The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 192 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to “restrain and stop Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House of Representatives and all members of the House from spending an estimated N5.04 billion on purchasing 400 exotic cars for principal officers and members.”
SERAP 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 2020 model cars estimated to cost $35,130 per 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 filed last Friday, SERAP and the concerned Nigerians argue that “Nigerians have a right to honest and faithful performance by their public officials including lawmakers, as public officials owe a fiduciary duty to the general citizenry. All those who hold the strings of political power and power over spending of Nigeria’s commonwealth have a duty to answer for their conduct when called upon to do so by Nigerians.”
The plaintiffs also argue that “It is 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. It is also illegal for members to reject cheaper and equally reliable options.”
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 also 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 nairas in total, is not in breach of Section 57 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].”
The suit, filed on behalf of SERAP and the concerned Nigerians by their lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, reads in part: “Members of the House of Representatives are either unaware of the constitutional and statutory provisions on their fiduciary duties and judicious use of public funds or deliberately glossing over these provisions.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.