A group of civil society organisations (CSOs) alongside 583 Nigerians have instituted a lawsuit urging the Federal High Court, Abuja, to compel the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance not to release the N37 billion allocated for renovation works of the National Assembly in the 2020 budget.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) Deputy Director, and made public on Sunday. Other plaintiffs are Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE Nigeria), and concerned Nigerians including Bring Back Our Girls co-convener, Aisha Yesufu; as well as Nigerian singer and actor, Bankole Wellington, popularly known as Banky W.
The plaintiffs in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1633/2019, are asking the court to “restrain and stop President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Mrs Zainab Ahmed, 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 CSOs and the individuals are also praying to the court to stop Ahmad Lawan, the Senate President; Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives; and the Federal Capital Development Agency from demanding or collecting the said money “until an impact assessment of the spending on critical sectors and access to public goods and services, is carried out”.
“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 argued.
The plaintiffs added that spending N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex is a violation of the 1999 constitution and insensitive as the lawmakers have failed to take into consideration the current economic realities of the country where families hardly struggle to make ends meet.
The suit partly read: “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.”