More than 1,500 concerned Nigerians, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT and Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE) have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court to “restrain, prevent and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from paying the incoming members of the 9thNational Assembly individually and/or collectively over N4.68 billion as ‘welcome package’.”
SERAP, BudgIT and EiE, suing for themselves and on behalf of 1,522 concerned Nigerians, stated that: “The Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) has failed to do any downward review of salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly since 2007 in spite of the economic downturn in Nigeria. Yet, the commission is statutorily required to review the pay of the lawmakers, in conformity with the country’s economic realities and to achieve fiscal efficiency.”
In the suit number FHC/L/CS/943/2019 filed last Friday before the Federal High Court in Lagos, the plaintiffs argued: “Given many years of extreme poverty in the country, and the inability of several state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions, the refusal or failure of the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and cut the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly is a gross violation of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the commission’s own Act.”
Joined as defendants in the suit are the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Assembly Service Commission and Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).
The plaintiffs also argued that: “The duty of the RMAFC to review the salaries and allowances of members of the National Assembly is mandatory and the Commission cannot choose not to comply. Therefore, the failure or refusal by the Commission to comply with its own Act amounts to arbitrariness.”
The suit read in part: “Unless the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs are granted, the defendants and members of the National Assembly will continue to benefit from these outrageous salaries and allowances, in breach of the law and at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in extreme poverty.”
“The amounts budgeted as payment for furniture and accommodation allowance to members of the 9th National Assembly negates the oath of office under the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution by members to perform their functions in the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria.”
“The National Assembly comprises of 469 members – with 109 in the Senate and 360 in the House of Representatives. These public officers form a very tiny percentage of about 200 million Nigerians. Members are still eligible to collect huge sums of money as monthly allowances and severance pay at the end of their respective terms.”
“The RMAFC is required to advise the Federal, State and Local Governments on fiscal efficiency and methods by which their revenue is to be increased. Prescribing N9,926,062.5 and N10,132,000:00 to members of the House of Representatives and Senate respectively, as furniture and accommodation allowance, is not in tandem with the Commission’s statutory mandate and advisory roles on fiscal efficiency.”
“The action of members of the National Assembly in ‘rubber-stamping’ the passage of the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders [Salaries and Allowances] [Amendments] Act 2008 is also in clear breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, particularly paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which provides that ‘a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities’.”
“It can be inferred that in passing the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders [Salaries and Allowances] [Amendments] Act 2008, members of the National Assembly more or less appropriated these payments as allowance to themselves, thereby bringing about conflict of their personal interests with national interest of fiscal efficiency, a conflict eventually resolved in favour of personal interest.”
“Section 70 of the Nigerian Constitution provides that a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as the RMAFC may determine.”
“The initial statute regulating the pay and allowances of members of the National Assembly was the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders [Salaries and Allowances] Act 2002, which was amended in 2007. The Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders [Amendments] Act 2008 prescribed the current pay and allowances of members of the National Assembly.”
The plaintiffs therefore are seeking the following reliefs from the court:
1. A DECLARATION that the sum of N10,132,000:00 and N9,926,062.5 allotted to each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives respectively as furniture and accommodation allowance is in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, oath of office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and Section 6 of the RMAFC Act 2004.
2. A DECLARATION that the prescription of the sum of N10,132,000:00 and N9,926,062.5 for each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives respectively as furniture and accommodation allowance by the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission is in breach of Section 70 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and Section 6[b][c][d] of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act 2004.
3. AN ORDER compelling the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and reduce the amount prescribed for each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives respectively as furniture and accommodation allowance in accordance with Section 6 of the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act 2004.
4. AN ORDER restraining, preventing and stopping the National Assembly Service Commission from paying the sum of N10,132,000:00 and N9,926,062.5 to each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives respectively as furniture and accommodation allowance until the downward review of the pay and allowances of the members of the 1st and 2nd Defendants by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
5. AN ORDER restraining, preventing and stopping all members of the Senate and the House of Representatives from collecting or demanding the sum of N10,132,000:00 and N9,926,062.5 as furniture and accommodation allowance due to each Senator and Member of the House of Representatives respectively until the downward review of the pay and allowances of the members of the 1st and 2nd Defendants by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission.
