Some 6,721 concerned Nigerians, including the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT and Enough is Enough (EiE), at the weekend initiated action at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos against the ninth Senate over plan to spend N5.550 billion on vehicles for its principal officers.
In the suit marked FHC/L/CS/1511/2019, the plaintiffs urged the court to “restrain, prevent and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from paying or releasing the budgeted sum until the downward review of the amount proposed by the Senate.”
They also want a declaration that the decision was in breach of Section 57 (4) of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Paragraph 1, Code of Conduct for Public Officers (Fifth Schedule Part 1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and Oath of Office (Seventh Schedule) of the constitution.
The plaintiffs argued that spending “such a huge sum on luxury cars for the lawmakers was unjust and unfair, as it negates the constitutional oath of office made by members to perform their functions in the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria and its citizens, as contained in Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
They also contended that the proposed spending by the ninth Senate raises pertinent questions, including “what is the economic value and contribution of the vehicles sought to be purchased to the grand scheme of Nigeria’s economy? What are the parameters used the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria and its citizens as contained in the Seventh Schedule of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) to arrive at cost efficiency and value for money in the decision to purchase the vehicles? Where are the vehicles purchased by the eighth Senate?”
The applicants noted: “The failure or refusal by the Senate to comply with legal and constitutional provisions is nothing but an act of arbitrariness. The money could be better allocated to more important sectors of the National Assembly expenditure like constituency projects and scholarships.”
Other claimants in the suit filed by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare and supported by an affidavit of urgency, included Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) co-conveners, Oby Ezekwesili, and Aisha Yesufu; Jibrin Ibrahim; Edetaen Ojo; Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi and Deji Adeyanju.
No date has, however, been fixed for hearing.
The suit read in part: “A public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his official duties. But the plan to spend N5.550 billion to buy vehicles for principal officers of the Senate is a textbook case of a conflict of their personal interests with the national interest of fiscal efficiency – a conflict eventually resolved in favour of personal and self-interest.
“Members of the National Assembly as public officials form a very tiny percentage of about 200 million Nigerians. It is public knowledge and judicially noticed that members of the Senate are still eligible to collect huge sums of money as monthly allowances and severance pay on the conclusion of their respective terms”.
“It is thus rational that this matter is presently generating a lot of public concern and many Nigerians are now calling for a review of the sum budgeted for vehicles for members. In the face of glaring facts about Nigeria’s dire economic position vis-à-vis the scant allocations to critical sectors of the nation, we can only pray the court to do substantive justice by granting our reliefs.”