Compel Buhari To Publish Govt Loan Details Since 2015, SERAP Tells Court

A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: [email protected]

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to publish the details of loans that have been obtained by his administration since May 29, 2015.

In a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP also sought the details of the interest rate on such loans, the total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by the government, and details of the projects on which the loans have been spent.

It made the request in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 filed before the court in the nation’s capital.

Also joined as respondents include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha.

However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

The National Assembly had approved a loan of N850 billion and another $22.79 billion loan requested by the President for government projects and others.

 

Stolen Loans?

In its reaction, SERAP sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”

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It also asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians if he would instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.”

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

 

The group believes the opacity in the spending of loans will continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.

It, however, stressed that transparency would ensure that the loans were not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that such loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

“This suit is permitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.

“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name, but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape, or form,” the group said.

It explained that the suit followed its FoI request dated May 30, 2020 and addressed to the President in which it raised concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay such loans.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read,

The massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.

Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by the government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, and reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.

SERAP is seeking an order to direct and compel President Buhari to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific conditions of repayment of the loans.

Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.

The Nigeria Government has signed on to the Open Government Partnership [OGP], and the country is a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.

SERAP Asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila To Publish Reports On Corruption Probes, Seeks Special Counsel Bill

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, urging them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.”

The organization also urged them to “disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects. The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”

In the FoI requests dated 25 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”

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SERAP said: “The most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards. This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “We urge you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”

“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.”

“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”

“SERAP notes that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.”

“SERAP is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”

“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.”

“The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability, as well as the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general, including by publishing widely the reports of all corruption-related public hearings since 1999.”

“There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.”

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.”

“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”

N81.5bn: SERAP Writes Buhari, Asks Presidential Panel To Probe ‘Corruption In NDDC’

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The 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 set up a presidential investigative panel to probe grave corruption allegations in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), including allegations that the agency illegally spent N81.5 billion, on travels, ‘condolences’, consultancy and ‘public communication between January and July 2020.”

The organisation also asked him to “immediately suspend Mr Godswill Akpabio, the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs and all those implicated in the allegations pending the outcome of any such investigation”.

Beyond that, the agency called for the protection of witnesses and whistle-blowers, adding that the findings of the investigation should be made public.

“Where there is relevant admissible evidence, suspected perpetrators should be handed over to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution.”

In the letter dated 18 July 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “These are extremely serious allegations.

Nigerians expect that those who run the NDDC should be free of corruption, and should enjoy no impunity. Nigerians who want to see development and prosperity in the Niger Delta will want you to take the lead to get to the bottom of these allegations and take appropriate and decisive action to address them.”

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According to SERAP, “A special panel to probe allegations of corruption in the NDDC, and that is able to work closely with anti-corruption agencies would protect the integrity of the forensic audit, remove the possibility of obstruction of justice, and interference in the process by those suspected to be involved in alleged corruption in the NDDC.”

SERAP said: “The investigation by the National Assembly has been controversial, and has reportedly turned into a ‘dirty fight’ between the NDDC and the National Assembly. Similarly, the hearings have reportedly indicted lawmakers of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

SERAP also said: “Any perception of politicisation and bias in the investigation of the corruption allegations in the NDDC would undermine public trust in the process, and ultimately, the public interest and good government, as well as justice for the victims of corruption in the Niger Delta.

The letter, read in part: “SERAP is concerned that allegations of systemic and widespread corruption in the NDDC are not only punishable offences but also directly undermine the human rights of Nigerians, especially the people of the Niger Delta.”

“SERAP notes that your government has expressed the commitment to ‘get to the root of the problem undermining the NDDC.’ However, the most effective way to ‘get to the root’ of the corruption problem in the agency, and to ensure and protect the integrity of a forensic audit is to establish a special panel to carry out credible, independent, impartial and effective investigations into the alleged corruption in the NDDC.

“A decisive action is needed by you and your government to stop the corruption in the NDDC, ensure that anyone suspected to be responsible is brought to justice, and to fully recover stolen, mismanaged or misappropriated public funds.

“Ensuring an independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigation into the corruption allegations in the NDDC would be entirely consistent with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the NDDC Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which the country is a state party.

“Section 15 subsection (5) of the Constitution requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, including corruption allegations in the NDDC. Similarly, the UN Convention against Corruption requires your government to ensure effective investigation and 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.

“Your government should send a strong message of intolerance for grave corruption in the NDDC, and show that you are willing and able to enforce important constitutional, statutory and international principles and obligations.

“SERAP also urges you to instruct the police authorities and security agencies to immediately end the harassment and intimidation of Ms Joy Nunieh, former Acting Managing Director of NDDC, or any other witnesses and whistle-blowers. Suspected perpetrators will escape justice if witnesses and whistle-blowers are intimidated, harassed or threatened.

