File: Buhari and leaders of National Assembly, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gabjabiamila

File: Buhari, Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 302 concerned Nigerians have sued President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly.

The litigants are asking the court to “declare illegal, unconstitutional and unfair the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price”.

They contend that top level public officers cannot continue to receive the same salaries and allowances and spend public money to finance a life of luxury for themselves while asking poor Nigerians to make sacrifices.

Joined in the suit as defendants are the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

President Buhari had while presenting the 2021 budget proposal of N13.08 trillion to the National Assembly reportedly stated that: “The new petrol pricing has freed up resources that were used for subsidy payments, while the new cost-reflective pricing in the electricity industry is meant to address the liquidity challenges in the sector.”

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But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/330/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order directing and compelling the RMAFC to cut the salaries, allowances and other emoluments payable to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in line with the current economic realities, and principles of justice, fairness, equality and non-discrimination.”

SERAP is arguing that: “The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] makes it clear that the authorities should harness Nigeria’s resources to promote and ensure the maximum welfare, prosperity, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality. The country’s resources ought to be harnessed and distributed to serve the common good, and not to finance a life of luxury for politicians.”

“Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is antithetical to the public interest, the common good, and a fundamental breach of constitutional oath of office.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of injunction restraining the RMAFC from paying the same amount of salaries and allowances to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila until the RMAFC comprehensively reviews downward the salaries and allowances and other emoluments of these top public officers and other high-ranking public officers, in line with Nigeria’s current economic realities, and consistent with the principles of the rule of law.”

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Dr Lawan is sued for himself and on behalf of all 109 members of the Senate, while Mr Gbajabiamila is sued for himself and on behalf of all 360 members of the House of Representatives.

According to SERAP: “A public officer shall not put himself/herself in a position where his/her personal interest conflicts with his/her duties and responsibilities. Personal interest in this case is when top public officers like the Defendants continue to receive the same salaries and allowances while asking poor Nigerians to sacrifice and bear the burden of electricity tariff and fuel price hike.”

SERAP is also asking the court to determine “whether RMAFC can lawfully continue to maintain the same level of salaries and allowances for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in light of Nigeria’s current economic realities, and constitutional provisions, and despite their apparent roles in the increase of electricity tariff and fuel price.”

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“Public money is spent as security votes without transparency, and to pay for lavish lifestyles for top public officers including lawmakers, who continue to buy expensive new cars at the expense of taxpayers, the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians. The National Assembly is also set to spend N27 billion to renovate the National Assembly Complex, as proposed in the budget.”

The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi.