21 Nigerians Sue Akpabio, Abbas For Alleged Unlawful NASS Budget Hike

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 20 concerned Nigerians have sued the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas, alleging that the duo “unilaterally and arbitrarily increased the allocation for lawmakers from N197 billion to N344 billion, their highest since the return of democracy in 1999.”

Filed under suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/68/2024 at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the plaintiffs seek to determine whether lawmakers can autonomously raise their budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the Executive. The suit contends that this unilateral increase violates democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.

In the filed suit, the plaintiffs are also seeking a declaration that the National Assembly cannot unilaterally increase its budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the President, in accordance with Section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended).

They further demand an order of perpetual injunction preventing such arbitrary increases by the National Assembly.

SERAP and the concerned Nigerians argue that allowing the National Assembly to unilaterally and arbitrarily increase its budget undermines the Nigerian Constitution, public trust, and the rule of law.

The lawsuit noted the violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers and asserts that unless the reliefs sought are granted, the National Assembly will continue to breach the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in poverty.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, read in part: “Members of the National Assembly are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oath of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens.”

“The members of the National Assembly, by unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing their own budget in the Appropriation Bill 2024, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President has violated the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.”

“Paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which provides that ‘a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.’”

“Members of the National Assembly have put their interest above the public interest and ‘well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, contrary to their oath of office.”

“It is a necessary implication of the rule of law that, except where the law gives a discretion to a public functionary, he can only act in accordance with the law, as to do otherwise may enthrone arbitrariness.”

“The increase and insertion of line items in the Appropriation Bill 2024 by the National Assembly is not commensurate with the constitutional commitments to public services and goods; decreasing public revenues and increasing level of public debts, and the poor economic and social realities in Nigeria.”

“The President presented the Appropriation Bill 2024 made up of N27.5 trillion Naira to the National Assembly on 29 November 2023. The National Assembly on 30th December, 2023 passed the Appropriation Bill 2024 in the sum of N28.7 Trillion.”

“That while exercising its legislative powers, the 1st and 2nd Defendants increased the Appropriation Bill by N1.2 Trillion, wherein the 1st and 2nd Defendants unilaterally increased allocations made to the National Assembly in the Appropriation Bill 2024 presented by the President from N197,932,625,616 Billion Naira to N344.85 Billion.”

“The President signed the ₦28.7 Trillion Appropriation Bill 2024 into law on 1st January, 2024. The 2024 Budget is in deficit of ₦9.18 Trillion.”

“The Budget/Appropriation Act 2024 is yet to be gazetted as at the time of filing this suit and public access to the gazetted 2024 Budget/Appropriation Act is restricted.”

“The National Assembly after inserting new line items to the Appropriation Bill 2024 and altering the budgetary allocation to already inserted line items did not submit same to the President for representation by the President before going ahead to present the Appropriation Bill to the President for assent.”

SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians are also asking the court for the following reliefs:

1. A DECLARATION that the action of the National Assembly, unilaterally increasing the budget of the National Assembly from 197 billion Naira to 344 billion Naira, in the exercise of its powers over Appropriation Bill 2024, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President is a breach of section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, Oath of office [Seventh Schedule] and section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution.

2. AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION OF THE HONOURABLE COURT restraining and preventing the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing the budget of the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriation/money bills, without the re-presentation of such appropriation/money bills by the President in compliance with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.

3. AN ORDER OF THE HONOURABLE COURT directing, compelling and mandating the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriation/money bills, to comply with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]by sending such appropriation/money bills to the President for representation before the National Assembly in compliance with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.

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

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