A group of concerned Nigerians has filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, for allegedly inflating the National Assembly’s budget by N147 billion.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the 20 Nigerians, in a suit filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, argue that the lawmakers unilaterally increased their allocation from N197 billion proposed by President Muhammadu Buhari to N344 billion without following due process.
Breach of constitution and abuse of power
The plaintiffs argue that the National Assembly’s action is a breach of Section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution, which stipulates that all appropriation bills must be presented by the President. They also accuse the lawmakers of abuse of power and a conflict of interest.
“The unilateral and arbitrary increase of the National Assembly’s budget by the defendants is a gross violation of the Nigerian Constitution and an abuse of power,” said SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare. “It is also a conflict of interest, as the lawmakers have put their personal interests above the well-being of the Nigerian people.”
Call for transparency and accountability
The plaintiffs are seeking an order from the court to compel the National Assembly to return the allegedly inflated budget to the President for proper representation. They are also calling for transparency and accountability in the budgeting process.
“We urge the court to grant our reliefs and ensure that the National Assembly complies with the Nigerian Constitution,” Oluwadare said. “The Nigerian people deserve a transparent and accountable government, and we will not rest until we achieve that.”
The Nigerian constitution and the budget process
Section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution states that the President shall prepare and lay before each House of the National Assembly at the commencement of each financial year estimates of revenue and expenditure for the financial year.
The National Assembly is then responsible for considering and approving the estimates. However, the Constitution also states that the National Assembly cannot increase the proposed expenditure of any department or agency of the government.
Implications of the lawsuit
If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, it could have a significant impact on the Nigerian budget process. It could also set a precedent for future legal challenges to the National Assembly’s actions.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of challenges to the Nigerian government’s budget process. In 2019, a group of civil society organizations sued the government for failing to publish the budget online. The case is still pending.
The Nigerian government has been accused of opacity and a lack of accountability in its budgeting process. The lawsuit against the National Assembly is likely to increase scrutiny of the government’s finances.