2021 Budget: SERAP Asks NASS To Stop Buhari From Selling Govt Properties

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the National Assembly to stop President Muhammadu Buhari from selling government properties to fund the 2021 budget.

SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, appealed to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to bar the President from carrying out such moves via a letter addressed on January 16.

The group wants the leadership of the National Assembly to “urgently review the 2021 appropriation legislation to stop the government of President Muhammadu Buhari from selling public properties to fund the 2021 budget, and to identify areas in the budget to cut such as salaries and allowances for members and the Presidency to make sayings to address the growing level of deficit and borrowing.”

“The National Assembly has a constitutional and oversight responsibility to protect valuable public properties and to ensure responsible budget spending. Allowing the government to sell public properties, and to enjoy almost absolute discretion to borrow to fund the 2021 budget would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and fiduciary duties.”

While warning that selling valuable public properties to fund the 2021 budget would be counter-productive, the group said “this would be vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. It would undermine the social contract with Nigerians, leave the government worse off, and hurt the country in the long run. It is neither necessary nor in the public interest.”

READ ALSO: UNILAG Denies Charging ₦50,000 For Online Classes

The organisation also called for a change in the country’s fiscal situation through some combination of cuts in spending on salaries and allowances, and a freeze on spending in certain areas of the budget such as hardship and furniture allowances, entertainment allowances, international travels, and buying of motor vehicles and utilities for members and the Presidency.

On borrowing of loans, SERAP also asked the parliament “to stop approving loan requests by the Federal Government if it continues to fail to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of the loans so far obtained.”

“We would consider the option of pursuing legal action to stop the Federal Government from selling public properties, and we may join the National Assembly in any such suit.

“The budget deficit and debt problems threaten Nigerians’ access to essential public goods and services and will hurt future generations. If not urgently addressed, the deficit and debt problems would seriously undermine access to public goods and services for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people who continue to endure the grimmest of conditions.

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties,” the statement added.

SERAP Seeks UN Intervention Over Detention Of Sowore, Others

A file photo of Omoyele Sowore and others at a courtroom in Abuja on January 4, 2021.

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sought the intervention of the United Nations over the detention of the convener of #RevolutionNow movement, Omoyele Sowore, and four others.

In a statement on Tuesday by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group said it has sent an urgent complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention over the “arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment” Sowore and the other whom it said were activists for peacefully exercising their human rights.

This comes a day after a Magistrate Court in Abuja ordered the remand of the five persons at the Kuje Correctional Centre in the nation’s capital pending when their formal bail application would be heard on Tuesday.

They were arraigned by the Federal Government on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and an attempt to incite others.

READ ALSO: Court Orders Remand Of Sowore, Four Others In Kuje Prison

In its reaction, SERAP said, “The Working Group should request the Nigerian authorities to withdraw the bogus charges against Mr Sowore and four other activists, and to immediately and unconditionally release them.”

In the complaint dated January 4, it stressed that the detention of the five persons constituted an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty, saying it does not have any legal justification.

The human rights group urged the UN Working Group to initiate a procedure involving the investigation of the charges against Sowore and the activists and to urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian government inquiring about the case generally.

It also urged the international body to issue an opinion declaring that the deprivation of liberty and detention of Sowore and the others was arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international human rights law.

Before their arraignment, Sowore had in a tweet called for a crossover protest, asking Nigerians to pick up a candle and a placard showing their grievances against the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The complaint addressed to the Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, Mr Jose Guevara Bermudez, read in part:

The Human Rights Committee has interpreted this right to mean that procedures for carrying out legally authorized deprivation of liberty should also be established by law and State parties should ensure compliance with their legally prescribed procedures.

Pursuant to the mandate of the Working Group, the “Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council” and the publication “Working with the UN Human Rights Programme, a Handbook for Civil Society”, SERAP, a non-governmental human rights organization, can provide information on a specific human rights case or situation in a particular country, or on a country’s laws and practices with human rights implications.

SERAP, therefore, argues that the case adequately satisfies the requirements by which to submit an individual complaint to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

SERAP is therefore seeking an opinion from the Working Group finding the continuing detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law.

Accordingly, it is hereby requested that the Working Group consider this Individual Complaint a formal request for an opinion of the Working Group pursuant to Resolution 1997/50 of the Commission on Human Rights, as reiterated by Resolutions 2000/36, 2003/31, and Human Rights Council Resolutions 6/4, 15/18, 20/16, and 24/7.

SERAP respectfully requests the Working Group to initiate the procedure involving the investigation of individual cases toward reaching an opinion declaring the detention of Mr Sowore and four other activists to be arbitrary and in violation of international human rights law.

To this end, SERAP will pursue the regular communications procedure before the Working Group in order to have the ability to provide comments on any response by the Nigerian government.

