SERAP Sues Buhari, Wants Court To Declare ‘Plan To Monitor WhatsApp Messages Illegal’

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari.

The group is asking the court to “declare illegal and unconstitutional the plan by the administration to track, intercept and monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and other people, as it severely threatens and violates the right to the preservation of privacy.”

The suit followed the proposal in the Supplementary Appropriation Act signed in July 2021 to spend N4.87bn to monitor private calls and messages. The amount is part of the N895.8bn supplementary budget approved by the National Assembly.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1240/2021 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining President Buhari and any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully monitoring the WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people.”

SERAP is also seeking “a declaration that any monitoring of WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages is oppressive and draconian, as it threatens and violates sections 37 and 39 of Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; and Articles 17 and 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”

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According to the group, the plan to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages is an arbitrary interference by the administration into respect for family and private life, the home, and correspondence.

“The Buhari administration has legal obligations to protect Nigerians and other people against arbitrary interference and violations of their human rights. Monitoring of WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages would grant free rein to government agencies to conduct mass surveillance of communications of people,” it said.

“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even when secret, coupled with the lack of remedy, can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

“Privacy and expression are intertwined in the digital age, with online privacy serving as a gateway to secure exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression. Therefore, targets of surveillance would suffer interference with their rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and expression whether the effort to monitor is successful or not.”

Joined in the suit as respondents are the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Kehinde Oyewumi, read in part: “The powers to conduct arbitrary, abusive or unlawful surveillance of communications may also be used to target political figures and activists, journalists and others in the discharge of their lawful activities.”

“Any spending of public funds should stay within the limits of constitutional responsibilities, and oath of office by public officers, as well as comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution relating to fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.

“The lack of any safeguards against discriminatory decision-making, and access to an effective remedy shows the grave threats the purported plan poses to constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights.

“Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provide for the right to freedom from arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy and correspondence, communications and private data.

“Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 19 of the Covenant also guarantee the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers and through any media.

“The UN General Assembly has condemned unlawful or arbitrary surveillance and interception of communications as ‘highly intrusive acts’ that interfere with fundamental human rights (see General Assembly resolutions 68/167 and 71/199).

“Interference with privacy through targeted surveillance is designed to repress the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Surveillance of journalists, activists, opposition figures, critics and others simply exercising their right to freedom of expression – would lead to violations of other human rights.

“Targeted surveillance creates incentives for self-censorship and directly undermines the ability of journalists and human rights defenders to conduct investigations and build and maintain relationships with sources of information.”

SERAP is also seeking the following reliefs:

A declaration that monitoring of WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people is inconsistent with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality and amounts to threat and infringement on the rights to private and family life, access to correspondence, and freedom of expression and the press guaranteed under sections 37 and 39 of Nigeria Constitution, 1999; Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Articles 17 and 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A declaration that the act of the Defendants budgeting N4.87bn of public money to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people is unlawful and a violation of the rights to private and family life, access to correspondence, and freedom of expression and the press.

An order setting aside the budget line of N4.87bn to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people for being inconsistent and incompatible with constitutional provisions, and international human rights treaties.

An order mandating the 1st Respondent to redirect public funds in the sum of N4.87bn budgeted to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls and text messages of Nigerians and other people to improve the working conditions of healthcare practitioners and improve public healthcare facilities across Nigeria.

And for such further order or orders that the court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

Cut N26bn Presidency Budget For Medical Centre, Travels And Meals – SERAP Tells Buhari

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to cut the N26 billion presidency budget for the construction of the presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, ‘sitting allowance’, and ‘welfare package’, and to use some of the savings to address the growing level of deficit, as well as improve public healthcare facilities across the country.”

SERAP also urged him “to send to the National Assembly a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the reduced proposed spending on the construction of the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, and ‘welfare package’, for its approval.”

In the letter dated 9 October 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Many Nigerians will find it quite odd, unfair and unjust that the government is spending so much money on many of these items in the middle of a public borrowing crisis. The proposed spending could be better allocated to improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”

SERAP said: “The government would continue to borrow to fund the country’s budget until there is a substantial cut to the cost of governance. The government should stop spending so much money on these items. Persistent borrowing is neither sustainable nor fair to the Nigerian people.”

It added:“Your government has a responsibility to ensure the interest of the well-being and prosperity of Nigeria and its citizens. The growing budget deficit and debt problems threaten Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services, and will hurt future generations if not urgently addressed.”


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The letter, read in part: “SERAP also urges you to publish details of spending on construction and repairs of the presidential wing at the medical center and office furniture and fittings since May 29, 2015.

“The proposed spending figures highlight the lack of political will to cut the cost of governance, starting from the presidency. This spending is unsustainable, and would take away critical funding to provide access to quality healthcare and education.

“This would leave the poorest and most vulnerable people without access to these essential public goods and services, and burden the next generation.

