Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the leadership of the National Assembly to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget.
In separate letters to both the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives, the group urged the assembly to identify areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for members.
It also urged the Presidency to make savings to address the growing level of deficit and borrowings that are contained in the budget.
The call from the group is sequel to a statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed who had last week reportedly confirmed that the Federal Government would sell some-government-owned properties to fund the 2021 budget.
SERAP in the letter dated 16 January 2021, signed by its Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, stated that “The National Assembly has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure a responsible budget spending.”
The group added that “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.”
On the likely implication of the action, SERAP wrote that “Selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive, as 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.” 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 letter, 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.”