On midnight of 1st January 2021, Mr Sowore and four other activists were arrested by the officers of Nigeria Police Force, particularly men dispatched from Apo Division, Abuja, at the #CrossoverWithProtest, a planned procession across the country on New Year Eve.

They were reportedly subjected to severe torture and other ill-treatment, and Sowore was left with bruises on his nose and all over his body in an apparently the use of excessive force by the police officers.

Sowore and four other activists were arraigned at the Magistrate Court in Wuse Zone 2 on Monday, 4th January 2021 on three charges of criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and attempting to incite others.

Sowore denied all the charges, but the Magistrate ordered that he, alongside other activists, be remanded in Kuje Prison. He was denied access to his friends and family for days.

The authorities have also refused to provide him with medical attention despite overt marks of torture and other ill-treatment he reportedly suffered.

SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Missing ₦3.8bn In Health Ministry, NAFDAC, Others

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “probe allegations that ₦3,836,685,213.13 of public funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”

SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called on President Buhari to direct the Minister of Justice/Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to commence an investigation into the alleged stolen funds.

According to the organisation, the allegations are documented in Part 1 of the 2018 audited report released last week by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

READ ALSO: NAF Conducts Joint Combat Search, Rescue Exercise Along Kaduna-Abuja Highway

The group also wants the President to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme, and NAFDAC indicted in the audited report, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.

“Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval ₦13,910,000.00 to organize a 2-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 Personnel Budget. ₦4,860,000.00 was originally budgeted for the programme.

“The National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) paid ₦48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied. According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid ₦25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed them.

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

‘Probe missing N3.8bn in the health ministry, NAFDAC, others’, SERAP tells Buhari

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, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe allegations that N3,836,685,213.13 of public funds meant for the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, and National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”

The organization said the allegations are documented in Part 1 of the 2018 audited report released last week by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation.

The organization is also urging him to “promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread corruption in the Federal Ministry of Health, teaching hospitals, medical centres, neuro-psychiatric hospitals, National Health Insurance Scheme, and NAFDAC indicted in the audited report, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the health sector.”

In the letter dated 2 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Corruption in the health sector can cause serious harm to individuals and society, especially the most vulnerable sectors of the population. These missing funds could have been used to provide access to quality healthcare for Nigerians, and meet the requirements of the National Health Act, especially at a time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to SERAP, “The Federal Ministry of Health, Abuja spent without approval N13,910,000.00 to organize a 2-day Training and Bilateral discussion with Chief Medical Directors and Chairmen Medical Advisory Council and the Ministry of Budget and National Planning to prepare 2019 Personnel Budget. ₦4,860,000.00 was originally budgeted for the programme.”

SERAP said: “The National Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) paid N48,885,845.00 for services not rendered and goods not supplied. According to the Auditor-General, NAFDAC used fake and fictitious receipts for these payments. NAFDAC also paid N25,734,018.49 to companies/firms who were never awarded any contracts and never executed them.”

The letter, read in part: “Investigating and prosecuting the allegations of corruption by these institutions would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators, as well as serve the public interest.”

“Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators, and to recover the missing public funds would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the UN Convention against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“Similarly, the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Management Board Aro-Abeokuta, Ogun State failed to account for N28,662,265.32, which was to be used to procure drugs, implants, and other inputs, as approved by the Federal Government. The Auditor-General wants the money returned to the treasury.”

The National Health Insurance Scheme spent N355,510,475.00 on projects between 2016 and 2017 without appropriation. The Scheme also spent N32,299,700.00 to provide ‘financial medical assistance’ to individuals who have not been enrolled in the scheme (NHIS).”

“The Scheme also spent N72,383,000.00 on verification exercise without any supporting documents. The Scheme awarded contracts of N66,798,948.12 to members of staff for procurements, instead of making the procurement through the award of contracts.”

“The Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Enugu, Enugu State paid N5,200,000.00 as salary advance to the Medical Director. However, the Medical Director was neither proceeding on transfer, on posting nor on the first appointment to qualify for a salary advance. The Auditor-General is asking the Medical Director to refund the money collected. Another N3,387,139.00 is said to be missing but the Hospital management has failed to report the case, or recover the money.”

“The Irreal Specialist Teaching Hospital, Irrua Edo State paid N58,829,426.84 to two contractors for supplies and installations but without payment vouchers.”

“Also, Jos University Teaching Hospital Jos, Plateau State failed to remit N333,386,549.15 being 25% of its internally generated revenue of N1,333,546,196.60 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Hospital also failed to account for N8,572,777.25.”

“The Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos, failed to remit ₦945,422,478.23 to appropriate tax authority. The Hospital also failed to remit ₦237,007,828.05 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and failed to remit ₦22,307,735.21 being withholding tax deducted from contracts in 2018.”

“The Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State also failed to remit ₦8,519,506.75 being 25% of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Medical Centre also spent ₦542,877,312.77 as personnel cost between 2015 and 2016 instead of ₦12,761,350,337.00 appropriated for the same period.