“Effective investigation and prosecution will not be achieved if such crucial participants in the investigation are not sufficiently protected to perform their roles unimpeded. Stopping the harassment and intimidation would also ensure that innocent people are not wrongfully punished and that suspected perpetrators would not subvert the course of justice and escape sanctions.”

“We request that you take the recommended action within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest.”

“These allegations and the apparent attempts to weaken the independence, work and freedom of action of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) including alleged deliberate targeting of some directors of the agency have undermined the public’s confidence in the government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption.”

“According to reports, the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation have indicted the NDDC of illegally spending 81.5 billion between January and July 2020. Further, the Bureau of Public Procurement has also reportedly stated that it did not issue ‘Certificates of No Objection’ to the NDDC for the procurements made by the commission with the money.”

“The breakdown of the N81.5 billion reportedly include: community relations, N1.3bn; condolences, N122.9m; consultancy, N83m; COVID-19, N3.14bn; duty tour allowances, N486m; imprest, N790.9m; Lassa fever, N1.956bn; Legal services, N900m; maintenance, N220m; and oversea travels, N85.6m.”

“Others are: project public communication, N1.121bn; security, N744m; staffing related payments, N8.8bn; and stakeholders’ engagement (Feb 18 – May 31, 2020), N248m. A senator also allegedly used 11 companies as fronts to secure for himself N3.6 billion contract in September 2016. The current managing director of the NDDC also reportedly said that the commission spent N1.5 billion for staff as ‘COVID-19 relief funds.”

Compel Govs To Fund Healthcare With Security Votes, SERAP Asks Court

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to “direct and compel 36 state governors to use public funds budgeted for security votes, and life pensions for former governors to fund healthcare facilities and to address the impact of COVID-19 on millions of Nigerians, as well as publish details of spending on COVID-19 in their respective states.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/757/2020 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel the 36 state governors to disclose how much they have individually collected from the Federal Government as COVID-19 support, from private donations and other sources, as well as details of spending of any such funds and donations.”

SERAP is also seeking: “a declaration that the failure of the 36 state governors to respond in a satisfactory way to SERAP’s requests amount to a fundamental breach of the FoI Act, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

READ ALSO: Why Magu Investigation Must Not End Up As ‘Usual Paddy-Paddy Arrangement’ – Fayose

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 25 April 2020, expressing concern that: “many state governors are spending scarce state resources to pay themselves security votes and their predecessors’ life pensions rather than using public funds to effectively respond to COVID-19 by investing in and improving public healthcare facilities in their states.”

The organization revealed that only two governors—Kaduna State governor, Mr Nasir El-Rufai and Kwara State governor, Mr Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq—responded to its FoI requests. While “governor El-Rufai claimed that the FoI is inapplicable in Kaduna state, governor Abdulrazaq stated that the information requested by SERAP is protected from disclosure by the FoI.”

Governor El-Rufai claimed: “The FoI is binding only on the Federal Government and its agencies, the Federal Capital Territory, and the states that choose to domesticate it. We are therefore not bound to respond to your request using the threat of an FoI Act that is inapplicable in our State.”

Governor El-Rufai also said: “Should you choose to rephrase your request as a citizen or voter in Kaduna, to whom we are accountable under OGP commitments, I will direct the relevant departments of government to respond. Our version of FoI is with the State House of Assembly for domestication.”

Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq in his own response to SERAP said: “the category of the information you requested is protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”

But SERAP in the suit said: “By a combined reading of the FoI Act, the Nigerian Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is applicable throughout the country, governors El-Rufai and Abdulrazaq and other 34 governors ought to be compelled to invest in healthcare facilities, and to tell Nigerians how they are spending COVID-19 funds and donations in their states.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare and Atinuke Adejuyigbe read, in part: “The 36 governors have a responsibility to act in the interest of Nigerian citizens and residents in their states under the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Nigerian Constitution, and Oath of Office of Governor of a State in Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.”

“The crux of SERAP’s argument is better expressed in the following questions: What is the economic benefit of appropriation of security votes and pension to former governors and deputy governors to the citizens of Nigeria during a pandemic? Why should the governors spend so much on a relatively negligible percentage of the population at the expense of the majority of the citizens?”

“The office of a governor is created by Section 176 of the Constitution, and the governors are vested with powers to act as members of the executive pursuant to Section 5[2] and [3] of the Constitution. These statutory functions, among other duties of the governors, are guided by rules including the Oath of Office of Governor of a State.”

“The oath of office of governors is integral to the honest performance of their functions in the public interest. The oath is considered of such importance that Section 185[1] of the Constitution provides that the governors can perform their respective official functions only after taking the oath of office.”