“According to our information, for the Office of the President, you recently proposed in the 2022 appropriation bill to spend N24,835,805,231 for the construction of the presidential wing at the state house medical center, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments.”

The agency noted that “The construction of the presidential wing will cost N21,974,763,310. N2,309,066,788 is proposed to be spent on general travel and transport while N301,138,860 will be spent on foodstuff and catering materials supplies. N250,836,273 is proposed to be spent on refreshments, meals, honorarium, sitting allowance, publicity and advertisements.

“For the Office of the Vice-President, N1,136,717,757 is proposed for local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, purchase of office furniture and fittings, and other expenses. The details are: N778,261,411 is proposed to be spent on general travel and transport.

“N168,210,826 is proposed for office stationeries/computer, consumables, printing of documents, uniforms and other clothing, food stuff and catering materials supplies. N2,350,626 is proposed for cooking gas and fuel costs.

“N99,795,229 is proposed to be spent on refreshments, meals, honorarium, sitting allowance, publicity and advertisements. N31,909,380 is proposed for computer software acquisition while N30,817,085 is proposed for the purchase of motor vehicles. N25,373,200 is proposed for the purchase of office furniture and fittings.

“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our requests.”

The organisation said it “is concerned that the huge spending is neither necessary nor in the public interest, especially in the face of the country’s dire economic position, the scant allocations to education and health, and the growing level of borrowing by your government to fund the 2022 budget.

“Spending limited public funds on the construction of the presidential wing at the State House Medical Centre, local and foreign travels, meals and refreshments, honorarium and sitting allowance, and welfare packages at a time the government is borrowing to fund the budget would undermine your government’s constitutional and fiduciary duties to ensure a responsible budget spending.

“The country’s fiscal situation must be changed – and changed quickly – through some combination of cuts in the areas highlighted above. Cutting waste and apparently unnecessary spending would go a long way in addressing the budget deficit and debt problems.

“The recommended measures would also ensure that your government is spending the country’s maximum available resources to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to basic needs of the poor and marginalized groups.”

Withdraw ‘Impermissible Conditions On Twitter’, SERAP Tells Buhari

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently withdraw the impermissible conditions imposed on Twitter pending the final determination of the suit at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja challenging the legality” of suspending the microblogging platform.

According to a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP urged the president to withdraw the clauses in a bid to allow the court render a decision on the central issues in the case, and protect the plaintiffs’ rights and interests.

President Buhari had stated in his address to mark Nigeria’s 61th independence anniversary, that the Federal Government would only lift the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria if certain conditions, including concerns around national security, are met.

The address also seems to suggest that even when the suspension is lifted, Nigerians will only be allowed to use Twitter “for business and positive engagements.”

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However, in an open letter dated 2 October 2021, SERAP said: “The conditions imposed on Twitter while the ECOWAS case is pending constitute an interference with the right of SERAP and other plaintiffs to fairly and effectively pursue a judicial challenge to the decision by your government to suspend Twitter in Nigeria.

The organization said: “The conditions make a mockery of the case pending before the ECOWAS court, and create a risk that the course of justice will be seriously impeded or prejudiced in this case. Protecting the right to a judicial recourse and due administration of justice is of utmost importance, being the cornerstone of an ordered society.”

According to SERAP: “Imposing impermissible conditions on Twitter would undermine the rights and interests of the Plaintiffs in the ECOWAS Court case filed against your government, as the conditions directly touch on the central issues of freedom of expression and access to information, which the court is set to determine and rule upon.”

The letter, read in part: “Pushing conditions on Twitter while the ECOWAS case is pending would prejudice the interests of the Plaintiffs, undermine the ability of ECOWAS court to do justice in the case, damage public confidence in the court, and prejudice the outcome of the case.

“It is in the public interest to keep the streams of justice clear and pure, and to maintain the authority of the ECOWAS court in the case. If not immediately withdrawn, the conditions would seriously undermine Nigeria’s international human rights obligations including under ECOWAS treaties and protocols, and have serious consequences for the public interest.”

“Given that the only way in which SERAP and other plaintiffs can have a fair and effective access to justice is to allow the court to decide on the merits of the case before it, fairness and justice must, on the facts of the ECOWAS case, outweigh any stated national security conditions.”

“Your government should allow the ECOWAS Court to decide these issues, especially as the Federal Government has made the arguments on national security before the court.”

“The core of the principle of judicial independence is the complete liberty of the judge to hear and decide the cases before them on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any improper interference, direct or indirect.”

“The principle of the independence of the judiciary has also been enshrined in the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, endorsed by the General Assembly in 1985.”

“The Principles provide, inter alia, that it is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary (principle 1); that judges shall decide matters before them impartially without any restrictions or interferences, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reason (principle 2); and that there shall not be any inappropriate or unwarranted interference with the judicial process (principle 4).”

SERAP, therefore, urged the president to urgently withdraw the conditions imposed on Twitter, and to allow the ECOWAS court to decide on the suit brought by the organization and other plaintiffs challenging the legality of the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, as judgment in the suit is fixed for 20th, January 2022.

