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SERAP, others ask court to stop Buhari, others from spending ‘N37bn NASS renovation budget’

By Socio-Economic Rights & Accountability Project
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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT, Enough is Enough (EiE) and 583 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to “restrain and stop President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly until an impact assessment of the spending is carried out.”

The groups are also seeking a court order to “restrain, prevent and stop the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and the Federal Capital Development Agency from demanding or collecting the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of the National Assembly complex until an impact assessment of the spending on critical sectors and access to public goods and services, is carried out.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1633/2019 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the plaintiffs argued: “The National Assembly complex should be a safe and conducive environment for those who work there. But spending ₦37 billion to renovate the place is not commensurate with the constitutional commitments to public services and goods; decreasing public revenues and increasing level of debts as well as the poor economic and social realities in the country.”

The plaintiffs also argued: “Spending N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex is self-serving, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds, as it means less money for educating millions of out-of-school Nigerian children, providing access to clean water and healthcare to Nigerians including the elderly, or repairing the country’s roads and bridges.”

The 583 concerned Nigerians who joined the suit as co-plaintiffs include: Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) co-convener Aisha Yesufu; Nigerian singer and actor Banky Wellington; Mrs Ayo Obe; Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, and Fisayo Soyombo.

The suit, filed by Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The defendants are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oaths of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens. The refusal of President Buhari to object to the Budget/Appropriation Bill containing a huge N37 billion on renovation of the National Assembly complex is a gross violation of the constitution and existing laws in Nigeria.”

“The National Assembly complex was reportedly constructed at the cost of $35.18 Million USD in 1999 and ₦40.2 Billion Naira was budgeted in December 2013 for the construction of phase III of the National Assembly Complex and renovation of the first and second phases of the complex.”

“The 2020 Budget is in deficit of ₦2.175 Trillion with anticipated revenue at ₦8.42 Trillion Naira and proposed expenditure of ₦10.594 Trillion.

“The present-day economic reality in Nigeria includes chronic poverty amongst a high percentage of citizens and the inability of many state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Defendants will take benefit of the allocated N37 billion at the expense of many Nigerians living in poverty.”

“The crux of the Plaintiffs’ argument is better expressed in the question: Why should the nation spend so much on a building when there are other important areas of national infrastructure that can be developed in order to affect a greater number of citizens?”

The plaintiffs want the court to determine: “Whether N37 billion proposed, voted and allocated for renovation of the National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Act 2019 by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Buhari is not in breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and Oath of a Member of the National Assembly.”

The plaintiffs are seeking “an order of interim injunction restraining President Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, or their agents from releasing the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly leadership pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on Notice for an Order of Interlocutory Injunction filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

The plaintiffs are also seeking “an order of interim injunction restraining the Senate President Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Federal Capital Development Agency from demanding or collecting the N37 billion proposed for the renovation of the National Assembly pending the hearing and determination of Motion on Notice filed contemporaneously in this suit.”

The plaintiffs are seeking the following substantive reliefs from the court:

  1. A DECLARATION that the N37 billion proposed, prescribed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 is a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] and Oath of a Member of the National Assembly
  2. A DECLARATION that the N37 billion proposed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 signed is a breach of the Defendants’ solemn constitutional obligations to know and follow constitutional oaths governing their conduct, including their duties of care to Nigerians to faithfully protect and defend the constitution and improve the well-being and welfare of Nigerians
  3. AN ORDER OF THE COURT restraining, preventing and stopping President Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly leadership until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out
  4. AN ORDER OF THE COURT restraining, preventing and stopping the National Assembly leadership from demanding or collecting the N37 billion proposed for the renovation of the National Assembly until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out
  5. ANY ORDER(S)that the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of this suit.
  6. No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

    Kolawole Oluwadare
    SERAP Deputy Director
    29/12/2019
    Lagos, Nigeria
    Emails: [email protected]; [email protected]

    Twitter: @SERAPNigeria
    Website: www.serap-nigeria.org
    For more information or to request an interview, please contact: +2348160537202