The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the National Assembly to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from selling Government properties to fund the 2021 budget.
SERAP, in a statement issued on Sunday, January 17, 2021, by its deputy Director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, appealed to the Senate President, Senator Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila to bar the President from carrying out such moves via a letter addressed on Saturday, January 16, 2021.
Channels TV reports that the group wants the leadership of the National Assembly to “urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget, and to identify areas in the budget to cut, such as salaries and allowances for members and the Presidency to make sayings to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing.”
The statement noted that: “The National Assembly has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure responsible budget spending”; adding that allowing the Government to sell public properties, and to enjoy almost absolute discretion to borrow to fund the 2021 budget would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and fiduciary duties.
While warning that selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive, the group said “this would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement; undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the Government worse off, and hurt the country in the long run, which is neither necessary nor in the public interest.”
The organisation also called for a change in the country’s fiscal situation through some combination of cuts in spending on salaries and allowances, and a freeze on spending in certain areas of the budget such as hardship and furniture allowances, entertainment allowances, international travels, and buying of motor vehicles and utilities for members and the Presidency.
On borrowing of loans, SERAP also asked the parliament “to stop approving loan requests by the Federal Government if it continues to fail to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained. The budget deficit and debt problems threaten Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services and will hurt future generations. If not urgently addressed, the deficit and debt problems would seriously undermine access to public goods and services for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions.”
The statement added that: “Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”