Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a human rights group, has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to stop the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), from spending “N26bn in the 2022 presidency budget on local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, ‘sitting allowance’, ‘welfare package’, and office building.”
This was contained in a suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/1361/2021 filed last Friday.
In the suit, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to cut the N26bn 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 is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to publish spending details on the State House Medical Center 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 rights group is arguing 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.”
According to SERAP, “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.”
Also, the group said, “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 spendings could be better allocated to improve access of poor Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”
In a further argument, SERAP 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 is also arguing that “unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Federal Government will continue to benefit from the breach of the law, and the proposed spending of N26bn 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 N26bn 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.