Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila have been urged to redirect to the 36 states and the FCT, the N37b meant for the renovation of the National Assembly.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) made the appeal on Saturday to the two National Assembly leaders.
It said the money will serve as COVID-19 direct reliefs and benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
And it wants the two leaders to “immediately make a public commitment”, to do so.
“We applaud the patriotic steps and voluntary contributions already made by the National Assembly towards fighting COVID-19 in the country”, the group said in an open letter.
“We now urge you to make major strides to national efforts to deal with one of the greatest threats facing the country by immediately redirecting the N37 billion to provide direct and tangible benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable people among us,” SERAP said in an open letter.
The letter dated 11 April, 2020 was signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.
“Nigeria is at a crossroads and National Assembly leaders and members must now decide whether to continue to look after themselves and do little for the country’s poorest or make commitment to redirect the N37 billion to help ameliorate the suffering caused by COVID-19 restrictions.”
“While some of the authorities’ responses to COVID-19 across the country may be necessary to stop the spread of the disease and save lives, we are concerned that the prevailing situation has taken its toll on the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions in several states and the FCT.”
“We also urge you to immediately advise President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to urgently implement your commitment to redirect the N37 billion to provide direct and tangible benefits and reliefs to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
“The money must be spent now to serve the public good. Spending the N37 billion as proposed would increase the ability of states and FCT authorities to provide COVID-19 reliefs and benefits. It would not cause any budget deficit. But assuming it does, it would be a good deficit, as it would serve the public good.”
“Going ahead to spend N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex even when COVID-19 is over would further undermine the social contract in Nigeria, and hurt the poorest and most vulnerable people across the 36 states and FCT, as it would limit the ability of the authorities to provide much needed benefits and support to these Nigerians, and undermine efforts to reduce the impact of the disease on the country.”
“Giving the N37 billion to states and FCT would be in the public interest at this time of national crisis, as it would improve the chances of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to live a life of dignity while obeying authorities’ directives to stay at home.”