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SERAP, 192 Others Sue Gbajabiamila, Representatives Over Plan to Spend N5.04bn on 400 Cars

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) together with 192 concerned Nigerians has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain and stop Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives and all members of the House from spending an estimated N5.04 billion to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members.

The group is also seeking a court order to restrain and stop the National Assembly Service Commission from releasing any public funds to the House of Representatives to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 model cars estimated to cost $35,130 per car.

They posited that the House should be stopped from expending such money on the vehicle until an impact assessment of the spending on access to public services and goods like education, security, health and clean water, is carried out.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/205/2020, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians argued that all who hold the strings of political power and power over spending of Nigeria’s commonwealth have a duty to answer for their conduct when call upon to do so by Nigerians.

They also described as illegal and unconstitutional for members of the House of Representatives to choose to buy expensive and exotic cars while encouraging Nigerians to tighten their belts and to patronize Nigerian brands.

They further posited that there is chronic poverty in Nigeria and many state governments are unable to pay salaries of workers and pensions. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the House of Representatives will spend over N5 billion of public funds to buy the exotic cars at the expense of many Nigerians living in poverty and misery.

According to the plaintiffs, if the members of House of Representatives take their duties to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among us seriously, including their duties to judiciously spend public funds, they would not have voted to spend over $35,000 per car, especially given the current economic and financial realities of Nigeria.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine “Whether the proposed plan and resolution by the House of Representatives to buy 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members amounting to over Five Billion Naira in total, is not in breach of Section 57[4] of the Public Procurement Act 2007, the oath of office, and Paragraph 1 of Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended].”

They are seeking a declaration that the plan and resolution to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars for members of the House of Representatives at the estimated cost of $35,130:00 per car is in breach of Section 57[4] of the Public Procurement Act 2007, Paragraph 1, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and Oath of Office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.

They are also seeking “a declaration that the sum of $35,130 per car proposed and voted to buy 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars for members of the House of Representatives is a breach of the Defendants’ solemn constitutional obligations to know and follow constitutional oaths and other constitutional and statutory provisions governing their conduct, including their duty of care to Nigerians to faithfully protect and defend the Constitution and improve the lives, well-being and welfare of Nigerians.”

SERAP and the 192 Nigerians are asking for an order of the court restraining and stopping the National Assembly Service Commission from releasing the money to the House of Representatives until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, security, health, clean water and safe roads is carried out in the public interest in accordance with their constitutional oaths of office and constitutional provisions.

“An order of the court restraining and stopping all members of the House of Representatives, their assistants, agents, assign or such other person acting on their behalf from demanding or receiving the sum of $35,130 per car for purchase of 400 Toyota Camry 2020 cars until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, security, health, clean water and safe roads is carried out in the public interest in accordance with constitutional provisions.”

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