Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has cautioned Muhammadu Buhari and leadership of the National Assembly to reverse proposed “illegal” cut of N26.51 billion in basic healthcare and cut of N50.76 billion in the education budget or face legal action.
SERAP, therefore, issued a 14 Day ultimatum to FG and lawmakers to reverse the plan, but urged them to cut the NASS and Presidency budgets instead.
In the letters dated April 18, 2020 and by SERAP Deputy Director, Mr. Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation, expressed concern that “there is currently no proposal to cut the National Assembly and Presidency budgets.”
According to SERAP, “The cuts would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and without anywhere to turn, and despite the COVID-19 crisis. This would put both the government and the National Assembly in breach of their constitutional and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”
The letters addressed to President Buhari, NASS President, Dr. Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, read in part: “Continuing to neglect these basic public goods and services to sustain the apparently lavish lifestyles of members of the National Assembly and other powerful politicians wound exacerbate poverty, inequality, marginalization and impunity in the country.”
“The COVID-19 crisis is a good opportunity to cut the costs of governance, particularly the unsustainable spending on the National Assembly expenses, and the Presidency budget, and to focus on increasing budget allocations to healthcare and education.
“The authorities’ approach to National Assembly and Presidency budgets ought to be ‘do more with less.’ While we understand that the country is facing difficult choices in budget allocations, the authorities should have prioritised cuts in National Assembly and Presidency budgets to increase the allocations to healthcare and education.
“If the cuts are sustained, Nigerians will become justified in thinking that the government and the leadership of the National Assembly do not really care about improving access of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to basic public services like healthcare and education.
“Cutting basic healthcare budget, especially at a time of COVID-19 crisis in the country, will undermine the ability of your government to effectively and satisfactorily respond to the crisis and to protect Nigerians and ensure their well-being.
“Cutting education budget would mean that 16 million out-of-school Nigerian children would remain on the street for many years to come.”