Assembly’s ‘inflated’ N228b budget
SOCIO-ECONOMIC Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and two others at the Federal High Court, Abuja over their failure to cut “the unlawful National Assembly budget of N228.1 billion, including the N30.17 billion severance payments and inauguration cost for members.”
Joined in the suit as defendants are Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
The case followed the federal legislature’s increment of their 2023 budget from N169 billion to N228.1 billion. The approved appropriation shows an increase of about N59.1 billion. The nation’s budget of N21.83 trillion is based on N10.49 trillion revenue and N11.34 trillion deficit.
In the suit, numbered FHC/ABJ/CS/152/2023 and filed at the weekend, SERAP is seeking an order of mandamus to compel Lawan and Gbajabiamila to undo the action.
It particularly wants the court to restrain and stop the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, from releasing to the National Assembly N228.1 billion until an impact assessment of spending on access to public goods and services and the country’s debt crisis are carried out.
The group, in the lawsuit filed by its SERAP by its lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare and Atinuke Adejuyigbe, argued: “It is a grave violation of tpublic trust and constitutional oath of office for members of the National Assembly to increase their own budget at a time when some 133 million Nigerians are living in poverty.”
According to the body, the bloated National Assembly budget is higher than the statutory transfer to Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which is N103.3 billion.
It went on: “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 unsustainable debt burden and serve public interest.”
“By increasing its own budget, the National Assembly has unjustifiably and disproportionately reduced the budget for the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC).
“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.”