SERAP threatens legal action over FG’s planned cut in health budget
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the Federal Government and the National Assembly 14 days to reverse the proposed cut of N26.51b in basic healthcare budget due to COVID-19 pandemic.
In separate letters to the presidency and leadership of the National Assembly dated April 18, 2020 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the rights group urged them to cut their budgets instead or face legal action.
SERAP also urged them to “reverse the proposed illegal cut of N50.76b in the education budget. There is currently no proposal to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets.”
In the letters obtained by The Guardian, the organisation expressed concern about the scale of the cuts in basic healthcare and education budgets and their disproportionate impact on the poor.
“These cuts are not inevitable. The authorities have a lot of choices as to what to cut, but chose to balance the budget on the backs of the most disadvantaged.
“The cuts would leave the poor and most vulnerable people without access to essential public good and services, and with no where to turn, despite the COVID-19 crisis. This would put both the government and the National Assembly in breach of their constitutional and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations,” the letters read.
Addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the letters also read, “Continuing to neglect these basic public goods and services to sustain the lavish lifestyles of lawmakers and other politicians would exacerbate poverty, inequality, marginalisation and impunity in the country.
“The COVID-19 crisis is a good opportunity to cut the cost of governance, particularly the unsustainable spending on the National Assembly, the Presidency budget and to focus on increasing budget allocations to healthcare and education.
“Approach to National Assembly and Presidency budgets ought to be ‘do more with less.’ While we understand that the country is facing difficult choices in budget allocations, the authorities should have prioritised cuts in National Assembly and Presidency budgets to increase allocations to healthcare and education.
“If the cuts are sustained, Nigerians will be justified in thinking that the government and leadership of the National Assembly do not care about improving access of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to basic public services like healthcare and education.”
It further argued that cutting healthcare budget, especially during COVID-19 crisis in the country, wouldl undermine government’s ability to effectively respond to the crisis and to protect Nigerians and ensure their well-being, while cutting education budget would mean that 16 million out-of-school Nigerian children would remain on the streets for many years to come.
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