“It can be inferred that appropriation of hundreds of millions of Naira for security votes and payment of pensions to former governors in the face of glaring socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on citizens and residents can only be in the personal interests of the governors and their colleagues, in clear conflict with the public interest and well-being and prosperity of the country and its people.”

“Majority of Nigerians continue to live in poverty and without access to basic necessities of life such as healthcare, and clean water, as established by the National Bureau of Statistics in its 2019 Report.”

“The unconscionable allocations to security votes and pensions for former governors are happening at a critical time that Nigeria requires urgent infrastructural development to lift itself out of the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment in response to the harsh realities of COVID-19 pandemic on the people.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to use the budgets for security votes and life pensions for former governors to improve the healthcare facilities in their respective states, provide palliatives and reliefs, and to address the impact of COVID-19 on citizens and residents of their respective states.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to provide details of palliatives and reliefs that they have provided to the most vulnerable people, including the list of beneficiaries, details of what they are doing to improve testing for COVID-19, isolation centres, as well as ensure safe protective equipment for health workers.”

“The 36 governors ought to be directed and compelled to provide details of what they are doing to ensure full respect for human rights of everyone and access to justice for victims of human rights violations and abuses during and linked to COVID-19, as well as any support they are providing to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to improve its capacity to respond to COVID-19.”

“This suit is of public concern as it bothers on issues of national interest, public welfare, and interest, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. The right to truth allows Nigerians to gain access to information on what their state governments have done or are doing to cushion the socio-economic effects of COVID-19 on Nigerians.”

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

SERAP Urges Authorities To Treat Magu Fairly

 

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has expressed “concerns about reports that the apparently arbitrary arrest of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, may be ‘the outcome of power-play’ at the highest levels of government.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday by the Deputy Director of the agency, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The reported statement by a member of PACAC seems to suggest that Magu’s arrest may be politically motivated and aim to undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC. If true, this would make a mockery of Buhari’s oft-repeated commitment to fight grand corruption and the impunity of perpetrators, which is fuelling widespread and systemic corruption in the country.”

Oluwadare, therefore, urged the authorities to afford Magu his constitutionally and internationally guaranteed fair trial rights.

“Magu must either be charged with a recognizable criminal offence or released immediately and allowed to do his job without fear of reprisals,” the statement read in part.

“Nigerian authorities cannot continue to keep Magu in detention under suspicious circumstances without bringing any legitimate charges against him in violation of national and international law.

“Nigerian authorities must support the independence and freedom of action of anti-corruption agencies and institutions if they are to be able to genuinely fight grand corruption, which has for many years turned public service for many into a kind of criminal enterprise.”

“Nigerian authorities should focus on addressing the impact of corruption such as political violence, and denial of access for millions of Nigerians to even the most basic health and education services, as well as other patterns of human rights violations.

“Improving the independence of anti-corruption agencies and institutions is the most promising way to make tangible progress in the fight against corruption now and in the near future.

“Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party guarantee to everyone the right to liberty and security of person, and that no one should be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

“Similarly, Section 35(1) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) guarantees to every person the right to personal liberty and that no person should be arbitrarily deprived of such liberty.”

SERAP Gives Buhari 14 Days To Probe ‘Over N300bn’ Missing Public Funds

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given President Muhammadu Buhari 14 days to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to urgently investigate allegations that over N300bn of public funds are missing, mismanaged, diverted or stolen, as documented in the 2017 audited report by the Auditor General of the Federation (AGF).”

SERAP also urged him to “ask Mr Malami and the anti-corruption agencies to promptly investigate the extent and patterns of widespread and endemic corruption in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) indicted in the audited report. We urge you to take meaningful and effective measures to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in these MDAs.”

In the letter dated 4 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The 2017 audited report reveals grim allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds, as well as unaccounted-for spending. The report suggests a grave violation of the public trust, and that the indicted MDAs and the National Assembly lack effective and credible internal processes to prevent and combat corruption.”

According to SERAP, “Investigating and prosecuting the alleged grand corruption documented by the AGF would improve the chances of success of your government’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and end the impunity of perpetrators. It will improve the integrity of MDAs, serve the public interest, as well as improve Nigerians’ access to public services and goods.”

SERAP said: “Any failure to promptly investigate the allegations and prosecute suspected perpetrators would breach Nigeria’s anti-corruption legislation, including the Public Procurement Act, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) and the country’s obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The letter, read in part: “It would also mean that Nigeria is failing to fulfil the obligations under the covenant to use its “maximum of available resources” to progressively realize and achieve basic economic and social rights, including access of Nigerians to public services and goods like quality education, healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply, as well as the right to honest public services.”

