SERAP Drags Buhari, N’Assembly to UN over Cuts in 2020 Budget

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Udora Orizu in Abuja

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to three United Nations special rapporteurs, Koumbou Boly Barry, Dainius Puras and Olivier De Schutter, urging them to use their mandates to urgently request the Nigerian Government and the leadership of the National Assembly to immediately reverse budget cuts to education and healthcare, and to stop the authorities from spending N27billion to renovate the National Assembly complex.

In the revised 2020 budget approved last Tuesday, the federal government gave the National Assembly N27 billion for the renovation of its complex, and cut health and Universal Basic Education budgets by over 50 percent. While the health budget is reduced from N44.4billion to N25.5billion, the UBE budget is reduced from N111.7billion to N51.1billion.

In the appeal dated June 3 which was signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation noted that the budget deficits are caused by excessive expenditures on politicians, and yet Nigerian authorities are putting politicians’ allowances and comfort before citizens’ human rights.

SERAP said the budget cuts showed failure to address the growing economic and social inequality in the country, and to genuinely address the consequences of COVID-19 on the poor and marginalised groups.

It further said the budget cuts are also inconsistent with Nigeria’s commitments to implement Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The appeal read in part: ‘’Nigerian authorities also ought to show that the budget cuts to healthcare and education are necessary and proportionate, in that they must be justifiable. One of the pillars of the protection of the rights to healthcare and education is the obligation to progressively realise the rights set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, making use of Nigeria’s maximum of available resources.

‘’The budget cuts by Nigerian authorities are therefore of special concern as they directly affect the minimum core content of these rights, and impact directly or indirectly and disproportionally on those individuals already discriminated against or living in most vulnerable situations.

“The number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty has increased since May 2015. The reduction in healthcare and education budgets would exacerbate the prevailing inequalities and poverty, and create a vicious circle of reduction in spending, and increments in socio-economic inequalities.’’

It added: ‘’Without your urgent intervention, the Nigerian Government and National Assembly would continue to spend the country’s maximum available resources to satisfy the opulent lifestyles of politicians rather than complying with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights to healthcare and education for the poor and marginalised groups.

“SERAP, therefore, urged the special rapporteurs to put pressure on the Nigerian Government and the National Assembly to take immediate action to reverse the budget cuts to healthcare and education and to redirect the N27billion for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to increase healthcare and education budgets.’’