• Monday, February 26, 2024
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SERAP demands 70% cut in lavish N345bn budget for lawmakers

Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called for a  70% cut to the National Assembly’s budget, deemed “excessive and out of touch” with the nation’s economic realities.

In a strongly worded letter addressed to Senate President Godswill Akpabio and Speaker of the House of Representatives Tajudeen Abbas, SERAP demands a revised allocation reflecting “fiscal prudence and public accountability.”

The crux of SERAP’s argument hinges on the sheer magnitude of the proposed N344.85 billion budget – a figure exceeding 70% of President Tinubu’s initial allocation and reportedly the highest ever granted to the legislature. This substantial hike, exceeding N147 billion from the proposed figure, has raised eyebrows nationwide, particularly given the current economic woes.

Fuel subsidy removal, rising inflation, and a precarious financial outlook further amplify the public’s anxieties surrounding the legislature’s lavish spending plans. SERAP contends that prioritizing such opulent allocations while neglecting the plight of ordinary Nigerians constitutes a “fundamental breach of the constitutional oath of office” and betrays the spirit of public service.

Transparency and accountability are at the heart of SERAP’s demands. The group urges immediate publication of detailed budget breakdowns, particularly for items like the N3 billion Senate and House car parks, N12.1 billion National Assembly Library “take-off grant,” and N3 billion book procurement budget.

Beyond individual line items, SERAP challenges the very philosophy behind the inflated budget. It argues that such extravagance undermines the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, instead fostering a self-serving culture within the legislature.

The letter raises concerns about potential “abuses of governmental or legislative power” veiled within opaque budgetary allocations. Nigerians’ right to scrutinize how their representatives spend public funds, especially during trying times, is underscored.

SERAP proposes a concrete course of action: a 70% reduction in the National Assembly budget, aligning it with President Tinubu’s initial proposal. This, they argue, would demonstrate “efficient, honest, and legal spending” aligned with the public interest.

SERAP warns of legal action to compel compliance if their recommendations go unheeded. Furthermore, they demand clarification on several budget items, including the nature of the N8.5 billion “National Assembly liabilities” and the rationale behind allocating N225 million to the National Assembly E-Library while simultaneously budgeting N3 billion for books.

The saga of Nigeria’s burgeoning legislative budget has ignited public discourse, reigniting longstanding concerns about government overreach and fiscal mismanagement. Whether the National Assembly heeds SERAP’s call for austerity and transparency remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the spotlight on their spending practices is unlikely to dim anytime soon.