“SERAP has carefully analysed the 2017 audited report by the AGF and our analysis reveals the following grim allegations of mismanagement, diversion and stealing of public funds, as well as unaccounted-for spending.”

“The Federal Civil Service Commission spent ₦25,856,279.00 on behalf of Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop online recruitment in April 2014 without any supporting memo from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and without due process. Although the project was suspended, the Commission went ahead and paid ₦25,856,279.00 for contract not executed. The AGF recommended the full recovery of the public funds.”

“The Commission granted cash advances totalling ₦8,590,000.00 to 25 officials between February and December, 2016 but failed to retire or account for the money. Also, ₦6,850,000.00 was paid for store items that were never supplied. Another ₦2,619,210.00 was spent without receipts. The AGF expressed concern that the money may have been misappropriated or stolen, and recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The former Chairman of the Commission whose tenure of office ended in May 2017 took away with him four vehicles (One Toyota Hilux, one 407 Classic Peugeot, One Toyota Land Cruiser Jeep and One Toyota Corolla) belonging to the Commission, despite the Monetization Policy of Government clearly stating that all vehicles of MDAs belong to the pool, and are not expected to be taken away as part of severance package at the expiration of an officer’s appointment.”

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to show any receipts for the payment of ₦4,385,230,763.25 between January and December 2016. The Ministry also had no insurance cover for all its motor-vehicles, despite the budgetary allocation of ₦11,805,802.00 for insurance premium. The Ministry spent ₦105,000,000.00 to buy computer consumables, photocopy machine consumables, papers and other store items, contrary to official circular, and without any receipts. The AGF recommended the return of the money to the public treasury.”

“The Ministry also spent ₦72,000,030.00 to improve power supply to the Ministry but the contract for this was not captured in the 2017 appropriation. Despite the purported spending, power supply to the Ministry has not improved. Also, ₦7,520,000.00 was spent by 20 officials to visit 8 out-stations of the Ministry without due process and without any receipts. ₦234,622,718.00 was also spent but remained unretired or unaccounted for. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Ministry also paid ₦83,719,500.00 to a company for the rehabilitation and re-integration of released Chibok girls in August, 2017 without any agreement between the Ministry and the contractor, and without any evidence of purchase of the back-to-school materials, and job completion certificate. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Ministry also transferred a take-off grant of ₦83,317,257.00 for Consulate-General of Nigeria, Guangzhou to the personal account of the Ambassador of Nigeria in Rome in 2013 to be remitted to Guangzhou. But the money was never remitted to Guangzhou and has remained outstanding till date. The AGF expressed concern that the money may have been diverted and misappropriated, and recommended that the Ambassador of Nigeria in Rome whose account was used be asked to account for the money.”

“The Ministry of Justice disbursed ₦10,460,950,841.00 judgment debt in 2017 without due process. The committee to manage the funds was dissolved after 2013 financial year was not reconstituted as at the time of the 2016 and 2017 appropriations but funds were nonetheless disbursed. Also, ₦32,353,693.00 was spent between March and September 2017 on international travels without approval or evidence of spending. The AGF recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“At the National Assembly, the House of Representatives spent ₦95,212,250.00 without due process and without any receipts. The National Assembly Management Accounts also showed spending of N673,081,242.14 between April–October 2017 without any documents. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been misappropriated and recommended that the Clerk of the National Assembly should fully recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Senate also spent ₦1,364,816,397.95 to renovate a store at the National Assembly but the AGF was denied access to the store and records, thus expressing concerns that ‘public funds may have been diverted for unappropriated purposes.’ The AGF recommended that the Clerk of the National Assembly account for the money.”

“The National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies misappropriated ₦67,296,478.00, as payments were made to unknown persons. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended that the Director-General should fully recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Public Complaint Commission spent ₦63,826,941.30 on contract to renovate State offices in Delta, Kwara, Akwa– Ibom, Taraba, Borno, Ekiti, and Niger States without due process, valuation certificates, and without receipts. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended the full recovery of public funds.”

“The Federal Ministry of Water Resources spent ₦343,957,350.60 without due process, receipts, and without any evidence of work done or services rendered. Also, ₦14,993,950.00 granted as cash advances to staff was not accounted for. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and recommended that the Permanent Secretary is made to account for it.”

“The Lower Benue River Basin Development Authority, Makurdi misappropriated ₦42,277,285.50 of contract money for project management. Similarly, the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria paid a contractor ₦33,425,000.00 in March 2017 for awareness training but there was no evidence that the contract was executed. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and recommended that the Executive Director should recover and return it to the treasury.”

