A Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has ruled that Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House Yakubu Dogara should account for the N500bn spent as running cost for the legislature between 2006 and 2016.
They are also to disclose monthly allowances to each member in that period.
This is concurrent to a suit filed to that effect by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) December 2016 after Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin said federal lawmakers have pocketed N500 billion as ‘running cost’ out of the N1 trillion provided in the ten-year period.
Jibrin said each Senator goes home with nothing less than N15m monthly while each member receives nothing less than N10m monthly.
The presiding judge, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, in his ruling said “I have looked at the papers filed by SERAP and I am satisfied that leave ought to be granted in this case for judicial review and an order of mandamus directing and compelling Saraki and Dogara to account for the spending of the running cost and disclose the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.”
Justice Aikawa granted the order for leave following the hearing of an argument in court on exparte motion by SERAP counsel Ms Bamisope Ibidolapo.
The suit, FHC/L/CS/1711/16 and FHC/L/CS/1710/16, demand the disclosure of the spendings as the continued refusal to make the information available would be a breach of the Freedom of Information Act and other statutory responsibilities.
The order by Justice Aikawa has now cleared the way for SERAP to advance its case against the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The motion on notice is set for Tuesday 12 December, 2017 for the hearing of argument on why Saraki and Dogara should not be compelled to publish details of the spending on the running of the National Assembly and the exact monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.
“It is submitted that Section 4(a) of the FOI Act 2011 is a mandatory and absolute provision which imposes a binding legal duty or obligation on a public official, agency or institution to comply with a request for access to public information or records except where the FOI Act expressly permits an exemption or derogation from the duty to disclose. Nigerian courts have consistently held that the use of mandatory words such as “must” and “shall” in a statute is naturally prima facie imperative and admits of no discretion,” the suit read in part.