OrderPaperToday – The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a non-profit organisation, has asked the National Assembly to utilize the full powers of legislative oversight to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget.
In a letter transmitted to the National Assembly on January 16 and signed by SERAP deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the civil rights advocacy organisation maintained that “the National Assembly has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure a 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.”
SERAP insisted 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”.
The civil rights organisation noted that although the country’s fiscal situation must be changed as is the case with the global economy, but through some combination of cuts in spending on salaries and allowances, and a freeze on spending in certain areas of the budget like hardship and furniture allowances, entertainment allowances etc.
SERAP also advised 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. 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.”
This is coming off the back of last week’s reported confirmation of the Federal Government intentions to sell off some government-owned properties to raise fund for the 2021 budget cycle by the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
SERAP rather advised that the Federal Government should identify some redundant areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for lawmakers and the presidency for savings to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing.
Recall that of the N13.58 trillion 2021 fiscal year budget, the federal government has already concluded plans to borrow N5.6 trillion from domestic and foreign markets in order to make up the shortfall in the 2021 budget funding.
Nigeria’s total public debt profile as confirmed by the Debt Management Office of Nigeria currently stands at N32.222 trillion and yet the budget deficit has continued on an upward swing over the years.
Reporting by Chinonso Kenneth
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