“The Cross-River Basin Development Authority, Calabar, overpaid a contractor to the tune of ₦10,387,490.00 for construction of Link Road between Cross River and Ebonyi State without any justification. Also, ₦30,616,110.00 was spent for construction of erosion control works at Nguzu but remained unaccounted for. The AGF expressed concerns that the contractor may have received money for project not executed, and recommended that the Managing Director should recover the money and return it to the treasury.”

“The Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State failed to account for 2 Nos. Toyota Prado Jeeps which were purchased in 2013 and 2014 with registration No. 45KOIFG for one Jeep but the second Jeep was not registered, and no reason was given for this. The AGF expressed concerns that the Jeeps may have been diverted to private use, and asked the Executive Director to account for the vehicles.”

“The National Water Resources Institute, Mando Road, Kaduna paid ₦84,401,940.74 to a company on 4th May 2017, being 10% payment on the construction of a 2-story building for UNESCO without any existing contract, and without receipts. The AGF recommended the recovery of the money.”

“The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency, Abuja paid ₦24,800,000.00 into a staff private account for production/prevention of the 2016 annual flood outlook (AFO) and without evidence of services performed. Another ₦31,439,300.00 was paid in September 2016 into the account of another staff for sensitization workshops. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Director-General to recover it.”

“The Hadejia – Jama’are River Basin Development Authority, Kano State paid ₦204,893,978.09 to contractors without any receipts. The Nigeria Institute for Oil Palm Research, Benin City, Edo State paid ₦210,921,849.66 and ₦30,010,963.65 without any receipts. Another ₦15,630,050.00 cash advances to staff in 2017 was also not accounted for, as at 2018. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been mismanaged and asked the Accounting Officer to recover it.”

“The Federal Capital Territory Administration spent ₦393,254,000.00 to support security agencies without due process and without receipts. Another ₦362,481,173.52 was paid for the procurement of stores locally without due process. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”

“The Ecological Funds Office misappropriated ₦1,257,791,992.86 meant for contract for Canalization and Desilting of OKOKO and Ogbagba Rivers in Osogbo Township, Osun state. There was no evidence that ₦30,000,000.00 meant for compensation to owners of marked-to-demolish structures and economic trees affected by the project, received any payment. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may be missing and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”

“The Office of The Head of The Civil Service of The Federation paid ₦301,984,103.00 for projects without accounting for it. ₦36,641,528.00 was also paid for seminars, conferences and workshops without any receipts. Also, ₦16,096,712.00 was spent on projects not executed. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and asked the Permanent Secretary to recover it.”

“The Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Effurun spent ₦830,267,951.23 as Special Presidential Needs Assessment Phases I and II to the Federal University of Petroleum Resources, Warri for the Construction of Building, Procurement of Laboratory Equipment and Capacity Building/Staff training but the funds were misapplied. ₦190,495.824.75 was approved for a project to construct and furnish workshop and laboratory but the contractor was paid ₦199,324,657.10 and without any evidence of request by the contractor.”

“The University also spent ₦990,621,753.29 to construct and furnish a 3-storey, 4-floor structure Student Residential Building Complex but the contract for the spending was awarded without due process. Also, only a 2-storey, 3-floor building was constructed. Several other infractions are documented in the report. The AGF expressed concerns that the money may have been diverted and asked the Vice-Chancellor to account for it.”

“The National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion spent ₦2,270,000.00 for a 2-day workshop but without any receipts. The AGF asked the Director-General to recover the money. The Nigerian Railway Corporation failed to remit ₦122,242,337.63 in taxes to the authorities. The National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) paid ₦20,569,398.20 for supply of Power System Simulator without evidence of supply. It gave ₦6,187,393.50 as cash advances to 17 officers which remained unaccounted for.”

“The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria paid ₦3,604,000.00 for the services of solicitors without the consent of the Attorney-General of the Federation. Another payment of ₦13,542,822.82 for the completion of machine tools workshop was made without contract agreement or receipts. In total, ₦126,533,197.08 was paid without contract agreement or receipts. The AGF expressed concerns that the funds may have been misappropriated and asked the Managing-Director to recover the money.”

“The National Health Insurance Scheme paid ₦4,931,475,094.63 as cash advances to staff without due process. ₦72,383,000.00 was also supposedly paid for verification exercise but the AGF found no evidence that the verification took place. Another ₦31,478,400.00 was purportedly paid for accreditation of Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) but again the AGF found no evidence of this.”

“The National Information Technology Development Agency paid ₦28,525,000.00 to a Security company for the production of procurement manuals for the Agency. 300 copies of the manual were produced although only 5 copies were needed and utilized, with a copy of the manual costing ₦95,083.33. The agency also paid ₦15,842,970.00 printer tonners.”

“There are several other infractions documented in the report, a copy of which can be obtained from the Auditor-General’s office.”