“The Medical Centre failed to account for ₦898,076,719.14 of its internally generated revenue and failed to account for ₦23,598,074.38 of personnel cost. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Abuja spent without approval N19,564,429.91 as estacode allowance to the various staff of the Agency.”

“The Federal School of Occupational Therapy, Oshodi, Lagos failed to remit ₦3,250,962.98 of its internally generated revenue for 2018 to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The School also failed to remit N4,018,252.81 being funds deducted from various contracts. It spent ₦10,507,393.00 without any appropriation or approval.”

“The Federal Medical Centre, Keffi Nasarawa State failed to remit N2,147,036.00 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. It also failed to remit N5,810,438.05 to the Federal Inland Revenue Service.”

“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria failed to remit N68,604,040.68 of its internally generated revenue to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.”

“Allegations of corruption in the health sector undermine public confidence in the sector and obstruct the attainment of commitments made through Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, Goal 16 to create effective and accountable institutions. The allegations also show that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations to use its maximum available resources to progressively realize and achieve basic healthcare services for Nigerians.”

“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, and to promote transparency and accountability in the health sector.”

The letter is copied to Mr Abubakar Malami, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, and Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

3/1/2021

Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Asks Buhari, Governors To Disclose Security Votes For 2021

SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Bribery Allegation Against Ganduje

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to disclose the security votes for their states in 2021.

SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called for measures to be put in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.

“Disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes,” the statement partly read.

“In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”

READ ALSO: Bandits Kill Village Head In Niger One Week After Abduction

The group noted that while the authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.

According to Oluwadare, Nigerian leaders should be honest to the citizens amid the numerous security challenges in the country.

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

Insecurity: Disclose security votes spending for 2021, SERAP tells Buhari, 36 governors

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors urging them to “disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.”

SERAP said: “In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”

In the FoI requests dated 26 December, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Disclosing details of spending as security votes for 2021 would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them. This is a legitimate public interest matter.”

SERAP also said: “While SERAP understands that authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.”

SERAP expressed “concerns that the intense secrecy and lack of meaningful oversight of the government’s spending of security votes have for many years contributed to mismanagement and large-scale corruption in the sector, as well as limited the ability of the people to hold high-ranking public officials to account for their constitutional responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of the people.”

According to SERAP: “Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is closely interlinked with your responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office. This imposes a fundamental obligation to promote transparency and accountability in security votes spending, and to remove opportunities for corruption.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us 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 action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.”

“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act 2011, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to disclose information to the public concerning your proposed security votes spending for 2021.”

“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the human rights treaties rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

27/12/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Asks Buhari To Stop NIN Registration, Withdraw Threat To Block SIM Cards

A photo of NIMC card used to illustrate the story

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the push for registration of Nigerians for National Identity Number (NIN), and withdraw the threat to block SIM cards.

The Human Rights group in a statement on Sunday asked the President to “instruct the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Mr Isa Pantami, and Director-General of the National Identity Management Commission, (NIMC) Mr Aliyu Abubakar to stop the move.

SERAP explained that the data of Nigerians being sought already exist in several platforms, including the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), driver’s license, international passport, and voters’ card.”

The Federal Government last week issued an ultimatum to all telecommunications operators in the country to block all Subscriber Identification Modules (SIMs) without National Identification Number (NIN).

It also ordered the network operators to ask all their subscribers to provide valid NIN to update their records and suspend SIM registration.

SERAP in a statement signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said, “No government has the right to strip its own people of their basic rights under the guise of registration for national identity number. If the authorities continue down this path, the threats to citizens’ rights such as the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, will inevitably increase, and the NIMC will remain a paper tiger.”

READ ALSO: FRSC Mandates NIN As Requirement For Processing Driver’s License

The group explained that instead of forcing Nigerians to register, threatening telecom service providers with sanctions, and exposing Nigerians to the risks of COVID-19, the Federal Government ought to make sure that the NIMC discharges its statutory functions to harmonise and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies, and make use of the information collected.

“The request for Nigerians to register for NIN is burdensome, unjustified, and unnecessary. It would end up serving no other purpose than to threaten and violate the rights of Nigerians, and create a ‘chilling effect’ on citizens’ ability to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and thereby seriously undermining the government’s oft-repeated commitment to transparency and accountability.

“There is neither a pressing legal or practical need for this registration, which threatens Nigerians’ human rights, especially at a time your government is warning Nigerians about the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country,” the statement read in part.

SERAP said blocking Nigerians from using their SIM cards would amount to a “blatant violation of their rights to freedom of expression and access to information, and have a ‘chilling effect’ on the enjoyment of other human rights.”

The organisation also urged President Buhari “to instruct Mr Pantami and Mr Abubakar to take concrete measures to promptly ensure that the NIMC is able to faithfully and effectively discharge its statutory functions to harmonise and integrate existing identification databases in government agencies into the National Identity Database, and to use the information to update SIM card registration.”

