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SERAP sues Lawan, Gbajabiamila over ‘failure to cut unlawful N228.1bn NASS budget’

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, Femi Gbajabiamila over the National Assembly’s budget.

According to SERAP’s deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the lawsuit was necessary, because they “failed to decrease the unlawful National Assembly budget of N228.1bn, including the N30.17bn severance payouts and inauguration fees for members.”

President Muhammadu Buhari, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, and Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Zainab Ahmed are all named as defendants in the lawsuit.

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.

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