COVID-19: SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Give N37bn NASS Renovation Fund To States, FCT

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has appealed to the leadership of the National Assembly to redirect the N37 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to relief funds for the country’s most vulnerable persons across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

The organization who made an urgent appeal to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila commended the efforts of the legislative arm of government in the fight against COVID-19.

SERAP said: “We applaud the patriotic steps and voluntary contributions already made by the National Assembly towards fighting COVID-19 in the country. We now urge you to make major strides to national efforts to deal with one of the greatest threats facing the country by immediately redirecting the N37 billion to provide direct and tangible benefits to the poorest and most vulnerable people among us.”

In the letter dated 11 April 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Nigeria is at a crossroads and National Assembly leaders and members must now decide whether to continue to look after themselves and do little for the country’s poorest or make commitment to redirect the N37 billion to help ameliorate the suffering caused by COVID-19 restrictions.”

According to SERAP: “While some of the authorities’ responses to COVID-19 across the country may be necessary to stop the spread of the disease and save lives, we are concerned that the prevailing situation has taken its toll on the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions in several states and the FCT.”

SERAP’s urgent appeal, read in part: “We also urge you to immediately advise President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to urgently implement your commitment to redirect the N37 billion to provide direct and tangible benefits and reliefs to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

“The money must be spent now to serve the public good. Spending the N37 billion as proposed would increase the ability of states and FCT authorities to provide COVID-19 reliefs and benefits. It would not cause any budget deficit. But assuming it does, it would be a good deficit, as it would serve the public good.”

“We urge you to invite the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the civil society to monitor the spending of any redirected funds to the 36 states and FCT, to ensure that the funds are spent to support the poorest and most vulnerable people, such as pensioners, people living with disabilities (PWDs), and not diverted, stolen or mismanaged.”

“The appalling quality of life, and rapidly growing levels of suffering among the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people are harmful to equity and undermine respect for human rights.”

“We hope that the above would help guide your actions in immediately acting to redirect the N37 billion as proposed. We would be happy to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you.”

“Please accept the expression of our highest consideration. Thanking you in advance of your urgent attention to the matter.”

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