They also the Federal Government to “indicate the measures being taken to stop the unnecessary registration of NIN and withdraw the threat to block SIM cards.”

SERAP also threatened to take legal actions to compel the government to implement these recommendations “in the interest of millions of Nigerians.”

SERAP Asks Buhari, Sylva To Explain How Petroleum Ministry Spent N116m On Pens, Others

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Mr Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources to use their leadership positions “to urgently probe how N116 million was spent by your Ministry to buy biros, letterhead, and toners in 2015, and to disclose the amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020, and if there is evidence of misuse of public funds, refer the matter to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution.”

The Office of the Auditor-General for the Federation had last Thursday before the Senate Public Accounts Committee revealed that officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources spent N116m to buy biros, letterhead, and toners in one year, and alleged “contravention of the Public Procurement Act 2017 by the Permanent Secretary.”

In the letter dated 12 December 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], the UN Convention against Corruption and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption require the government to ensure that Nigeria’s resources are used effectively and efficiently, and in a manner consistent with the public interest.”

SERAP said: “An effective and efficient ministry ought to keep careful track of how it spends public money, and put in place a system to eliminate corruption, mismanagement, unnecessary, inefficient, or unreasonable expenditures.”

READ ALSO: Terrorism: Account For 600 Kidnapped Katsina Students, PDP Tells Buhari

According to SERAP: “Transparency and openness in the spending by your Ministry would ensure the public trust, efficient, effective and competent delivery of public goods and services. Openness in the spending by your Ministry will also strengthen the country’s democracy and promote efficiency and integrity in government.”

The letter copied to Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, read in part: “Any allegations of misuse of public funds may constitute serious misconduct that impairs the efficiency of your Ministry, and undermines public confidence in the ability of ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs] to provide essential public goods and services to Nigerians.”

“SERAP is concerned that the allegations by the Office of the Auditor-General raises serious violations of anti-corruption legislation, the Nigerian Constitution, and international anti-corruption standards.”

“Public officials and MDAs should act and take decisions on the spending of public funds in an open, transparent, and accountable manner, and submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.”

“A democratic government accountable to the people must be as transparent as possible and must not withhold information for self-serving reasons or simply to avoid embarrassment.”

“We would therefore be grateful if you would indicate the measures being taken to probe the spending of N116m on biros, letterhead, and toners in 2015, and disclose the total amount spent on the same items between 2016 and 2020 within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your Ministry to implement these recommendations in the interest of transparency and accountability.”

“The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources has a legal obligation to conduct an effective investigation into any allegations of breach of anti-corruption legislation and international standards, including those relating to the spending by the Ministry on biros, letterhead, and toners between 2015 and 2020.”

“Our requests are consistent with the government’s repeated promise of transparency, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, national anti-corruption legislation, Freedom of Information Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.”

“According to our information, the 2015 report of the Auditor General for the Federation shows that officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources spent N116m to buy biros, letterhead, and toners in one year.”

“The breakdown of the expenditure showed that the ministry spent N14.5m to purchase Schneider biros, N46m to print the ministry’s letterhead, and N56m to procure toner for its photocopy machines.”

“According to the Office of the Auditor-General, ‘the contract for the supply of Schneider biros worth N14.5m was split into smaller packages of less than N5m each and was awarded to four different companies in order to circumvent the permanent secretary’s approval threshold of N5m.’”

“’ The contract for the printing of the ministry’s letterhead worth N46m was also split and awarded to 11 different contractors. The contract for the supply of toners worth N56m was split and awarded to seven different contractors.’”

“The Office of the Auditor-General has also reportedly told the Senate Public Accounts Committee that the permanent secretary has failed and/or refused to “explain this contravention of the Public Procurement Act 2007.”

Pension Funds: Stop Governors From Borrowing N17Trn, SERAP Tells Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to stop governors from borrowing from the N17trillion pension funds.

SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said the 36 state governors had reportedly proposed to borrow around N17 trillion from the pension funds after receiving a briefing from the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.

“Allowing the governors to borrow from pension funds would be detrimental to the interest of the beneficiaries of the funds, especially given the vulnerability of pension funds to corruption in Nigeria, and the transparency and accountability deficits in several states,” the statement partly read.

READ ALSO: Air Force Graduates 203 Special Forces, CSAR Operatives To Battle Insurgents, Bandits

“It is patently unjust and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Pension Reform Act, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations for the Federal Government and state governors to repeatedly target pension funds as an escape route from years of corruption and mismanagement in ministries, departments and agencies.”

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

SERAP asks Buhari to stop governors from borrowing N17trn from pension funds

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to use his “good offices and leadership position to urgently instruct the Director-General and Board of the National Pension Commission [NPC] to use their statutory powers to stop the 36 state governors from borrowing and/or withdrawing N17 trillion from the pension funds purportedly for ‘infrastructural development.’”

