SERAP urges court to stop NASS from procuring N57.6bn worth of SUVs

THE Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to stop the House of Representatives from procuring and taking delivery of 360 sports utility vehicles (SUVs) worth N57.6 billion for its members, pending the hearing and determination of the applications for injunction filed by the organisation.

SERAP, in the petition filed with the court last week, was seeking a temporary injunction to prohibit the National Assembly from acquiring, taking delivery of, and distributing the SUVs to its members until the motion for a preliminary injunction, filed concurrently in the case, is adjudicated.

The application for temporary and preliminary injunctions came in response to reports indicating that the legislators are preparing to purchase and receive SUVs valued at N57.6 billion, with each of the vehicles estimated to impose a minimum burden of N160 million on taxpayers.

The organisation had on Sunday, August 13, disclosed that it had filed a suit number FHC/L/CS/1606/2023, before the Federal High Court challenging “the legality of the spending of billions of naira by the National Assembly to purchase exotic and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials.”

SERAP sought “an order restraining Mr Akpabio (Senate President) and Mr Abbas (Speaker, House of Reps) from demanding or receiving the N40 billion to buy 465 SUVs and bulletproof cars for members and principal officials until an assessment of the socio-economic impact of the spending on the 137 million poor Nigerians is carried out in the public interest.”

Similarly, in a letter dated October 21, 2023, and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged President Bola Tinubu to “put pressure on the leadership of the Senate and stop members from taking delivery of the planned procurement of bulletproof SUVs, pending the hearing and determination of the application for interim injunction filed before the Federal High Court.”

SERAP explained that permitting the National Assembly to proceed with the procurement and receipt of the SUVs would unfairly influence the pending court case’s outcome and undermine the principles of the rule of law.

The letter read in part: “It would invariably hamstring the ability of the court to do justice in the pending suit and applications for injunction.

“Stopping the leadership of the House of Representatives and members from going ahead to procure and take delivery of the SUVs, pending the hearing and determination of the applications for injunction would be entirely consistent with the notions of the rule of law, judicial independence and integrity and the public interest.” Exercising your constitutional powers in this matter would promote the effective administration of justice and maintain the integrity of the claims against the lawmakers.”

SERAP said the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), imposes clear responsibility on the President to uphold and maintain the provisions of the Constitution and the rule of law.

“In its most basic form, the rule of law is the principle that no one is above the law. Also, section Five of the Nigerian Constitution grants you the executive powers to ensure the ‘execution and maintenance of this Constitution.”

“The country’s international legal obligations especially under the UN Convention against corruption and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party also impose a legal commitment on your government to uphold the rule of law and the integrity of the judicial process,” SERAP added.

Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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