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SERAP sues Akpabio, Abbas over N344.85B NASS budget details

SERAP among other reliefs in the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to disclose, clarify and explain details of the N344.85 billion National Assembly budget in the Appropriation Act 2024.

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SERAP sues Akpabio, Abbas over N344.85B NASS budget details

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has initiated legal proceedings against the leaders of the National Assembly for failing to provide clear details regarding the N344.85 billion in the assembly’s budget.

Joined as defendants in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/178/2024 and filed last Friday are Senate President, Mr Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Tajudeen Abbas.

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

SERAP among other reliefs in the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to disclose, clarify and explain details of the N344.85 billion National Assembly budget in the Appropriation Act 2024.

“An order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to disclose, clarify and explain the details of the N8.5 billion budgeted for ‘National Assembly liabilities’ in the Appropriation Act 2024 and the nature of any such liabilities and how and why they have been incurred.

“An order of mandamus to direct and compel Mr Akpabio and Mr Abbas to disclose, clarify and explain details of the proposed spending of the N3 billion for the ‘Senate Car Park’ and N3 billion for the House of Representatives Car Park in the Appropriation Act 2024.”

In the suit, SERAP argues: “Details of spending of public funds by the National Assembly have been mostly shrouded in secrecy. Nigerians have the right to know the details of the budget by the lawmakers, and the rationale for the budget.

“Disclosing, clarifying and explaining the details of the proposed spending of the National Assembly budget would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it, and to monitor the spending of the budget to ensure that the money is not mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”

According to SERAP, “Opacity in the spending of the N344.85 billion National Assembly budget would have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, read in part: “It is in the public interest and the interest of justice to grant this application. Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognized human right to information.

“The public interest in obtaining the information sought outweighs any other interests. The oversight afforded by public access to such details would serve as an important check on the activities of the lawmakers, and help to prevent abuses of the public trust.

“Disclosing, clarifying and explaining details of the spending of the National Assembly budget would improve public trust, and allow Nigerians to track and monitor the spending, and to assess if the items on the budget are justified, as well as to hold lawmakers to account in cases of mismanagement and corruption.

“Disclosing, clarifying and explaining the details of the proposed spending of the N344.85 billion National Assembly budget would also ensure that lawmakers are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties.”

READ ALSO: SERAP, 20 Nigerians take legal action against Akpabio, Abbas over budget increase

It further said, “The National Assembly increased its own allocation in the 2024 budget to N344.48bn. The new budgetary allocation to the National Assembly is over 70 percent of the N197bn proposed by President Bola Tinubu for the lawmakers in the budget proposal submitted to the National Assembly.

“The N344.48bn National Assembly budget, which is an increase of about N147bn, is reportedly the highest-ever budgetary allocation to the National Assembly.

“The items contained in the N344.48bn National Assembly budget include: National Assembly Office – Senate – N49.1bn; House of Representatives – N78.6bn; National Assembly Service Commission – N12.3bn; Legislative Aides – N20.3bn; NILDS – N9.09bn; Service-wide votes – N15.1bn; Senate Appropriation Committee– N200m.

“Other budget items include: House Appropriation Committee – N200 million; Public Account committees of Senate and House – N280.7 million National Assembly Library Take Off Grant – N12.1 billion; National Assembly building (ongoing) – N4.2 billion; and National Assembly Liabilities – N8.5 billion.

“Other items include: National Assembly E-Library – N225 million; Constitution Review – N1 billion; and Completion of NILDS HQ – N4.5 billion; Construction of NASC Building – N10 billion; Office of Clerks and Permanent Secretaries – N1.2 billion; and Alternative Power System – N4 billion.

“Other items in the National Assembly budget include: National Assembly Zonal Offices – N3bn; Senate Car Park – N3 billion; House of Representatives Car Park -N3 billion; and Furnishing of committee rooms (Senate) -N2.7 billion; Furnishing of committee rooms (House) – N3 billion; Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of National Assembly Ultramodern Printing Press – N3 billion.

“There are also other items in the budget: Design, Construction, Furnishing and Equipping of the National Assembly Budget and Research Office (NABRO) – N4 billion; National Assembly Hospital Project – N15 billion.

“Other items are: National Assembly Recreation Centre – N4 billion; Procurement of Books for the National Assembly Library – N3 billion; and National Assembly Pension Board (Take-Off Grant) – N2.5 billion.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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