The governors last week reportedly proposed to borrow around N17 trillion from the pension funds after receiving a briefing from the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, who is the Chairman of the National Economic Council Ad Hoc Committee on Leveraging Portion of Accumulated Pension Funds for Investment in the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority [NSIA].

But in a letter dated 5 December 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allowing the governors to borrow from pension funds would be detrimental to the interest of the beneficiaries of the funds, especially given the vulnerability of pension funds to corruption in Nigeria, and the transparency and accountability deficits in several states.”

SERAP said: “It is patently unjust and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Pension Reform Act, and the country’s international anti-corruption and human rights obligations for the Federal Government and state governors to repeatedly target pension funds as an escape route from years of corruption and mismanagement in ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs].”

SERAP expressed “serious concerns that the proposed borrowing by the 36 state governors from the pension funds would lead to serious losses of retirement savings of millions of Nigerians.”

The letter copied to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, read in part: “This proposed borrowing faces the risks of corruption and mismanagement, and would ultimately deny pensioners the right to an adequate standard of living and trap more pensioners in poverty. Rather than devising ways to address pensioner poverty, governments at all levels would seem to be pushing to exacerbate it.”

“Allowing the governors to borrow money from the pension funds would amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional provisions, the Pension Reform Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations, as well as fiduciary duties imposed by these legal instruments on all public officers to prevent pension funds from unduly risky investments, and to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of pension funds.”

“We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to instruct the NPC to stop the 36 state governors from borrowing and withdrawing any money from the pension funds within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

“If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations in the interest of millions of Nigerian pensioners.”

“It would also be very difficult to hold state governors to account for the spending of pension funds, as states have persistently failed to account for the spending of public funds including security votes.”

“Transparency is a key instrument in the spending of any pension fund investment, as it is necessary to ensure the accountability of the funds. However, several states routinely claim that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable within their states.”

“Pension funds should not be used to make up for the failure of governments at all levels to cut the cost of governance, and the persistent refusal to reduce wastage and corruption in MDAs, as well as failure to obey court orders to recover life pensions collected by former governors and their deputies, and public funds collected by corrupt electricity contractors who disappeared with the money without executing any power projects.”

“Many state governors have repeatedly failed to pay workers’ salaries and pensions; several states are failing to pay contributory pension. Therefore, allowing state governors to collect a windfall of pension funds at the expense of pensioners who continue to be denied the fruit of their labour would amount to double jeopardy.”

“Fiduciary duties require public officers to ensure that pension funds are managed solely and exclusively for the benefit of pensioners, and to consider the socio-economic and human rights impact of pension investment decisions on the intended beneficiaries.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Pension Reform Act 2014, and Nigeria’s international

obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”

“Your government has a legal obligation under articles 1 and 5 of the UN Convention against Corruption to prevent and combat corruption effectively, to promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property, including pension funds.”

“Public confidence and accountability in public administration are instrumental in the prevention of corruption and greater efficiency. Article 10 requires Nigeria to take measures to enhance transparency in its public administration relative to its organization, functioning, decision-making processes and/or other aspects, including pension fund investment. Nigeria has ratified the convention.”

“Under section 85 of the Pension Reform Act, pension funds and assets can only be invested in accordance with the regulations set by the NPC. Section 100 prohibits mismanagement or diversion of pension funds. Therefore, the proposed borrowing by governors from the pension funds is implicitly inconsistent and incompatible with the letter and spirit of the Act, and with Nigeria’s international obligations.”

“Several states have also failed to observe Convention No 29 on Forced Labour and other international standards on the right of workers to timely payment of salaries and pensions. Borrowing from the pension funds is also implicitly inconsistent with right to work recognized by various ILO instruments and article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The right to work is essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity. The governors cannot on the one hand fail to pay workers’ salaries and pensions while on the other hand proposing to withdraw money from pension funds.”

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

6/12/2020

COVID-19 Donations: Court Allows Suit Against CBN For Non-Disclosure

File photo of the Federal High Court in Abuja

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has granted leave to the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Centre to sue the Central Bank of Nigeria for failing to disclose detailed information on COVID donations requested from it in July this year.

Justice Inyang Ekwo granted the order following an ex parte application moved on Monday by the two applicants’ counsel, Joel Ekong.

The judge also ordered the applicants to file their substantive suit within seven days and serve same on the CBN within seven days after the filing.

He directed the CBN to file their response to the suit within 30 days of being served by the applicants.

In their exparte application, the applicants noted that it was reported that “about N15bn in monetary contributions, is currently in the account set up under the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID19 (CACOVID) and domiciled with the respondent”.

They, however, stated that they were “seriously concerned” that despite the donations,  “the larger proportion of Nigerians, including the poorest and the most vulnerable people, have not benefitted, up till now, from the Federal Government and private sectors announced palliatives, donations, cash payments, cash transfers and other benefits”.

