The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the National Assembly to stop the federal government from selling the country’s properties to fund the 2021 budget.
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration said it plans to sell some national assets to finance the 2021 Appropriation Bills signed last month.
SERAP, which has always risen up to fight against some unpopular policies of the government, said in a statement on Sunday, January 17 signed by its deputy director, Mr Kolawole Oluwadare, it has written to the National Assembly to prevail on the executive to halt the process.
The group appealed to the Senate President, Mr Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, to bar the President from carrying out such moves via a letter addressed on January 16.
The organisation wants the leadership of the National Assembly to “urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget, and to identify areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for members and the Presidency to make sayings to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing.”
“The National Assembly has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure 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.”
The group gave a sound warning that selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive as this would hurt the country in the long run.
“This would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. 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.”
The organisation also called for a change in the country’s fiscal situation 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.
SERAP also kicked against the borrowing of loans and asked the parliament to stop acquiescing to the loan requests by the Federal Government, noting that, “if it continues to fail to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained.
“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 who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions.”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties,” the statement added.