The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded that the federal government should provide information on how it has spent the sum of N700billion which was allegedly borrowed between December 31, 2012 and April 30, 2013.
The civil society group in a statement by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, warned that it would take legal action against the federal government if it fails to provide the information within the next 14 days, as it also demanded “a moratorium on borrowing.”
In the letter dated 27th of May, 2013 and sent to the Accountant-General of the Federation; Mr. Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla, SERAP alleged that the funds might “have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”
The anti-corruption organization claimed it is making these allegations, relying “heavily on” a recent statement by the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, that “government increased its borrowing in securities by N700billion between December 31, 2012 and April 30, 2013, and that the government has spent more than N2trillion in four months.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned about this high level of spending by the government within this short period of time, especially given the fact that government borrowed almost the same amount between 2011 and 2012.”
“Whereas the government has borrowed over N6.54trillion from national sources and its external borrowing is growing, there is no evidence on the ground to show that the huge sums of money have been put to good use to benefit millions of economically and socially vulnerable Nigerians. In fact, we fear the money could have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen” the group stated.
“Despite this huge borrowing, the same period also witnessed decreased spending on basic social services such as roads, electricity, health, education, and thus explaining in part why the government has lagged behind in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”
Raising more concerns about the nation’s growing debt SERAP stated that “we are further concerned about the country’s growing debt problem because this will continue to weaken the capacity of this government to fulfill its human rights obligations and commitment, thus throwing millions of Nigerians deeper into poverty.”
Moratorium on debt
“Unless a moratorium on debt borrowing and periodic transparent audits of debt are introduced, the current unsustainable debt situation will continue to jeopardise the well-being of not only the present generation but also the future generation, the organization said.
The organization is relying on Sections 1 (1); 4 (a); and 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2011, for its request.
According to SERAP “the information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”
“The disclosure of the information requested will give SERAP and the general public a true picture and a clear understanding of how the spending of the sums of money borrowed have impacted on the lives of the ordinary, common, poor and indigent and other disadvantaged Nigerians,” the organization said.
SERAP therefore asked the government to provide information on “the amount that has been spent from the N700billion borrowed between December 31, 2012 and April 30, 2013 and details of projects on which this money was spent.”