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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has urged the Senate President Dr Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives Mr Femi Gbajabiamila to “urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget,.
SERAP also urged them to identify areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for members and the Presidency to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing. The Minister of Finance Mrs Zainab Ahmed had last week reportedly confirmed that the Federal Government would sell some-government-owned properties to fund the 2021 budget. This is in addition to the government’s growing borrowing also to fund the budget.
SERAP noted that the N13.58 trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year signed by President Buhari on December 31, 2020 is about N505 billion higher than the budget proposed in October, 2020. The government, reportedly proposed to borrow N5.6 trillion from domestic and foreign resources to fund the 2021 budget. In a letter dated January 16, 2021 by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “The National Assembly, NASS, has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure a responsible budget spending.
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.” SERAP maintained that selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive, as it would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement, saying, “it would undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the government worse off, and hurt the country in the long run. It is neither necessary nor in the public interest.”
According to the organisation: “The country’s fiscal situation must be changed – and changed quickly – 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.”
The statement read in part: “The time is now for the leadership of the National Assembly to stand up for the Nigerian people, stop the rush to sell public properties, push for a responsible budget, and support efforts to have the government spend responsibly.” “Other areas to propose cutting include: constituency allowance, wardrobe allowance, recess allowance, and entertainment allowance.”
“SERAP urges the National Assembly to promptly work with the Presidency to fix the current damaging budgeting process and address systemic corruption in ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs]. Tackling corruption in MDAs, and cutting waste and salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officials would go a long in addressing the budget deficit and debt problems.
“SERAP also urges the National Assembly 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 current level of borrowing is unsustainable, which means that the National Assembly under your leadership can play an important role to limit how much the government can borrow in the aggregate. The National Assembly should urgently seek assurances and written commitment from President Buhari about his government’s plan to bring the country’s debt problem under control.
“We would consider the option of pursuing legal action to stop the Federal Government from selling public properties, and we may join the National Assembly in any such suit.”
“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.
“The deficit and debt problems can be fixed immediately if the National Assembly can exercise its constitutional and fiduciary duties to push for cutting salaries and allowances of members and the president and vice-president.”
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