The applicants stated that they had, in line with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, requested information on the COVID donations via their letter dated July 29, 2020 and delivered to the CBN on  August 8, 2020, as well as their reminder letter dated September 30, 2020 and delivered to the apex bank on October 2, 2020, all to no avail.

The applicants stated that they had quested, among other things, a comprehensive breakdown of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID 19 till date.

They also asked for dtailed list of the names of the donors – individual, corporate and international organisations, sources of the donations and the amount contributed by each of the individuals and corporate bodies.

They also asked the apex bank to provides the dates of every donation received by the CBN.

Their affidavit added, “That since the receipt of the two letters by the respondent and up till the time of filing of this suit, the respondent have so far failed, refused to grant the Applicants’ requests for information.

‘That this application, in accordance with the law and the rules of this honourable court, is seeking the leave of court to compel the respondent to urgently provide information sought by the applicants via its letter.

“That this suit is brought by the Applicants on major public concerns as it bothers on issue of national interest, public welfare, public interest, human rights, social justice, good governance, probity, transparency and accountability.”

The court in its ruling granted leave to the applicants to apply for judicial review and to seek an order declaring that the failure of the respondent to publish and provide comprehensive details of financial donations received towards responding to the emergence of COVID-19 till date, among others, was a breach of their right under the Freedom.of Information Act and African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

Recession: SERAP Asks Buhari To Cut Cost Of Governance

SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Bribery Allegation Against Ganduje

 

Human Rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) say it has written an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to cut the cost of governance and implement bold transparency and accountability measures in response to Nigeria’s second recession in five years.

This was disclosed in a statement signed on Sunday by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

“Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to put the country’s resources at the service of human rights, and to support the less well-off to enjoy an adequate standing of living through cutting the cost of governance and implementing bold transparency and accountability measures in your government’s response to Nigeria’s recession,” the statement read in part.

READ ALSO: Again, Nigeria’s Economy Slips Into Recession

The group said the economic crisis rocking the nation provides an opportunity to prioritise access of poor and vulnerable Nigerians to basic socio-economic rights, and to genuinely recommit to the fight against corruption.

SERAP said: “Implementing human rights, transparency and accountability measures would save money, address projected adverse human rights impacts of the recession, and fast-track the economic recovery process.

“Decades of mismanagement and corruption, and deep-seated deficiencies in public financial management have directly contributed to higher levels of borrowing and public debts, and consequently, the economic recession. Successive governments have squandered the promise afforded by the country’s natural wealth and resources.”

The group said further that the paltry resources Nigeria invests in essential public goods and services that would benefit ordinary Nigerians can be partly explained by the “high spending of public funds to finance a life of luxury for members of the National Assembly, state governors, and other ‘powerful’ politicians.”

SERAP said it is seriously concerned about the adverse consequences of the economic crisis on the human rights of poor and vulnerable Nigerians, including denying them access to essential public goods and services such as healthcare, education, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

They said they would be grateful if the Federal government “begins to implement the recommended action and measures within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to implement these recommendations for the sake of human rights, transparency, and accountability.”

According to SERAP, prioritising the human rights of poor and vulnerable Nigerians means providing public goods and services free of charge for those who cannot afford them.

“This is the time to prioritise poor and vulnerable Nigerians, and to ensure that any response to the recession goes well beyond bailing out large companies and banks,” the statement added.

Official figures published by the NBS on Saturday, November 22 show that the economy shrank again in the third quarter of this year.

The nation’s economy maintained a second consecutive negative growth after contracting by 3.62 percent in the third quarter.

The cumulative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first nine months of 2020, therefore, stood at -2.48 percent just as it recorded a -6.10 percent in the second quarter.

The same happened in 2016, making it the second recession in a space of four years.

 

SERAP also urged President Buhari to do the following in order to cut the cost of governance and solve the problem of recession:

  1. Increase investment in public health, the healthcare system, education services, provision of clean water, and other basic public goods and services that will benefit the majority of the population;
  2. Re-direct budgetary allocations to renovate the National Assembly complex and take urgent steps to ensure that essential public goods and services are available to poor and vulnerable Nigerians;
  3. Improve transparency and quality of the information in government budgets and reform public financial management to bring it in line with international standards, and safeguard the right of media and civil society to speak out against corruption and human rights abuses;
  4. Direct the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) to urgently undertake a downward review of remuneration and allowances of all political office holders including President, Vice-President state governors and their deputies, and members of the National Assembly, consistent with the provisions of paragraph N, 32[c][d] of the Third Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution;
  5. Regularly and widely publish full accounts of projected and actual government revenues and expenditures;
  6. Immediately instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to jointly investigate allegations of systemic and widespread corruption in MDAs, as documented by the Auditor-General of the Federation, and to ensure effective prosecution of those suspected to be involved, and recovery of any stolen public funds;
  7. Ensure independence of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation i.Regularly and widely publish full accounts of projected and actual government revenues and expenditures;

ii. Immediately instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to jointly investigate allegations of systemic and widespread corruption in MDAs, as documented by the Auditor-General of the Federation, and to ensure effective prosecution of those suspected to be involved, and recovery of any stolen public funds;4. Ensure independence of the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation

#EndSARS: SERAP, 365 Nigerians Want Court To Reject ‘Suit On Twitter Shut Down’

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

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 365 concerned Nigerians have filed an application before the Federal High Court, Abuja, asking the court to “reject a suit by a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress [APC], which seeks to shut down Twitter, prevent it from operating within the Nigerian cyberspace, and ultimately restrict the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and media freedom in the country.”

SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians are asking the court “for leave to be joined in the suit as parties, and to be heard as of right, as provided for under the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], the Fundamental Rights [Enforcement Procedure] Rules, 2009, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

Following endorsement by Twitter Chief Executive Officer, Jack Dorsey of the #EndSARS campaign last month, a former Presidential aspirant of the APC, Adamu Garba, filed a suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1391/2020 seeking to compel the Nigerian Communications Commission [NCC] to stop the operation of Twitter International Company in Nigeria.

But in the application filed last Friday, SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians stated: “This application is brought in the public interest. It is important to grant the reliefs being sought, for the sake of justice, and the fundamental rights of people to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and media freedom, and as millions of Nigerians will be affected by any orders that the court may make in this suit.”

According to the suit, “The Nigerian government has legal obligations under sections 39 and 40 of the Nigerian Constitution, and articles 9 and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of everyone to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and media freedom.”

SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians are arguing that “The determination of this suit will impact our capability to use Twitter social media platform to carry out our work to promote transparency and accountability, and respect for socio-economic rights of Nigerians, as well as seriously undermine people’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and media freedom.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians have shown sufficient legal interest to warrant the granting of this application, as this will serve the interest of fair hearing, guaranteed by section 36 of the Nigerian Constitution, and natural justice rule of audi alteram partem, meaning that in any dispute the court must hear the other side.”

“SERAP, 365 concerned Nigerians and other Twitter users will be grossly affected if the orders being sought by Mr Garba are granted by the court, as his suit is seeking to undermine the constitutionally and internationally recognized rights of people to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and media freedom.”

“SERAP is a registered Twitter user with the handle @SERAPNigeria which it uses to carry out its work to promote transparency and accountability and respect for socio-economic rights of everyone, especially the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population.”

“SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians seek to be joined as Respondents and to be heard as of right, in line with the Nigerian Constitution and the provisions of Order XIII Rule I of the Fundamental Rights [Enforcement Procedure] Rules 2009. Under paragraph 3(d)(e) of the preamble to the Rules, we are not required or expected to disclose by affidavit any interest in the matter.”

“SERAP and 365 concerned Nigerians are also seeking an order directing Mr Garba to serve and provide us with all the originating processes and papers filed in this suit, and for such further orders or orders as this court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”

It would be recalled that some African countries like Burundi and Sudan have in the past shut down social media in waves of repression in these countries.

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

SERAP Threatens To Sue Northern Governors, NASS Over Social Media Bill

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 Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to sue the Northern Governors’ Forum and the National Assembly and the social media bill is passed

SERAP said this in a tweet on Tuesday while reacting to the call by the northern governors for more social media regulations in the wake of the #EndSARS protests.

“We’ll sue the Northern Governors’ Forum and @nassnigeria if any Social Media bill is passed and signed by President Buhari. Nigerians have a right to freedom of expression online.

“We won’t accept any illegal attempts to interfere with that right #NoToSocialMediaBill,” the human rights group tweeted.

 

Northern governor’s had earlier on Monday after a meeting with northern traditional and political leaders called for censorship and control of social media.

Their decision was contained in a communique read by the Chairman of the forum who is the Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong.

The northern governors lamented over what they described as the devastating effect of uncontrolled social media in spreading of fake news and in turn, fuelling crisis.

The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, popularly known as the Social Media Bill was sponsored in 2019 by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan earlier in 2020 said that the National Assembly would not arrogate to itself the power of exclusively passing the social media bill into law without inputs from Nigerians.

Lawan stated this in an address delivered to declare open a Public Hearing on the Social Media Bill

Lawan said freedom of speech and the inalienable rights of man are issues that should not be compromised under any guise.

#EndSARS: SERAP And 261 Others Sue NBC, Ask Court To Overturn Fines On Channels TV, AIT, Arise TV

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 Accountability Project (SERAP),  and 261 concerned Nigerians, civil society organisations, and media groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] and Minister of Information and Culture Mr Lai Mohammed over the fines the commission imposed on Channels Television, AIT and Arise TV for their coverage of the EndSARS protests in the country.

A fine of N3million slammed on each of the broadcasters by NBC last week sparked outrage and criticism with many calling for it to be withdrawn.

