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SERAP, 20 Others Sue Akpabio, Abbas, Others For Increasing Own Budget By N147bn

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, and 20 concerned Nigerians have sued the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas for unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing the allocation for lawmakers from N197 billion to N344 billion, representing highest since the return of democracy in 1999.

Akpabio and Abbas were sued for themselves and on behalf of all members of the National Assembly.

Recall that the lawmakers had last month raised their allocation from N197 billion proposed by President Bola Tinubu for them in the budget to N344 billion. The lawmakers will in total draw N514 billion from the 2024 budget. The lawmakers also in 2023 arbitrarily increased their own budget from the originally proposed N169 billion to N228 billion.

The President presented the Appropriation Bill 2024 made up of N27.5 trillion to the National Assembly on November 29, 2023. The National Assembly on December 30, 2023 passed the Appropriation Bill 2024 in the sum of N28.7 trillion.

That while exercising its legislative powers, Akpabio and Abbas increased the Appropriation Bill by N1.2 trillion, wherein the 1st and 2nd Defendants unilaterally increased allocations made to the National Assembly in the Appropriation Bill 2024 presented by the President from N197,932,625,616 Billion to N344.85 Billion.

READ ALSO: SERAP Asks Akpabio, Abbas To Cut ‘Self-serving N344.85bn NASS Budget’

The President signed the ₦28.7 trillion Appropriation Bill 2024 into law on January 1, 2024. The 2024 Budget is in deficit of ₦9.18 trillion.

In the suit filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on behalf of SERAP and 20 concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, the Plaintiffs were asking the court to determine “whether the lawmakers, in the exercise of their powers over appropriation/money bills, can unilaterally increase their own budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the Executive.

“For a declaration that the National Assembly, in the exercise of its powers over appropriation/money bills, cannot unilaterally increase its own budget without the re-presentation of the budget by the President in line with section 81 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].

“For a declaration that the action of the National Assembly, unilaterally increasing its own budget from N197 billion to N344 billion, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President is a breach of the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances, “

READ ALSO: Disclose How Much Oil Nigeria Produces, Exports Daily, SERAP Tells NNPC

SERAP sought for, “An order of perpetual injunction restraining and preventing the National Assembly from unilaterally increasing its own budget, in the exercise of its powers over all appropriation/money bills, without the re-presentation of such appropriation/money bills by the President in line with the Nigerian Constitution.”

In the suit, the Plaintiffs, maintained that: “Allowing the National Assembly to continue to unilaterally and arbitrarily increase its own budget would fundamentally undermine the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution, public trust, and the rule of law.

“The arbitrary and self-serving increase by the lawmakers of their own allocation offends the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, oath of office, and the democratic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances.”

According to the Plaintiffs, “Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the National Assembly will continue to breach the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the rule of law, and at the expense of millions of Nigerians living in poverty.”

The suit read in part: “Members of the National Assembly are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oath of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens.

READ ALSO: Reject Wike’s Plan To Spend N15bn On ‘Befitting Residence’ For VP, SERAP Tells Akpabio

“The members of the National Assembly, by unilaterally and arbitrarily increasing their own budget in the Appropriation Bill 2024, without the re-presentation of the budget by the President has violated the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

“Paragraph 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which provides that ‘a public officer shall not put himself in a position where his personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.

“Members of the National Assembly have put their interest above the public interest and ‘well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’, contrary to their oath of office.

“The Budget/Appropriation Act 2024 is yet to be gazetted as at the time of filing this suit and public access to the gazetted 2024 Budget/Appropriation Act is restricted.”

“The National Assembly after inserting new line items to the Appropriation Bill 2024 and altering the budgetary allocation to already inserted line items did not submit same to the President for re-presentation by the President before going ahead to present the Appropriation Bill to the President for assent.”

Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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Aiyedatiwa Declares Public Holidays In Ondo To Honour Late Akeredolu

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Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa of Ondo state, has declared Thursday, 22nd and Friday, 23rd of February 2024 as public holidays in the state to honour the late governor Rotimi Akeredolu.