“We request that you take the recommended action within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, failing which SERAP will institute legal proceedings to compel your government to act in the public interest.”

The letter was copied to Mr Abukabar Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, Acting Chairman, Economic, and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

COVID-19: SERAP Asks Court To Order FG, CBN To Name Beneficiaries Of Cash Payments, Donations

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court, Abuja to order the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to “publicly identify and name Nigerians who have so far benefited from any cash payments, cash transfers, food distribution, and other reliefs and palliatives during the lockdown in Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun states because of COVID-19.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/657/2020 filed last week, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to compel Ms. Sadia Umar-Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and Mr. Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor, to publish spending details of public funds and private sector donations to provide socio-economic benefits to the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

SERAP is also seeking “an order to direct and compel Ms. Umar-Farouk and Mr. Emefiele to publish an up-to-date list of donations and names of those who have made payments as per their publicly announced donations; spending details of the N500 billion COVID-19 intervention fund, and the names of beneficiaries, and whether such beneficiaries include people living with disabilities (PWDs).”

READ ALSO: SERAP Sues Health Ministry, NCDC Over ‘Failure To Account For COVID-19 Money’

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 4 April 2020, expressing concern that: “millions of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people have not benefited from the announced palliatives, donations, reported cash payments, cash transfers, and other reliefs.”

SERAP is also seeking: “a declaration that the failure of the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management, and Social Development, and the CBN governor to provide SERAP with the requested information on spending details of public money and private donations and to publish names of beneficiaries amount to a fundamental violation of the FoI Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare and Joke Fekumo, read in part: “By a combined reading of the FoI Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Ms. Umar-Farouk and Mr. Emefiele ought to be directed and compelled to make public details of those that have benefited from COVID-19 funds and donations.”

“Any perception that the reliefs, funds, and donations are not reaching intended beneficiaries would undermine public trust and the integrity of the entire processes and modes of distribution of reliefs/benefits to these Nigerians.”

“Both the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, and the CBN governor have a legal duty to ensure that information on the details of those who have so far benefited from COVID-19 funds and donations is released to SERAP upon requests, and that the information is widely published. Yet, both have completely ignored SERAP’s requests.”

“SERAP and indeed the general public have a legitimate interest in ascertaining and scrutinizing the veracity of the claims of how the COVID-19 funds and donations have been spent, and to know that the intended beneficiaries actually received any benefits.”

“Ms. Umar-Farouk and Mr. Emefiele also ought to be directed and compelled to make public details of any plan to provide social and economic reliefs to the over 80 million of the country’s poorest and the most vulnerable people, beyond the 11 million targeted by the Federal Government across 35 states.”

“Democracy cannot flourish in the absence of citizens’ access to information, no matter how much open discussion and debate is allowed. This suit would ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of COVID-19 money and donations.”

“SERAP submits that the principle of disclosure of information in overriding public interest has been internationally reaffirmed, including in the Joint Declaration adopted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression.”

“The Joint Declaration states that the right of access to information should be subject to a narrow, carefully tailored system of exceptions. Exceptions should apply only where there is a risk of substantial harm to the protected interest and where that harm is greater than the overriding public interest in having access to the information.”

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

SERAP Sues Health Ministry, NCDC Over ‘Failure To Account For COVID-19 Money’

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health and Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), over “their failure to account for the public funds and other resources so far spent and used to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/616/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Minister of Health and the NCDC to publish details of the funds and resources from federal and state governments, and the private sector, as well as details of how the funds and resources have so far been spent and used to combat COVID-19.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Federal Government to disclose information on the exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians, the number of any such high-ranking public officials and politicians now in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the exact number of tests that have been carried out for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

READ ALSO: Two Feared Dead In Twin Tanker Explosion On Kara Bridge

SERAP is arguing that: “Transparency in the use of COVID-19 money would help to reduce the risk of corruption or opportunism, build trust and engage Nigerians in the fight against coronavirus as well as safe lives. Transparency and accountability are important to implementing an effective response to COVID-19 and slowing the spread of the virus in the country.”

According to SERAP: “Nigerians have the right to know the details of spending of COVID-19 money, as this is essential to the fight against corruption, and will foster the development of democratic institutions and the rule of law in Nigeria.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 27 March 2020 to the Minister of Health and the NCDC, expressing “concern that lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources to combat COVID-19 would lead to diversion or mismanagement of funds and resources, unnecessarily cost lives, and result in serious damage to public health in the country.”

