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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

21 Nigerians sue Akpabio and Abbas for ‘arbitrarily’ increasing NASS budget

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 20 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against Senate President Godswill Akpabio and House of Representatives Speaker Tajudeen Abbas “for unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing the allowance for lawmakers from N197 billion to N344 billion, the highest figure since the return of democracy in 1999.”

Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas are sued on behalf of themselves and on behalf of all members of the National Assembly.

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Last month, lawmakers had increased their allocation from N197 billion proposed by President Bola Tinubu in the budget to N344 billion. Lawmakers will withdraw a total of N514 billion from the 2024 budget. Lawmakers also in 2023 arbitrarily increased their own budget from the originally proposed N169 billion to N228 billion.

In suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/68/2024 filed last Friday before the Federal High Court in Abuja, the plaintiffs ask the court to determine “whether the legislators, in the exercise of their powers over appropriations/projects of money, “They can unilaterally increase their own budget without the new presentation of the budget by the Executive.”

The plaintiffs ask the court “for a declaration that the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over appropriations/projects of money, cannot unilaterally increase its own budget without the resubmission of the budget by the President in accordance with article 81 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended].”

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The plaintiffs ask the court “for a declaration that the action of the National Assembly, which unilaterally increased its own budget from N197 billion to N344 billion, without the re-presentation of the budget by the president, is a violation of the democratic principles of separation. of powers and checks and balances.”

The plaintiffs seek “an order of perpetual injunction restraining and restraining the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing its own budget, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriations/money bills, without the resubmission of said appropriations/money bills.” allocations/money by the President in accordance with the Nigerian Constitution.”

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue 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 plaintiffs also argue that “Legislators’ arbitrary and selfish increase in their own allocation violates the Code of Conduct for Public Officials.” [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, the oath of office and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.”

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According to the plaintiffs, “unless the requested reparations are granted, the National Assembly will continue to violate the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the rule of law, and at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in poverty.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP and 20 affected Nigerians by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo read in part: “Members of the National Assembly are public servants who have taken the constitutional oath to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens. ”.

“Members of the National Assembly, by unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing their own budget in the 2024 Appropriations Bill, without resubmission of the budget by the President, have violated the Code of Conduct for Public Officials.”

“Paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials which states that ‘a public official shall not place himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.’”

“Members of the National Assembly have put their interests before the public interest and the ‘welfare and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, contrary to their oath.”

“It is a necessary implication of the rule of law that, except when the law grants discretionary powers to a public official, he can only act in accordance with the law, since to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness.”

“The increase and insertion of items in the 2024 Appropriations Bill by the National Assembly is not proportional to the constitutional commitments to public services and goods; declining public revenue and rising level of public debt, and the poor economic and social realities in Nigeria.”

“The President presented the 2024 Appropriation Bill comprising N27.5 trillion to the National Assembly on November 29, 2023. On December 30, 2023, the National Assembly passed the 2024 Appropriation Bill by the sum of 28.7 trillion naira.”

“That, while exercising their legislative powers, the first and second respondents increased the appropriation bill by N1.2 trillion, where the first and second respondents unilaterally increased the appropriations made to the National Assembly in the appropriation bill. 2024 allocations presented by the President from N197,932,625,616 Billion Naira to N344.85 Billion.”

“The President signed the £28.7 trillion Appropriation Bill 2024 into law on January 1, 2024. The 2024 budget has a deficit of £9.18 trillion.”

“The Budget/Appropriations Act of 2024 has not yet been published at the time of filing this lawsuit and public access to the published Budget/Appropriations Act of 2024 is restricted.”

“The National Assembly, after inserting new items in the 2024 Appropriations Bill and altering the budget allocation to the items already inserted, did not present them to the President to present them again before continuing with the presentation of the Appropriations Bill of 2024. Appropriations Act to the President to assent.”

SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians are also petitioning the court for the following reparations:

1. A DECLARATION that the action of the National Assembly, unilaterally increasing the budget of the National Assembly from N197 billion to N344 billion, in the exercise of its powers over the 2024 Appropriation Bill , without representation of the budget by the President violates Article 81 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [as amended]the Code of Conduct for Public Officials [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, Oath of Office [Seventh Schedule] and Article 81 of the Nigerian Constitution.

2. A PERPETUAL ORDER OF ACTION OF THE HONORABLE COURT restraining and preventing the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing the budget of the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriations/money bills, without representation of said appropriation /money bills of the President pursuant to Article 81 of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.

READ ALSO: Why it will be abnormal for me if APC does not produce Akwa Ibom governor in 2027 – Akpabio

3. AN ORDER OF THE HONORABLE COURT directing, binding and directing the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over all Appropriation/Money Bills, to comply with section 81 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria. [as amended] sending the said Appropriations/Money Bills to the President for presentation to the National Assembly in accordance with Article 81 of the Nigerian Constitution and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.

No date has been set for the hearing of the lawsuit.

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