By Femi Falana, SAN
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 thereby awarded *N228.7* million to each of the newly elected legislators.
As if that is not enough, the members of the National Assembly have further earmarked *N40 billion* to purchase *465 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs)* and bulletproof cars for principal officials and members. However, contrastingly, 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 percent of people (133 million) are multidimensionally poor.”*
The callous and insensitive decisions of the members of the National Assembly constitute a flagrant *contravention of Section 70 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended,* which stipulates as follows:
*”A member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission may determine.”*
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.”*
For the avoidance of doubt, the learned trial Judge held that, *“The allowances of wardrobe, newspapers, kitchen travelling domestic and constituency project allowances of the members of the national assembly are never contemplated or in the intendment of the constitution which created them and specified how they can be remunerated.”* Consequently, the Court ordered the RMAFC to review the salaries and allowances of members of the national assembly to reflect the country’s current economic realities.
The epochal judgment was adopted by the *Federal High Court in the similar case (Suit No FHC/LA/CS/943/2019)* filed by the *Socio-economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP), Enough is Enough (EiE), and BudgIT* against the National Assembly on the same subject matter and assigned to the same Judge.
It is pertinent to note that both judgments of the Federal High Court have not been set aside by any higher court. Neither has the execution of the judgments been stayed or varied either by the Federal High Court or the Court of Appeal. Therefore, since the judgments are valid and subsisting, they are binding on all members of the Legislative and Executive Organs of the Federal Government.
In view of the foregoing, it is crystal clear that by approving allowances in the form of palliatives for themselves without the approval of the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission the members of the National Assembly deliberately acted illegally and contemptuously. As such actions can not be justified in a democratic society which claims to operate under the rule of law, we are compelled to call on the leaders and members of the National Assembly to reverse the scandalous palliatives and purchase of exotic vehicles.
However, if the illegal decisions are not reversed, we call on the Revenue Allocation Mobilization and Fiscal Commission to take urgent steps to prevent the National Assembly from further usurping its constitutional functions. Otherwise, we are going to commence contempt proceedings against the Chairman of the RAMFC and the leaders of both Chambers of the National Assembly.
Femi Falana SAN,
The Chair, Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB).
16, July 2023BEWARE All Rights Reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without prior express written permission from Juliana Francis