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SERAP, 20 Other Parties Sue Abbas, Akpabio, and Others For Raising Their Own Budget By N147 Billion.

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The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, and the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, have been sued by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and twenty concerned Nigerians for arbitrarily and unilaterally raising the allotment for lawmakers from N197 billion to N344 billion, the highest since the return of democracy in 1999.

All of the National Assembly’s members as well as Akpabio and Abbas were sued.

Recall that the lawmakers had last month raised their allocation from N197 billion proposed by President Bola Tinubu for them in the budget to N344 billion. The lawmakers will in total draw N514 billion from the 2024 budget. The lawmakers also in 2023 arbitrarily increased their own budget from the originally proposed N169 billion to N228 billion.

The President presented the Appropriation Bill 2024 made up of N27.5 trillion to the National Assembly on November 29, 2023. The National Assembly on December 30, 2023 passed the Appropriation Bill 2024 in the sum of N28.7 trillion.

That while exercising its legislative powers, Akpabio and Abbas increased the Appropriation Bill by N1.2 trillion, wherein the 1st and 2nd Defendants unilaterally increased allocations made to the National Assembly in the Appropriation Bill 2024 presented by the President from N197,932,625,616 Billion to N344.85 Billion.

The President signed the ₦28.7 trillion Appropriation Bill 2024 into law on January 1, 2024. The 2024 Budget is in deficit of ₦9.18 trillion.

In the suit filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on behalf of SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, the Plaintiffs were asking the court to determine “whether the lawmakers, in the exercise of their powers over appropriation/money bills, can unilaterally increase their own budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the Executive.

“For a declaration that the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over appropriation/money bills, cannot unilaterally increase its own budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the President in line with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].

“For a declaration that the action of the National Assembly, unilaterally increasing its own budget from N197 billion to N344 billion, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President is a breach of the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, “

SERAP sought for, “An order of perpetual injunction restraining and preventing the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing its own budget, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriation/money bills, without the re-presentation of such appropriation/money bills by the President in line with the Nigerian Constitution.”

In the suit, the Plaintiffs, maintained that: “Allowing the National Assembly to continue to unilaterally and arbitrarily increase its own budget would fundamentally undermine the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution, public trust, and the rule of law.

“The arbitrary and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their own allocation offends the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, oath of office, and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.”

According to the Plaintiffs, “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the National Assembly will continue to breach the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the rule of law, and at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in poverty.”

The suit read in part: “Members of the National Assembly are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oath of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens.

“The members of the National Assembly, by unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing their own budget in the Appropriation Bill 2024, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President has violated the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

“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.

“Members of the National Assembly have put their interest above the public interest and ‘well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, contrary to their oath of office.

“The Budget/Appropriation Act 2024 is yet to be gazetted as at the time of filing this suit and public access to the gazetted 2024 Budget/Appropriation Act is restricted.”

“The National Assembly did not submit the new line items to the President for re-presentation before presenting the Appropriation Bill to the President for assent, even after adding new line items to the Appropriation Bill 2024 and changing the budgetary allocation to already inserted line items.”

In the interim, a date has not been set for the lawsuit hearing.

Credit: Vanguard

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