The two work-free days, according to the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Ebenezer Adeniyan, in Akure, will allow the people of the State to participate in the burial activities of the former Governor.

Recall that the burial activities of the late governor Akeredolu started last Thursday.

READ ALSO: Funeral Arrangements For Akeredolu Commences Today

Other activities include Ajabue( traditional rites) slated for Owo, on Wednesday, a special court session, at the Ondo State High Court Headquarters,
Hospital Road, Akure, by 10am

The lying in State and Commendation Service, will hold same day at the Akure Township Stadium, by 1pm, Evening of Tributes, at St Andrews Church,
Imola Street, Owo, from 4pm – 7pm

On Thursday, February 22 (Public holiday), a service of songs holds at St Andrews Cathedral, Imola Street,
Owo, by 4 pm.

READ ALSO: [BREAKING] PHOTOS: Akeredolu’s Remains Arrive Nigeria

The wake-keep, will hold at Maranatha Villa, Owo, by 8pm while a candlelight Procession & World Gyration by the Kegites Club, holds at 8pm till Dawn

On Friday, February 23 (Public holiday), the Funeral Service will take place at St Andrews Church, Imola Street, Owo by10 am, Interment follows immediately after the burial service at the burial site, Owo, (Strictly for immediate family) while reception follows at Mydas Hotel and Resort, Ikare Road, Owo by 1pm.

Akeredolu Memorial Friendly football match, will take place at the Akure Township Stadium, Akure, by 3 pm on Saturday, February 24, 2024.

The thanksgiving Service holds at St Andrews Church, Imola Street, Owo, by 10 am.

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JUST IN: Tinubu Appoints New CEO Of Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit

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President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday approved the appointment of Hafsat Bakari as the Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, pending her confirmation by the Senate.

Bakari replaces Modibbo Tukur who was relieved of his job by Tinubu in June 2023.

The appointment was contained in a statement by Tinubu’s Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity), Ajuri Ngelale.

Bakari was described as a lawyer and financial intelligence expert with years of experience in anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism financing, and counter-proliferation financing.

READ ALSO: Obasanjo Advocates Law To Curb Organ Trafficking

Before her appointment as the Chief Executive Officer of the NFIU, she served as Deputy Director at the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit, and was at different times the Head of the General Services Unit; Head of the Strategy and Reorientation Unit, and Head of the Board Secretariat of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

The statement added that Tinubu, “anticipates that Ms. Bakare will bring her wealth of experience and expertise to full discharge in this critical role, especially in view of his administration’s war against illicit financial flows and other sharp practices currently prevalent in segments of the nation’s foreign exchange markets”

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Petrol Tanker Drivers Suspend Nationwide Strike

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The Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has suspended its planned nationwide strike.

The suspension follows a meeting of the association with the federal government and stakeholders on Monday after tanker drivers stopped lifting petroleum products.

Yusuf Lawal, national president of NARTO, made this known in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.

NARTO had requested that oil marketers review freight rates after the deregulation of the downstream sector.

READ ALSO: Court Sentences Man To Death By Hanging For Killing 11-yr-old

In a letter dated February 15, 2024, addressed to the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the association said oil marketers turned down its request, stating that it can no longer continue with operations due to the state of the economy.

NARTO stopped operations on February 19 — the same day a meeting with the federal government ended in a deadlock.

However, after a meeting with the federal government in Abuja on Tuesday, Lawal said the association has agreed to suspend the strike.

READ ALSO: JUST IN: Reps Okay Bill On State Police For Second Reading

Speaking after the meeting, he said the association has reached a meeting point with the marketers.

Lawal said they have agreed to commence operations with immediate effect.

According to him, the strike was suspended due to the economic hardship.

“We’ll commence operations immediately,” he said.

Lawal said the marketers had proposed additional freight rates, saying there is room for improvement.

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