According to SERAP: “Millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to an improved water source and to proper sanitation, thereby making them vulnerable to COVID-19 and other illnesses. Yet, the Ministry of Health and the NCDC have failed and/or refused to disclose whether there is any collaborative work with the Ministry of Water Resources to provide vulnerable Nigerians with safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Atinuke Adejuyigbe, and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The information SERAP is seeking to access is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The Federal Government has a legal duty to ensure that information on the spending of COVID-19 money and resources is released to SERAP and widely published. It is not too much to ask for details of measures to protect health workers and procedures put in place to ensure that COVID-19 money is not diverted, mismanaged or stolen.”

“The Federal Government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this court ought to grant SERAP the order directing and compelling the Federal Government to publish details of spending of COVID-19 money.”

“There are reports of lack of transparency in the use of the funds and resources being mobilised to combat coronavirus, and that authorities are prioritising home testing of politicians, with some reportedly taking multiple tests. Politicians engaging in multiple tests for coronavirus have in turn slowed the number of tests for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”

“The suit is in the public interest, as it bothers on issues of national interest, public welfare and interest, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability. Obedience to the rule of law particularly by those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.”

“Nigerians are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society. This right to know will no doubt help in promoting a transparent democracy, good governance and public accountability.”

SERAP is seeking the following reliefs:

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and seek an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Respondents to provide and disclose the following information to the Applicant:
A. Details of exact funds and other resources allocated by the Nigerian authorities and private sector donations to the Respondents to improve Nigeria’s health facilities to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria;

B. Details of spending and planned spending of any such funds, other resources and donations to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria;

C. Details of efforts made by the Second Respondent to make NCDC’s website functional and accessible and to publish weekly spending on initiatives by the NCDC, including on NCDC’s website;

D. Details of processes and procedures put in place to ensure that the funds, other resources and donations allocated to combat COVID-19 are not diverted, mismanaged or stolen;

E. Details of measures to protect health workers and to encourage the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people to come forward for testing and to escalate testing for this group;

F. The exact number of tests that have been carried out for high-ranking public officials and politicians, the number of any such high-ranking public officials and politicians now in self-isolation or quarantine, as well as the exact number of tests that have been carried out for the country’s poorest and most vulnerable people

AND for such further order(s) this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

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

SERAP Seeks Details Of N800bn Recovered Loot, Alleged Payments Into Individual Accounts

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him “to direct Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion in looted funds have been recovered, the details of spending of the money and the dates of the recovery.”

SERAP also urged the president to: “direct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate allegations that payments totalling N51 billion were made into individual accounts in 2019.”

In the letter dated 13 June, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the details regarding the N800 billion recovered loot and investigating the alleged suspicious payments into personal accounts would be entirely consistent with fundamental principles of due process, and Nigeria’s international anti-corruption commitments.”

According to SERAP, “The information will also reveal the truth of where the money is going and why it is there, and allow Nigerians an opportunity to assess the impacts of any projects carried out with the recovered loot and the alleged payments into individual accounts.”

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The letter, copied to Mr Malami and Mrs Ahmed, read in part: “The public has a right to know how recovered N800 billion loot has been spent, and the details and purpose of the alleged payments into individual accounts.”

“As a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria has committed to ensuring transparent management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”

“Transparency over transactions by the government is critical to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of the management of public resources. The authorities are required to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in the management of these resources and the programmes that they oversee.”

“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, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.”

“Publishing the details of projects on which the N800 billion recovered loot has been spent and a comprehensive list of names of people from whom they have been recovered, as well as investigating allegations of payment of billions of naira into individual accounts, and the projects for which the payments were made, would also serve the best interests of the general public.”

“SERAP notes that in your speech to mark the occasion of the Democracy Day on June 12, 2020, you disclosed that the government’s anti-corruption fight has yielded over N800 billion in recovered loot.”

“SERAP also notes that BudgIT, a civic tech organization, recently reported that the open treasury portal by the federal government has allegedly shown that payments totalling N51 billion were made into individual accounts in 2019.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned about the allegations that the government’s transparency portal shows some payment of naira into individual accounts.”

SERAP Asks Buhari To Publish Details Of N800bn Recovered Loot

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion looted funds have been recovered.

In a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group called on the President to direct the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed to ensure the recovered loot is published.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, SERAP noted that “publishing the details regarding the N800 billion recovered loot and investigating the alleged suspicious payments into personal accounts would be entirely consistent with fundamental principles of due process, and Nigeria’s international anti-corruption commitments.”

The organisation also wants the Federal Government to “direct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate allegations that payments totalling N51 billion were made into individual accounts in 2019.”

According to Oluwadare, “the information will also reveal the truth of where the money is going and why it is there, and allow Nigerians an opportunity to assess the impacts of any projects carried out with the recovered loot and the alleged payments into individual accounts.”

The letter, copied to Mr Malami and Mrs Ahmed, read in part: “The public has a right to know how recovered N800 billion loot has been spent, and the details and purpose of the alleged payments into individual accounts.”