SERAP Tells Buhari To Publish Names Of Suspected Looters Of N6trn NDDC Funds

A photo combination of SERAP logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN to widely publish the names of those indicted in the alleged misappropriation of over N6 trillion in the running of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) between 2000 and 2019, as documented in the recent Forensic Audit Report on NDDC”.

In a statement on Sunday, SERAP also urged the president “to direct Mr Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible for the missing N6 trillion, and to fully recover any misappropriated public funds”.

In its open letter dated 25 September 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “It is in the public interest to promptly publish the names of those indicted in the audit report, and to ensure that they face prosecution, as appropriate”.

SERAP said: “Taking these decisive steps would advance the victims’ right to restitution, compensation and guarantee of non-repetition, as well as improve public confidence in the fight against corruption.”

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It added that, “Using the audit report to genuinely combat the corruption epidemic in the NDDC and rein in those indicted would alleviate poverty, improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services, and enhance the ability of your government to meet its human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”

“Despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, ordinary Nigerians have derived very little benefit from trillions of naira budgeted for socio-economic development in the region primarily because of widespread grand corruption, and the entrenched culture of impunity of perpetrators,” the letter, read in part.

“The level of grand corruption in the NDDC, and the devastating effects on poor Nigerians are serious enough to meet the requirements of crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The public interest in publishing the names of those indicted by the audit report outweighs any considerations to withhold the information, as there would be no prejudice against those whose names are published as long as the information is appropriately framed and truthful.”

“The audit report raises prima facie evidence of grand corruption and its staggering effects in the Niger Delta. Nigerians have the right to know the names of those indicted and other details in the report, as guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Freedom of Information Act.

“Publishing widely the report and the names of those indicted would remove the possibility of obstruction of justice, and provide insights relevant to the public debate on the ongoing efforts to combat grand corruption and the longstanding impunity of perpetrators in the country.

“Nigerians are entitled to the right to receive information without any interference or distortion, and the enjoyment of this right should be based on the principle of maximum disclosure, and a presumption that all information is accessible subject only to a narrow system of exceptions.”

According to SERAP, “even if the government demonstrates that the publication of the names of public officials would substantially harm a legitimate interest, it is nevertheless obliged to disclose the requested information if, as it is the case here, the public interest in disclosure is sufficient enough to overweigh any perceived harm.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Incorporated Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.

“Misappropriation of public funds meant to ensure access to basic public goods and services rises to the level of crimes against humanity, as this has forced millions of Nigerians in the region to live in inhuman or degrading conditions, in violation of the Rome Statute.

“According to our information, the Forensic Audit Report into the activities of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) reveals grim allegations of misappropriation of N6 trillion in the commission between 2000 and 2019, and that there are over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta.”

“According to the report, the NDDC operated a total of 362 bank accounts, which resulted in a ‘lack of proper reconciliation of accounts.’

“The missing N6 trillion and over 13,000 abandoned projects in the Niger Delta have continued to have a negative impact on the human rights of Nigerians, undermining their access to basic public goods and services, such as education, healthcare, and regular and uninterrupted electricity supply.

“Public schools have been left to crumble and wither away, and health care facilities in several parts of the region lack even the most basic of amenities.

“Section 15 subsection (5) of the Constitution requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power. The UN Convention against Corruption requires your government to ensure effective prosecution of allegations of corruption.

“Specifically, article 26 of the convention requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ including criminal and non-criminal sanctions, in cases of grand corruption. Article 26 complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption allegations.”

The letter was copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye SAN, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Communications Shutdown In Zamfara, Katsina, ‘Unjustified’ – SERAP Tells Buhari

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately reverse the apparently unjustified suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara State, and 13 local government areas of Katsina State”.

The NCC recently ordered telecom operators to suspend all telecommunications networks in Zamfara State, in at least 13 local government areas of Katsina State to check banditry  and terrorism. 

But SERAP in an open letter dated 11 September, 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said the move is “without any legal justification, is inconsistent with the principles of necessity and proportionality. The suspension is a form of collective punishment of Nigerians resident in these states.

SERAP said the development is “egregious, and suggests a disturbing trend, especially given the growing restriction of civic space in Nigeria. Shutdowns should never become an entrenched practice in the country”.

“While the authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property, any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with constitutional and international human rights standards,” the agency. 

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The letter, read in part that: “Large-scale shutdowns of communication networks are a form of collective punishment. Shutdowns exert significant chilling effects, with direct implications on participatory democracy, whose existence depends upon an active and informed citizenry capable of engaging with a range of ideas.

“Shutdowns generate a wide variety of harms to human rights, economic activity, public safety and emergency services that outweigh the purported benefits. The suspension has the potential to affect millions of internet and telecommunication users in these states, and those on the margins of society are most impacted by it.

