The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 20 concerned Nigerians have filed a suit against the Senate President, Mr Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Tajudeen Abbas, for increasing the allocation for lawmakers by 75 per cent from N197 billion to N344 billion in the 2024 budget.
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 highest since the return of democracy in 1999.
According to SERAP, the lawmakers will in total draw N514 billion from the 2024 budget. This is after the lawmakers also in 2023 arbitrarily increased their budget from the originally proposed N169 billion to N228 billion.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/68/2024 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the plaintiffs asked the court to determine “whether the lawmakers, in the exercise of their powers over appropriation/money bills, can unilaterally increase their budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the executive.”
The plaintiffs also prayed the court for “a declaration that the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over appropriation/money bills, cannot unilaterally increase its budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the President in line with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].”
The plaintiffs asked the court for “a declaration that the action of the National Assembly, unilaterally increasing its 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.”
They also want “an order of perpetual injunction restraining and preventing the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing its 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, they emphasised 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.”
According to them, “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.”
“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,” they noted.
In the suit filed on behalf of SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare and Mr Andrew Nwankwo, the argued that, “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 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,” the plaintiffs added.
They said, “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.”