Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has condemned the National Assembly over the decision to allocate N70 billion as palliatives for its members.
Falana, in a press statement released on Sunday, said the move is illegal and contemptuous.
The allocation of N70 billion, disbursed among 306 newly elected members, in addition to N40 billion set aside for the purchase of Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members, has become contentious with many Nigerians criticizing the lawmakers for being insensitive at a time when the economy is biting hard.
In the statement, Falana called attention to the blatant breach of the relevant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and urged the immediate reversal of these controversial measures.
He said, “Out of sheer insensitivity coupled with impunity, the members of the National Assembly, regardless of political affiliation, conspired to breach the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 by padding the Supplementary Appropriation Bill, 2023 to provide the so-called palliative of N70 billion for 306 newly elected members.
“While the masses of Nigeria are groaning under the excruciating economic pains unleashed on them by the ruling class, the National Assembly has awarded N228.7 million to each of the newly elected legislators. As if that is not enough, the members of the National Assembly have earmarked N40 billion to purchase 465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members. However, the legislators approved the sum of N500 billion for 12 million indigent people in a country where the National Bureau of Statistics has said that “62.9 per cent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.”
According to Falana, these decisions blatantly contravene Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, which outlines the appropriate remuneration and allowances for members of the National Assembly.
Citing recent court judgements which have ruled against such excessive allowances, he said, “In Monday Ubani & Anor. v Attorney-General of the federation & Ors (Suit No FHC/LA/CS/690/ 2018), the learned trial Judge, Professor Chuka Obiozor had cause to interpret the above provision of the Constitution when he held that, ‘The national assembly service commission has no power whatsoever to fix and determine or allocate the remuneration, allowances, salaries, emoluments or monetary values to the members of the national assembly’. His Lordship observed that given many years of extreme poverty in the country, and the inability of several state governments to pay salaries of workers and pensions, the refusal or failure of the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission to review and cut the salaries and allowances of members of the national assembly is a gross violation of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the commission’s own Act.”
He called on the leadership and members of the National Assembly to reverse the controversial allowances and also stop the purchase of luxury vehicles.