“The suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.

“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions such as the telecoms blackout in these states, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions target a specific objective and do not unduly intrude upon human rights.”

It added that “While ‘checking the activities of bandits/terrorists in these states could conceivably be viewed as justification for exceptional measures necessary to protect public order or national security, the authorities have so far failed to show how shutting down internet and telecommunication networks in the entire Zamfara State, and 13 local government areas of Katsina State is necessary to achieve the stated purposes.

“The imposition of any restrictions should be guided by the objective of facilitating the right, rather than seeking unnecessary and disproportionate limitations on it. Restrictions must not be discriminatory, impair the essence of the right, or be aimed at causing a chilling effect. Internet and telecommunication shutdowns fail to meet all of these conditions.

“Internet and telecommunication shutdowns amount to inherently disproportionate interference with the rights to freedom of expression and information. Necessity requires a showing that shutdowns would achieve their stated purpose, which in fact they often jeopardize.

“We would be grateful if the suspension of internet and telecommunication networks in Zamfara and Katsina states is reversed within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.

“In their 2011 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet, four special mandates on freedom of expression emphasised that ‘Cutting off access to the internet, or parts of the internet, for whole populations or segments of the public can never be justified, including on public order or national security grounds.’

“The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has affirmed the principle of non-interference with access to internet and telecommunication networks and stressed that states including Nigeria ‘shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to the internet and other digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.’

“There is no convincing justification that the stated objectives of checking the activities of bandits/terrorists could not be achieved through measures with a lesser impact on the rights to freedom of expression and information than the wholesale blocking of internet and telecommunication networks in these states.

SERAP “therefore urges you to sponsor an executive bill to explicitly recognize the right to access and use the internet as a constitutional and legal right, and as an essential condition for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and information.

“The rights to freedom of expression and access to information are protected by Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“These rights must be protected online as they are protected offline. Access to the internet is a fundamental right. Access to the internet is also a necessary precondition for the exercise and enjoyment of human rights online and offline.

“Your government therefore has a legal obligation to enable access to the internet for all, as access to the internet is inextricably linked to the exercise of freedom of expression and information.

“Access to information, the ability to exercise the right to freedom of expression and the participation that the internet provides to all sectors of society is essential for a truly democratic society.

“The rights to freedom of expression and information may be restricted only in specific circumstances. Restrictions on these rights must be provided by law, proportionate, and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals.

“Further, any measures to address security challenges must make use of the least restrictive means to achieve that legitimate aim.”

Zamfara: Declare Abduction Of Students A Crime Against Humanity, SERAP Tells ICC

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned Mr Karim A. A. Khan, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging him “to investigate the growing cases of abduction of students in several parts of Northern Nigeria, closure of schools, and the persistent failure of Nigerian authorities at both the federal and state levels to end the abduction as amounting to crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC”.

SERAP in an appeal on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, urged ICC’s prosecutor “to push for those suspected to be responsible and complicit in the commission of these serious crimes, to be invited and tried by the ICC”.

The petition followed a string of abductions and closure of schools in some parts of Nigeria, including the recent one in Zamfara State after scores of students were abducted by gunmen from a state-run high school in Maradun district.

In the petition dated 4 September 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Depriving children of their right to education has severe consequences for their ability to access their fundamental rights. The severe and lifelong harms that result from depriving children of the right to education satisfy the gravity of harm threshold under the Rome Statute”.

SERAP said: “Investigating and declaring cases of abduction of Nigerian students and closure of schools, and the failure by the Nigerian authorities to provide safe and enabling learning environments as crimes against humanity would help to combat impunity, deter future human rights abuses, and improve access of the children to education.”

According to SERAP, “persistent and discriminatory denial of education to girls is a crime against humanity. Repeated abductions, the absence of safe and enabling learning environments, and the resulting closure of schools give rise to individual criminal responsibility under the Rome Statute.”

The petition, read in part: “The crime of abduction is not just a deprivation of a single fundamental human right, but a wholesale effort to re-engineer society and to deny children, including girls their human dignity and agency in all aspects of their lives. Lack of education for girls and women has been shown to have negative impacts on their children and family.

“The persistent failure by Nigerian authorities to end the widespread and systemic abductions, and to provide safe and enabling learning environments for Nigerian children to enjoy their right to quality education amounts to crimes against humanity, which fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC.

“While the Nigerian authorities have primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute the alleged crimes of abduction of students, they have repeatedly failed and/or neglected to do so.”

“The absence of any tangible and relevant investigation or prosecution in Nigeria suggests that the authorities are unwilling or unable to carry out genuine investigation or prosecution of those suspected to be responsible for and complicit in the abduction of students.”

It lamented “the consequences of persistent abductions of students, closure of schools, and the failure to provide safe and enabling learning environments despite federal and state authorities yearly budgeting some N241.2 billion of public funds as “security votes”, are similar to those of the offences in article 7(1).

