By Valentine Amanze
A civil rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has dragged the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, and the Presidency to Abuja court over N26 billion budget.
SERAP filed the lawsuit at the Federal High Court in Abuja asking it to “stop President Muhammadu Buhari from spending N26 billion in the 2022 presidency budget on local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, ‘sitting allowance’, ‘welfare package’, and office building.”
In the suit number, FHC/ABJ/CS/1361/2021, filed on Friday, SERAP is seeking: “An order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to cut the N26 billion presidency budget on local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, and to send a supplementary appropriation bill to the National Assembly to reflect the reduction.”
SERAP also sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Buhari to publish spending details on the State House Medical Centre since May 29, 2015, to date; and to redirect some of the money on travels and meals to improve public healthcare facilities across the country.”
The agency further argued that, “the government would continue to borrow to fund the country’s budget until there is a substantial cut to the cost of governance. It is in the public interest to stop the government from spending so much money on these items. Persistent borrowing is neither sustainable nor fair to the Nigerian people.
“The huge spending by the presidency is neither necessary nor in the public interest, especially in the face of the country’s dire economic position, the scant allocations to education and health, and the growing level of borrowing by the Federal Government to fund the 2022 budget.
“The Buhari administration has constitutional and fiduciary duties to ensure a responsible budget spending, and the well-being and prosperity of Nigerians. Some of the proposed spending could be better allocated to improve access of poor Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”
The group also said, “Any spending of public funds should stay within the limits of constitutional responsibilities, and oath of office by public officers, as well as comply with Chapter 2 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution [as amended] relating to fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.”
SERAP insisted, “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Federal Government will continue to benefit from the breach of the law, and the proposed spending of N26 billion would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to essential public goods and services, and burden the next generation.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Cutting waste and apparently unnecessary spending would go a long way in addressing the budget deficit and debt problems.
“Stopping President Buhari from spending the proposed N26 billion on travels and meals would ensure that the government is spending the country’s maximum available resources to respect, protect, and promote the rights to basic needs of the poor and marginalized groups.
“The proposed spending is unsustainable, and would take away critical funding to provide access to quality healthcare and education.
“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. Nigerians are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting.
“According to reports, the proposed N26bn on travels, meals, refreshments and the presidential wing of the State House Clinic is more than the proposed allocations for ongoing and new projects in 14 teaching hospitals combined. N19.17 billion is allocated to the following teaching hospitals: UNILAG Teaching Hospital—N1.69bn; ABU Teaching Hospital—N2.38bn; University College Hospital, Ibadan—N1.49bn; and UNN Teaching Hospital—N1.38bn.”
“UNIBEN Teaching Hospital—N1.35bn; OAU Teaching Hospital—N1.35bn; UNILORIN Teaching Hospital—N982m; UNIJOS Teaching Hospital—N908m; University of Port Harcourt—N1.14bn; UNIMAID Teaching Hospital—N986m; Dan Fodio University Teaching Hospital—N987m; Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital—N2.49bn; UNIABUJA Teaching Hospital—N1.90bn; and ATBU Teaching Hospital—N947m.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.