6. ANY ORDER(S) that the Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of this suit.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Buhari Approves N208bn for Varsity Infrastructure
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Saturday, said he had approved the disbursement of N208bn to federal universities for infrastructure.
The President said the approval was done under the 2019 intervention of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund to “address the deficiencies in all the segments of our educational system.”
Buhari said these at the 23rd convocation of the University of Abuja, where he was represented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Sonny Echono.
The President, who is the Visitor to the school, said the university system must search for solutions to the nation’s developmental needs.
Buhari said, “The ability of Nigeria with its huge population to overcome its present challenges of development no longer depends on petroleum resources but on the ability of the country to develop its human capital. The present administration will continue to improve on the infrastructural facilities in the universities, promote teacher development and curriculum review.
“It is in furtherance of this that I recently approved the disbursement of N208bn to public tertiary institutions under the 2019 intervention of the TETFUND.
“The government will continue to look into the issues raised by the universities, especially regarding physical development and will equally monitor the universities closely.”
UNIABUJA Vice-Chancellor, Prof Michael Adikwu, said 4,946 students graduated from the institution with 24 first-class.
He said, “The total is made up of 4,725 undergraduates and 221 postgraduate students from the 2017/2018 session. We have 982 Second Class Upper and 2,498 Second Class Lower degrees. A total of 68 have doctoral degrees while 233 were awarded master’s degrees.”
FG Admits Shortcomings of 2019 Polls, Vows to Act on EU Recommendations
The presidency has welcomed the report of the European Union (EU) on the 2019 general election, promising to analyse it fully and act on the recommendations.
Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Saturday.
Shehu said the EU observers were invited to the country by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and welcomed by the federal government.
He said this showed that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had “good intentions”.
In its report, the EU said there were marked improvements from previous elections, although it highlighted that more work needed to be done.
It also questioned the neutrality of INEC, condemning the violence witnessed in different parts of the country.
In its response, the federal government said it is working to address some of the concerns raised by the organisation.
“The administration of President Buhari will work with all Nigerian citizens, state institutions, parties, civil society, the media, and other experts to make sure that the improvements recommended by the EU are implemented, and that these areas of concern are addressed,” Shehu said.
“It is noteworthy that INEC is in receipt of a number of recommendations that form a part of the EU report. The presidency assures that the commission is in safe hands and happy that they are currently engaged in root and branch reviews of the 2019 general elections and will input lessons learned into its recommendations for electoral and constitutional reforms.
“We believe that the commission conducted a good election and will continue to improve on its processes and procedures. While it is regretted that the elections in a few parts of the country witnessed some violence, among other shortcomings highlighted by the EU, we note however that none of these hitches affected the overall outcome of the elections.”
Shehu expressed delight that the EU did not question the results of the presidential election, describing this as a “further proof that the polls reflected the overall will of Nigerians, and that the world is solidly behind the election of President Buhari for a second term”.
‘INEC’s Neutrality Questionable’ — 10 Highlights of EU Report on 2019 Polls
The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria on Saturday released the final report gathered from its observation of the 2019 general election.
The report highlighted a number of issues regarding the polls and gave 30 recommendations to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The mission, which had in its preliminary report released in April, adjudged the polls as characterised by violence, underage voting, and vote-buying, however, said the election recorded some improvements compared to past ones.
“The systemic failings evident in the elections and the low levels of voter participation show the need for fundamental reform,” it read.
“Without this, there is a risk of unaccountable leadership and citizen disengagement. Such reform requires principled political leadership committed to the rights of Nigerian citizens and an inclusive process of national dialogue involving state institutions, parties, civil society, the media and other experts.
“This needs to be urgently undertaken to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections.”
Below are some of the highlights from the report:
INEC RECORDED IMPROVEMENT
“The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worked in a complex security and politically-charged environment, with its premises and officials subject to physical attacks and intimidation,” it read.
“INEC made a number of improvements, including making electoral participation more accessible through simplified voting procedures. INEC made efforts to strengthen electoral integrity by issuing regulations making smart card readers mandatory to accredit voters, but there were insufficient accompanying transparency measures.