“Senior government officials know well or ought to know that their failure to prevent these crimes will violate the children’s human rights and dignity.

“SERAP is concerned about the growing reports of abduction of Nigerian students and closure of schools in several parts of Nigeria. As Nigeria is a State Party to the Rome Statute, the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes against humanity committed on the territory of Nigeria or by its nationals.”

According to the organization, the abductions and school closure are crimes against humanity.

“The Rome Statute in article 7 defines ‘crime against humanity” to include “inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury,’ committed in a widespread or systematic manner against a civilian population. The common denominator of crimes against humanity is that they are grave affronts to human security and dignity,” SERAP added.

“The ICC should recognize depriving children including girls of the right to education is an inhumane act under Article 7 that brings comparable suffering and harm to its victims as other crimes against humanity.

“The OTP’s Policy on Children recognizes that children are an ‘identifiable group or collectivity’ and ‘targeting [them] on the basis of age or birth may be charged as persecution on ‘other grounds.’

“The fact that only children of the poor attend schools that are often targeted for abductions and closures suggests that the cases highlighted in this petition fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC on ‘other grounds’.

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case, as provided for under Article 17 of the Rome Statute.

“More than 10,000 schools have been reportedly closed in at least seven northern states over the fear of attack and abduction of pupils and members of staff. The states are Sokoto, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger and Yobe.

“Schools in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara State have been ordered closed after scores of students were abducted by gunmen from a state-run high school in Zamfara’s Maradun district.

“Among the string of abductions in Zamfara was the abduction of over 200 schoolgirls in the town of Jangebe in February. The latest abduction comes after widespread reports of abduction of students and closure of schools in many states of Nigeria, including in north-central Niger State where some 91 schoolchildren were abducted.

“An estimated 1.3 million Nigerian children have been affected by frequent raids on schools by suspected terrorists. Some 13 million Nigerian children are out of school nationwide. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), more than 1,000 students have been abducted from schools in northern Nigeria since December 2020.

“Families and parents have reportedly resulted to paying the terrorists thousands of dollars as ransom to secure the release of their children. An estimated $18.34 million was reportedly paid in ransoms between June 2011 and the end of March 2020.”

“Nigerian authorities have also failed and/or neglected to satisfactorily address the abduction of 276 schoolgirls from Chibok in 2014, which prompted the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. According to reports, more than 100 of those girls are still missing.

“Also, pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or states parties refer a situation or if information is provided from other sources such as the information SERAP is providing in this case.

“SERAP believes that the ICC exists as a constant reminder of states’ responsibility to combat serious crimes and impunity. The alleged crimes against humanity in Nigeria merit the Court’s attention,” it added.

SERAP therefore urged Mr Khan to:

  1.   Urgently commence an investigation proprio motu on the widespread and systematic problem of abductions of Nigerian students, the failures to provide a safe learning environment, and the persistent closure of schools, with a view to determining whether these amount to crimes against humanity within the Court’s jurisdiction. In this respect, we also urge you to invite representatives of the Nigerian government, the governors of states affected to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court, so that the Prosecutor is able to conclude whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation;
  2.   Ensure the mission by OTP officials to Nigeria for evaluative purposes;
  3.   Bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for widespread and systematic abductions, failures to provide a safe learning environment for the children, and the resulting closure of schools in many states;
  4.   Urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations under the Rome Statute to cooperate with the ICC; including complying with your requests to arrest and surrender suspected perpetrators and those directly or indirectly complicit in the crimes, testimony, and provide other support to the ICC;
  5.   Compel the Nigerian authorities to ensure that Nigerian children are afforded their rights to life, dignity, and quality education in a safe learning environment, and to ensure reparations to victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation and guarantee of non-repetition;
  6.   Encourage Nigerian authorities to implement the provisions of the Rome Statute as part of a general strategy to strengthen the national jurisdiction to assure that they can efficiently investigate and prosecute cases of abduction of children prohibited by the Rome Statute

SERAP Sues FG, Seeks Details Of ‘Payment Of ₦729bn To Poor Nigerians’

A photo combination of SERAP and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Federal Government, asking for details of the ₦729bn payment to 24.3m poor Nigerians across the country.

SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, disclosed this in a statement issued on Sunday, adding that the suit with the number FHC/L/CS/853/2021 was filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

He said the group is seeking “an order directing and compelling the Federal Government to clarify whether the proposed payment to poor Nigerians is part of the ₦5.6 trillion budget deficits.”

SERAP wants the court “to compel the Federal Government to disclose details of proposed payments of ₦729bn to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, including the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, and how they have been selected, and whether the payments will be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers or other means”.

The suit followed the group’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouk.

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It is asking the minister to disclose “the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan [which] would promote transparency and accountability, and remove the risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds”.

“Providing support and assistance to poor Nigerians is a human rights obligation but the programme to spend five percent of the 2021 budget, which is mostly based on deficit and borrowing, requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries, and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted,” the statement added.

