SERAP Asks Court to Order Lawmakers to Refund ‘Illegal N13.5m Allowance’

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A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the Senate President Bukola Saraki, Senator Dino Melaye and 107 other senators to refund what it described as illegal and unconstitutional N13.5million monthly allowance received by each senator with interest.

It also asked the court to stop the lawmakers from receiving such unjustified allowances.
SERAP is also asking the court to order an investigation by appropriate agencies as to how the public funds that have so far been received by each senator have been spent and for the findings of any such investigation to be made public.

In the Suit Number FHC/L/CS/630/18 filed yesterday, SERAP argues thatthe defence put forward by the senators that the said sum is contained in the Appropriations Act with different headings like medicals, travelling, among others, hold no water.

“This is because the Schedule of the Remuneration Act clearly makes provision for medicals, travelling etc. The argument that the running cost is for such medicals etc has no legal fount.”
SERAP also argued: “There is no doubt that the Senate herein represented by the Senate President acted ultra vires in its powers by allotting to themselves the said sum of N13.5 million monthly as running cost.

It is trite law that when the word ‘shall’ is employed in a statute, the primary meaning that the court will assign to it is that such provision is mandatory and leaves no room for discretionary or arbitrary exercise of power except a congruence reading if the statute intends otherwise.”
Joined in the suit as defendants are the Senate President and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN).

SERAP is asking the court to determine “Whether the sum of N13.5million allowance allotted to each senator monthly as running cost aside their salaries and other emoluments is not in breach of the provisions of section 70 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the provisions of the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendments) Act 2008.”

SERAP also wants the court to determine “Whether the sum of N13.5 million monthly allowance allotted to each senator is not illegal, unconstitutional and unjustified having regards to the provisions sections 70 of the Constitution, the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders Act 2008 and the Appropriations Act.”

The suit filed on SERAP’s behalf by Ms Bamisope Adeyanju read in part: “The sum of N13.5 Million shared by the Senate President and other senators monthly is neither part of their salaries and allowances as approved for them by the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) nor contained in the Appropriations Act.This is further strengthened by the declaration of the RMAFC that the said sum is not known to the RMAFC and therefore illegal.

“Furthermore the provisions of the Certain Political, Public and Judicial Office Holders (Salaries and Allowances) (Amendments) Act 2008 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Remuneration Act’) do not contain the said running cost enjoyed by the Senate President and other senators.

“Section 70 of the Constitution is mandatory and makes no room for discretionary act. When such provision is breached as in the instant case there is no other option than to hold that the defendants’ action is illegal, unconstitutional and unjustified having contravened the sacrosanct provisions of the grundnorm and other relevant statutes herein cited.

“The Senate President and his colleagues in the Senate allot to themselves the sum of N13.5 Million monthly aside their monthly salaries and allowances as running cost since assuming office. SERAP learnt of this illegal act Senator Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central revealed that he and his colleagues receive N13.5 Million monthly aside their salaries and allowances. The RMAFC, the constitutional body responsible for fixing public officials’ salaries and allowances, has declared the said sum of N13.5 million running cost of the Senate President and other senators as illegal.

“The Senate President and other senators allotting to themselves the sum of N13.5 million monthly runs afoul of the law and as such their act amounts to illegality, and is unconstitutional and unjustified.
“Section 70 of the Constitution (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Constitution’) clearly provides that: A member of the Senate or the House of Representatives shall receive such salary and other allowances as the RMAFC may determine.­”