“Other procedural weaknesses continued, including in regards to checks and transparency in the results process. Severe operational shortcomings resulted in the elections being postponed by a week just five hours before polling was due to start on 16 February.”
LACK OF TRANSPARENCY
The report said the 2019 polls recorded transparency issues even though it was highly competitive.
“Nigeria’s 2019 general elections were marked by severe operational and transparency shortcomings, electoral security problems, and low turnout. Positively, the elections were competitive, parties were overall able to campaign and civil society enhanced accountability,” it read.
“The leading parties were at fault in not reining in acts of violence and intimidation by supporters, and in abusing incumbency at federal and state levels.”
LESSER WOMEN PARTICIPATION
The EOM decried the decreasing participation of women in electoral positions.
“Nigeria has the lowest rate of women in parliament in Africa, with the number progressively decreasing since 2011,” it said.
“The number of women elected fell again. These systemic failings show the need for fundamental reform so elections better serve the interests of the Nigerian people.
“The proportion of women elected is well below the 30 per cent Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the 35 per cent national targets. 203 Similarly, the proportion of female candidates for national and state-level elections generally reduced in comparison to 2015 by an average of two percentage points to 10 per cent”
SUSPENSION OF CJN ‘QUESTIONABLE’
It said the suspension of Walter Onnoghen, former chief justice of Nigeria, is questionable, adding that due process was not followed.
“It was seen by many as undermining the security of tenure, damaging judicial independence and compromising the division of powers. The suspension did not follow due process, was divisive, and undermined confidence in the electoral process and opportunity for remedy.
“The mission observed that questionable procedures were followed by the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The removal of the chief justice of Nigeria during the elections had an inhibiting effect on the judiciary.
“Very few electoral offences result in arrest or prosecution, and thus there is an enduring culture of impunity.”
OVER 100 ELECTION-RELATED DEATHS
Violence was recorded across some states, including Lagos and Delta during the polls, leading to loss of lives and property.
“The elections became increasingly marred by violence and intimidation. This harmed the integrity of the electoral process and may deter future participation. Based on information available, around 150 people died in election-related violence during the campaign period and over the election days.
“Approximately 145 people were killed in election-related violence, 84 of which were in the South-South zone. This is a comparable figure to the 2015 general elections.
“However, exact numbers of incidents and fatalities are hard to obtain and there are different views on what is categorised as electoral and political violence.”
INEC’s CREDIBILITY QUESTIONABLE
“INEC’s neutrality and ability to withstand political pressure was increasingly questioned, particularly following the September 2018 off-cycle governorship election in Osun,” it said.
“INEC operated in a highly politically-charged and complex security environment. Its officials and premises were subject to physical attack, including abductions and intimidation, and there were also difficulties with some inter-institutional arrangements.
“A number of procedural weaknesses identified by previous EU election observation missions remained unaddressed, particularly regarding checks and transparency in the results process.”
According to the report, the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) was biased in its covering and reportage of the polls, adding that it gave preferential treatment to President Muhammadu Buhari.
“There was evident partisan programming by the NTA. The joint share of exposure for the president, the government and the APC was over 84 per cent.
“During the EU EOM’s 46-day monitoring period, President Buhari had two hours and eight minutes of direct speech within the news, while Atiku Abubakar had seven minutes,” it said.
“Except for federal radio, state media primarily served the interests of the president or the governor at state level.
However federal government-owned TV clearly favoured the president and the ruling party.”
FAKE NEWS FACTOR
“Disinformation (fake/false narratives) was a key focus of political discussion with concern about its impact on the 2019 elections and risk of violence.119 Government officials repeatedly alerted the public to the risk of disinformation. People affiliated with both major parties posted false partisan information online.”
GUBER POLL MORE ORDERLY THAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
It judged the gubernatorial election as more orderly than its presidential counterpart.
“Polling was more orderly and assessed more positively by EU observers in comparison to the 23 February election day.”
TRANSPARENT COUNTING OF BALLOT
“Overall, the counting of ballots was transparent. In 25 out of 28 observed polling units, results forms were filled in completely. But in 12 cases collation was assessed as bad or very bad. In most cases, results forms and smart card readers were not packed in tamper-evident envelopes when delivered to collation centres.”
Meanwhile, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC chairman, has promised to ensure the implementation of the recommendations.
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