“The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], UN Convention against Corruption, and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state, require the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees.

“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored and that the payments are justified in light of the huge budget deficit and borrowing, and whether there are better ways to spend N729bn to support poor Nigerians.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

SERAP Sues Buhari, Others Over Alleged Missing ₦106bn In 149 MDAs

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that N106bn of public funds are missing from 149 ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), and to ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible, and the recovery of any missing public funds”.

The suit followed allegations by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation in his 2018 annual audited report that over ₦105 billion of public funds are missing, misappropriated, or unaccounted for across 149 MDAs.

Joined in the suit filed by SERAP were the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation; Abubakar Malami and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/903/2021 filed last week at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the group asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to promptly investigate the alleged missing N106bn of public funds, ensure prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible and the full recovery of any missing public money”.

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SERAP argued that recovering the alleged missing public funds would reduce the pressure on the Federal Government to borrow more money to fund the budget, enable the authorities to meet the country’s constitutional and international obligations, and reduce the growing level of public debts.

“Directing and compelling President Buhari to ensure the investigation and prosecution of the alleged grand corruption documented by the Auditor-General would be entirely consistent with the government’s own commitment to fight corruption, improve the integrity of MDAs, and serve the public interest,” the statement issued by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare partly read.

“The alleged missing public funds have hampered the ability of the indicted MDAs to meet the needs of average citizens, as the missing funds could have helped the government to invest in key public goods and services, and to improve access of Nigerians to these goods and services.”

In addition, the group wants the court to compel the president “to publish full details of the yearly budgets of all MDAs, and issue regular updates that detail their expenditures, including by making any such information easily accessible in a form that can be understood by the public”.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

#TwitterBan: We Are Monitoring Closely Repression In Nigeria, Says Commonwealth

 

The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC has stated that the Commonwealth is “closely monitoring developments around the suspension of Twitter, and allegations of repression of the rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, as well as disregard for the rule of law in Nigeria.”

Ms. Scotland said: “All Commonwealth member countries, including Nigeria, have obligations and commitments to uphold freedom of expression as one of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter. This underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.”

The statement by the Commonwealth followed an Urgent Appeal by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) urging Ms. Scotland to “apply the Commonwealth Charter to hold the Nigerian government to account over the unlawful suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the resulting repression of freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom.”

This development was disclosed today by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

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In the Urgent Appeal, SERAP had stated that: “The Nigerian government has repeatedly demonstrated that it is not committed to protecting human rights. The Commonwealth should take a clear stand to ensure accountability of institutions, freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom in Nigeria.”

Responding, Ms Scotland in a letter sent to SERAP, said: “I write to acknowledge with thanks, receipt of your letter dated 5 June 2021 highlighting concerns about the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria.”

The letter by the Commonwealth dated 22 July 2021, and signed on behalf of Ms Scotland by Roger Koranteng, Officer in Charge, Governance and Peace Directorate, read in part: “The Commonwealth Secretary-General has been following the developments in Nigeria very closely and she is engaging the relevant stakeholders.”

“Please be assured that the Secretariat will remain engaged with the authorities in Nigeria and encourage a speedy resolution of this matter.”

“All Commonwealth member countries [including Nigeria] have committed themselves to uphold freedom of expression as one of the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter, which underscores a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights covenants and international instruments.”

Kolawole Oluwadare said: “We are very delighted that our letter and the concerns that it raises have caught the attention of the Commonwealth Secretary-General. Given her public record for justice and human rights, we have absolutely no doubt that she will prevail on the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to lift the unlawful suspension of Twitter, respect human rights, and obey the rule of law.”

“But it should never have reached this level, as the government has absolutely no justification to suspend Twitter in Nigeria. The Buhari administration ought to have complied with the Commonwealth Charter and other similar human rights standards as a matter of routine.”

SERAP’s Urgent Appeal dated 5 June 2021, read in part: “Ms. Scotland should urgently consider recommending the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth to the Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Chair-in-office, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth to push the government to take concrete measures to respect and promote the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”

“Nigerians can only freely participate in the democratic processes and shape the society in which they live if these fundamental human rights are fully and effectively-respected, protected and promoted.”

“The suspension has the character of collective punishment and is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations. Nigerian authorities would seem to be suppressing people’s access to Twitter to exploit the shutdown to cover up allegations of corruption, abuses, and restrict freedom of expression and other fundamental rights.”

“The Nigerian government has also called for the prosecution of those who violate its order suspending Twitter operations in Nigeria. This order for the prosecution of Twitter users violates the legal rule that there should be no punishment without law.”

“Respect for Commonwealth values is essential for citizens to trust Commonwealth institutions. The Commonwealth ought to take a strong stand for the protection of human rights, transparency, and the rule of law in Nigeria, principles which are fundamental to the Commonwealth’s integrity, functioning, and effectiveness of its institutions.”