SERAP and the 261 others concerned about it are now asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal, and unconstitutional the N9m fines imposed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests, and to stop the NBC from collecting the money”.

In a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, SERAP said the co-plaintiffs in the suit are 255 concerned Nigerians; Premium Times Services Limited; Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development; HEDA Resource Centre; International Centre for Investigative Reporting; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; and Media Rights Agenda.

The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who is joined in the suit as Defendant, had last week announced fines of N9 million on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV for purported “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued among other things that “Section (2)(n) of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code are oppressive, and clearly inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations”.

“If the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty,” they warned.

Read the full statement below:

#EndSARS: SERAP, 261 others sue NBC, want court to overturn N9m fines on Channels, AIT, Arise TV

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), 261 concerned Nigerians, civil society and media groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission [NBC] and Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed, asking the court to “declare arbitrary, illegal, and unconstitutional the N9m fines imposed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV [N3m each] over their coverage of the #EndSARS protests, and to stop the NBC from collecting the money.”

The co-plaintiffs in the suit are 255 concerned Nigerians; Premium Times Services Limited; Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development; HEDA Resource Centre; International Centre for Investigative Reporting; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; and Media Rights Agenda.

The acting Director-General of the NBC, Prof. Armstrong Idachaba, who is joined in the suit as Defendant, had last week announced fines of N9 million on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV for purported “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1436/2020 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the Plaintiffs are seeking: “an order setting aside the arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional fines of N9 million and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV, and on any other radio/television stations simply for carrying out their professional and constitutional duties.”

The Plaintiffs are arguing that: “Section (2)(n) of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code are oppressive, and clearly inconsistent with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international obligations. If the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty.”

According to the Plaintiffs: “The NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed have consistently used broadcasting codes to suppress the watchdog roles of independent media, and to violate Nigerians’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, to disseminate and receive information, and hold their government and public officials to account.”

The Plaintiffs said: “The action by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional, as it is contrary to section 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, which Nigeria has ratified. Their action is apparently aimed to clampdown on media freedom and Nigerians’ human rights.”

The Plaintiffs are also seeking “an order setting aside the fine of N5 million and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM Lagos, simply for carrying out its professional and constitutional duties.”

The suit filed on behalf of the Plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Adelanke Aremo and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “A fine is a criminal sanction and only the court is empowered by the Constitution to impose it. Fine imposed by regulatory agencies like the NBC without recourse to the courts is illegal, unconstitutional and offends the sacred principles of natural justice and fairness.”

“It is the duty of the government to allow the legal and judicial powers of the state to function properly. Imposing any fine whatsoever without due process of law is arbitrary, as it contravenes the principles of nemo judex in causa sua which literally means one cannot be a judge in his own cause and audi alteram partem which literally means no one should be condemned unheard.”

“The NBC, being a regulatory body, is not empowered by law to act as the prosecutor and the judge; all at the same time. We humbly urge the court to set aside the unlawful and unconstitutional fines imposed on independent media houses, and to uphold the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution, Nigerians’ human rights, media freedom, and the rule of law.”

“The Constitution is the grundnorm and the fundamental law of the land. All other laws including the NBC Act and any associated codes take their hierarchy from the provisions of the Constitution.”

The Plaintiffs are also seeking the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that section 2[n] of the NBC Act and Broadcasting Code used by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed to impose fines, sanctions and any other penalties on television, radio and on-line broadcast stations and media houses are draconian, inconsistent, and incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and media freedom guaranteed under sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended], Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

A DECLARATION that the action of the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed in relying on section 2[n] of the NBC Act and Broadcasting Code to unilaterally impose punishments such as fines and other sanctions on television, radio and on-line broadcast stations and media houses without recourse to the court violates sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999;

A DECLARATION that section 2[n] of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code, being inconsistent and incompatible with sections 22, 36[1], and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency and incompatibility;

A DECLARATION that the fine of N3m each imposed on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed for their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests violates the right to freedom of expression, access to information and media freedom guaranteed under sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and therefore null and void;

A DECLARATION that the fine of N3m each imposed by NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV for their coverage of the #ENDSARS protests without giving the affected media houses the opportunity to respond to the allegations leveled against them and recourse to the court violates sections 6[1] & [6][b] and 36[1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and therefore null and void;

A DECLARATION that the action by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed to unilaterally impose the fine of N5m on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM without giving the radio station the opportunity to respond to the allegations leveled against it violates the right to fair hearing, enshrined in section 36 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, and therefore null and void;

AN ORDER OF PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed from imposing fines or doing anything whatsoever to harass Channels, AIT, and Arise TV and any other radio and television broadcast stations, in violation of the section 6[1] & [6][b], 22, 36[1], and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, Article 9 of the African Charter of the on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

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

Kolawole Oluwadare
SERAP Deputy Director
1/11/2020
Lagos, Nigeria