Coronavirus: Buhari, Nigerian lawmakers under fire over plan to cut heath, education budget

April 19, 2020
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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly 14 days to reverse the proposed cut of N26.51billion in basic healthcare budget, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

SERAP also warned them against cut of N50.76billion in the education budget.

The deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, in an open letter, expressed concern about the scale of the cuts in basic healthcare and education budgets and their disproportionate impact on the poorest.

He noted: “The cuts would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and without anywhere to turn, and despite the COVID-19 crisis. This would put both the government and the National Assembly in breach of their constitutional and international human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”

The letter addressed to President Buhari, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said continuing to neglect basic services to sustain the lawmakers and politicians’ “lavish lifestyles would exacerbate poverty, inequality, marginalization and impunity in the country.”

“The COVID-19 crisis is a good opportunity to cut the costs of governance, particularly the unsustainable spending on the National Assembly expenses, and the Presidency budget, and to focus on increasing budget allocations to healthcare and education.

“Cutting basic healthcare budget, especially at a time of COVID-19 crisis in the country, will undermine the ability of your government to effectively and satisfactorily respond to the crisis and to protect Nigerians and ensure their well-being. Cutting education budget would mean that 16 million out-of-school Nigerian children would remain on the street for many years to come.

“Any perceived budget crisis does not excuse this flagrant violation of constitutional law and international standards. Any budget cuts to healthcare and the Universal Basic Education Commission will only worsen Nigeria’s ailing health and education sectors.

“These essential public goods and services must be protected even during these lean budget times. Doing the opposite would cause significant health challenges to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

“SERAP proposes cutting among others, the following aspects of the National Assembly and Presidency budgets: the N15 million monthly allowances/running costs per senator, about N10 million monthly allowances/running costs per member of the House of Representatives, as well as budgets for the Presidency on travel, feeding, and vehicles.

“Other aspects of the National Assembly budget revealed by the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), and which SERAP proposes should be cut include the following: basic salary (N2,484,245.50); hardship allowance (N1,242, 122.70); constituency allowance (N4,968, 509.00); furniture allowance (N7, 452, 736.50); and wardrobe allowance (N621,061.37).

“Others include: recess allowance (N248,424.55); accommodation (N4,968,509.00); utilities allowance (N828,081.83); entertainment (N828,081.83); vehicle maintenance allowance (N1,863,184.12); leave allowance (N248,424.55); severance gratuity (N7, 425,736.50); and motor vehicle allowance (N9, 936,982.00).

“According to our information, your government has proposed to drastically cut basic healthcare budget by N26.51 billion, that is, from the N44.49 billion initially budgeted down to just N17.98 billion.

“Your government has also proposed to cut education budget by N50.76 billion, that is, from the N111.78 billion initially budgeted for UBEC down to just to N61.02 billion.

“SERAP notes that access to basic healthcare is closely related to and dependent upon the realization of other human rights, including the right to education, human dignity, life, non-discrimination, equality, and access to information,” he said.

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