“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria demonstrates the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent by the Nigerian people. There are well-founded fears that the human rights situation in Nigeria will deteriorate even further if urgent action is not taken to address it.”

“According to our information, the Nigerian government on Friday 4 June 2021 unlawfully ordered all internet service providers to suspend Twitter in Nigeria. The suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria followed the deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweets, which according to Twitter ‘violated the Twitter Rules.’”

“The suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is taking place against the background of repression of the civic space and harassment of media houses, and journalists who are targeted simply for performing their professional duty.”

“The suspension of Twitter has seriously undermined transparency and accountability in government. The lack of transparency undermines the rule of law and Nigerians’ ability to participate in their own government.”

“Lack of transparency and accountability, and the absence of the rule of law in Nigeria have contributed hugely to denying Nigerians their fundamental human rights. People have been targeted simply for using Twitter and peacefully exercising their fundamental human rights.”

SERAP Sues Buhari Over Gag Order On Reporting Of Terrorist Attacks

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees
A logo of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and AccountabilityProject (SERAP) and the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, over the order stopping journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims.

They are asking the court to declare the order illegal.

Joined in the suit as Defendant, is the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

The suit followed the directive by the NBC, asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/725/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP and PTCIJ are seeking: “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the government of President Buhari, the NBC, and Mr Lai Muhammed or any other persons from imposing fines or other sanctions on broadcast stations for carrying out their constitutional duties of reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims during daily newspaper reviews.”

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They are also seeking “an order to compel and direct the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed to withdraw the directive asking journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting details on terrorist attacks and victims, as the directive is unlawful and inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and the country’s international human rights obligations.

“An order setting aside the directive on reporting of terrorist attacks and victims, for being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22 and 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

According to SERAP, “unless the reliefs sought are urgently granted by this Honourable Court, the directive by the NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed would be used to impermissibly restrict Nigerians’ rights to freedom of expression, access to information, media freedom, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies.”

SERAP and PTCIJ are arguing that the failure by the government to withdraw the directive, violates sections 5[a] and [b], 147 and 148 of the Nigerian Constitution, Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1], and Oath of office [Seventh Schedule] of the Constitution.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP and PTCIJ by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The NBC and Mr Lai Muhammed lack the power and authority to restrict the ability of journalists and broadcast stations to carry out their constitutional duties and to unlawfully impose penalties such as fines and other sanctions on any journalists and broadcast stations for reporting on details of terrorist attacks and victims in the country.”

“SERAP and PTCIJ together with several millions of Nigerians easily access information, news and form opinions on government policies through the daily newspaper reviews by journalists and broadcast stations in Nigeria.”

SERAP believes that while the NBC has the powers to make rules to enable it perform its statutory functions under section 2[1] [a] to [u] of NBC Act, such statutory powers ought to be exercised in line with the Nigerian Constitution, and the country’s international human rights obligations.

SERAP Gives Buhari Govt 24 Hours To Withdraw ‘Gag Order’On Reporting Of Terrorist Attacks

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to use his leadership position “to urgently instruct Mr. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the directive containing a sweeping gag order banning journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims across the country.”

The NBC had in a letter dated 7 July, 2021 issued a directive asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.

Reacting, SERAP in a letter dated 17 July, 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The contents of the directive by the NBC to journalists and broadcast stations are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

SERAP said: “We would be grateful if the repressive directive is withdrawn within 24 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”

The organization expressed “grave concern that the contents of the NBC directive would impermissibly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.”

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SERAP said: “Reporting on the growing violence and killings in many parts of the country is a matter of public interest. The NBC directive to journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting these cases, coupled with the possibility of fines and other punishment, would have a disproportionate chilling effect on the work of those seeking to hold the government accountable to the public.”

The letter, read in part: “The broad definitions of what may constitute ‘too many details’, ‘glamourising’, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ heighten concerns of overreach, confer far-reaching discretion on the government, and suggest that the NBC directive is more intrusive than necessary.”

“These words and phrases do not indicate precisely what kind of individual conduct would fall within their ambit.”

“The vague and overbroad definitions of ‘too many details’, ‘glamourising’, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ also raise concern that the NBC directive unduly interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and information, and is disproportionate to any purported legitimate governmental aim. Ill-defined and/or overly broad directives are open to arbitrary application and abuse.”

“The use of these words and phrases by the NBC, given their opaque and ambiguous meaning, leaves open the possibility for application beyond unequivocal incitement to hatred, hostility or violence. Such words and phrases may function to interpret legitimate reporting by broadcast stations, journalists, and other Nigerians as unlawful.”

“Exacerbating these concerns are growing restriction of civic space, the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the attempts by your government to push for the amendment of the Nigeria Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act, to further suppress media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.”

“Allowing the media to freely carry out their duties is essential to building a secure society and leaving no one behind. Conversely, imposing impermissible restrictions on broadcast stations, journalists and other Nigerians undermines the security that builds a healthy and vibrant society.”

“Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes the right to freedom of opinion without interference. Article 19(2) establishes Nigeria’s obligations to respect and ensure this right, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media of one’s choice.”

“Under article 19(3), restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be ‘provided by law’, and necessary ‘for respect of the rights or reputations of others’ or ‘for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals’.”

“Although article 19(3) recognizes ‘national security’ as a legitimate aim, the Human Rights Council, the body charged with monitoring implementation of the Covenant, has stressed ‘the need to ensure that invocation of national security is not used unjustifiably or arbitrarily to restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression.’”

“Since article 19(2) promotes so clearly a right to information of all kinds, this indicates that your government bears the burden of justifying any restriction on reporting of cases of violence and killings, and withholding of such information as an exception to that right.”

“Any restrictions should be applied strictly so that they do not put in jeopardy the right itself. The NBC directive to broadcast stations fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.”

“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions such as those being imposed by the NBC, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions target a specific objective and do not unduly intrude upon the rights of targeted persons.”

“The interference with the constitutional and legal duties of journalists and broadcast stations cannot be justified in the context of the right to information, as the NBC directive has not shown that their reporting would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public’s interest in such information.”

“The NBC directive may also create an environment that unduly deters and penalizes broadcast stations and journalists, and the reporting of government wrongdoing more generally.”

“The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom expression has concluded that national security considerations should be ‘limited in application to situations in which the interest of the whole nation is at stake, which would thereby exclude restrictions in the sole interest of a government, regime, or power group.’”

“SERAP notes the collective interdependency of the compendium of constitutional and international human rights, which function to collectively complement and enhance the advancement of the security and rights of each individual in society.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure that Nigerian journalists and media can freely carry out their constitutional duties as contained in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.”

“While your government has the obligation to maintain national security, this obligation is not set apart from the obligation to protect and ensure human rights. National security is a necessary and integral part of the right to security guaranteed to each person individually.”

“According to our information, the NBC called for ‘caution’ by broadcasters while reporting security challenges in the country. The directive, titled: ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah.”

SERAP Asks Court To Slash Allowances For Buhari, Govs, NASS Members

File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja “to order the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) and the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to perform their statutory functions to review downward the remuneration and allowances of President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, 36 governors and members of the National Assembly”.

SERAP is arguing that “slashing jumbo pay for these high-ranking political office-holders would reduce the unfair pay disparity between political officer holders and judicial officers, address the persistent poor treatment of judges, and improve access of victims of corruption to justice and effective remedies”.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/658/2021 filed on Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the RMAFC to send its downward review of the remuneration and allowances of these high-ranking public office holders and recommendations to the National Assembly for appropriate remedial and legislative action, as provided for by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended].”

The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo.

SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the RMAFC to perform its mandatory constitutional duty to urgently review upward the remuneration, salaries, and allowances, as well as the conditions of service for Nigerian judges.”

Joined in the suit as respondents are Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, for themselves, and on behalf of all members of the Senate and House of Representative; and the National Judicial Council.

According to SERAP, while high-ranking political office-holders continue to enjoy lavish allowances, including life pensions, and access to security votes, which they have powers to spend as they wish, the remuneration and allowances of judges are grossly insufficient to enable them to maintain themselves and their families in reasonable comfort.

“The huge pay disparity between these high-ranking political officer-holders and judges is unfair, unjust, and discriminatory, especially given the roles of judges to the people and the country,” it said.

“While government reviewed upward the salaries and allowances of political office holders on four occasions between May 1999 and March 2011, the salaries and allowances of judicial officers were only reviewed twice during the same period.”

Prior to filing the suit, SERAP had written to the NSIWC about the matter and received confirmation about its powers.

“The NSIWC in a letter to SERAP admitted that it has powers to examine, streamline and recommend the salary scales applicable to each post in the public service but informed us to redirect our request to the RMAFC,” SERAP said.

“There is a legal duty upon the RMAFC to urgently review downward the remuneration and allowances of high-ranking political office-holders.”

As far as the legal and advocacy organisation is concerned, the current situation amounts to the unfair, discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment of judges.

“Despite their important roles and responsibilities, Nigerian judges are poorly treated, particularly when their remuneration, salaries, allowances, and conditions of service are compared with that of political office-holders. Judges should not have to endure the most poignant financial worries,” it said.

Beyond the disparity between the remuneration of judges and political office holders, SERAP’s suit is also based on the impact of the increase in cost of living and the importance of the roles played by judges, a role it considers as second to none with regard to providing justice and protecting human rights.

“As a safeguard of judicial independence, the budget of the judiciary ought to be prepared in collaboration with the judiciary having regard to the peculiar needs and requirements of judicial administration,” it said.

“The remuneration and pensions of judges must be secured by law at an adequate level that is consistent with their status and is sufficient to safeguard against conflict of interest and corruption.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.