“As a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria has committed to ensuring transparent management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.

“Transparency over transactions by the government is critical to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of the management of public resources. The authorities are required to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability, and probity in the management of these resources and the programmes that they oversee.

“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, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“Publishing the details of projects on which the N800 billion recovered loot has been spent and a comprehensive list of names of people from whom they have been recovered, as well as investigating allegations of payment of billions of naira into individual accounts, and the projects for which the payments were made, would also serve the best interests of the general public.”

SERAP Drags Buhari, NASS To UN Over ‘Cuts In Health And UBE Budgets

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to three UN special rapporteurs urging them to use their “mandates to urgently request the Nigerian government and the leadership of the National Assembly to immediately reverse the unlawful, disproportionate and discriminatory budget cuts to education and healthcare, and to stop the authorities from spending N27bn to renovate the National Assembly complex.”

The special rapporteurs are Ms. Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Mr. Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; and Mr. Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

In the revised 2020 budget approved yesterday, the Federal Government reportedly gave the National Assembly N27bn for the renovation of its complex and cut health, Universal Basic Education budgets by over 50 percent. While the health budget is reduced from N44.4bn to N25.5bn, the UBE budget is reduced from N111.7bn to just N51.1bn.

In the urgent appeal dated June 3, 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Nigerian authorities are putting politicians’ allowances and comfort before citizens’ human rights. The budget cuts show a failure to address the growing economic and social inequality in the country, and to genuinely address the consequences of COVID-19 on the poor and marginalized groups.”

READ ALSO: Buhari Chairs Third Virtual FEC Meeting

According to SERAP: “Nigeria’s budget deficits are caused by excessive expenditures on politicians’ allowances and mismanagement. Nigerian authorities would only be able to commit to fiscal discipline if they prioritise cutting the allowances of lawmakers and the costs of governance in general, rather than cutting critical funding for healthcare and education.”

SERAP said: “We believe that alternative policies and measures, such as reducing the costs of governance, including the excessive allowances for high-ranking public officials and the lawmakers, would have been a more appropriate solution to addressing budget deficits, as this would increase the available resources for healthcare and education, which in turn would contribute to reducing socio-economic inequality.”

The urgent appeal, read in part: “Nigerian authorities also ought to show that the budget cuts to healthcare and education are necessary and proportionate, in that they must be justifiable after the most careful consideration of all other less restrictive alternatives, for example, excessive allowances for Nigerian lawmakers, and excessive costs of governance, in general.”

“According to SERAP’s information, criteria established in international standards have not been duly justified in the implementation of the budget cuts to healthcare and education. Instead, the cuts appear to be discriminatory against those most vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, and are not protective of the minimum core content of several human rights.”

“One of the pillars of the protection of the rights to healthcare and education is the obligation to progressively realize the rights set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, making use of Nigeria’s maximum of available resources.”

“The budget cuts by Nigerian authorities are therefore of special concern as they directly affect the minimum core content of these rights, and impact directly or indirectly and disproportionally on those individuals already discriminated against or living in most vulnerable situations.”

“The number of Nigerians living in extreme poverty has increased since May 2015. The reduction in healthcare and education budgets would exacerbate the prevailing inequalities, poverty, and create a vicious circle of reduction in spending, and increments in socioeconomic inequalities.”

“Without your urgent intervention, the Nigerian government and National Assembly would continue to spend the country’s maximum available resources to satisfy the opulent lifestyles of politicians rather than complying with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to healthcare and education the poor and marginalized groups.”

“In compliance with article 2.2 of the Covenant, and the provision on the progressive realisation of the rights to healthcare and education, States including Nigeria government and the National Assembly should not adopt an impermissible retrogressive measure, unless strictly justifiable.”

“Retrogressive measures, meaning taking steps that would reduce the enjoyment of the rights to healthcare and education, are only permissible under certain strict circumstances.”

“SERAP believes that the onus is on the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to demonstrate that their proposed budget cuts will meet all their human rights obligations, notably by ensuring that measures during times of acute economic distress are legitimate, with the ultimate aim of protecting the totality of human rights.”

“SERAP believes that the budget cuts undermine the minimum core content of the rights to healthcare and education, and are discriminatory, in so far as they would increase socio-economic inequalities and undermine the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, who will be disproportionately affected by the cuts.”

“The budget cuts are also inconsistent with Nigeria’s commitments to implement Sustainable Development Goals.”

SERAP, therefore, urged the special rapporteurs to put pressure on the Nigerian government and the National Assembly to:

* Take immediate action to reverse the budget cuts to healthcare and education and to redirect the N27bn for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to increase healthcare and education budgets;

*Provide information and details of impact assessments undertaken prior to cutting the budgets for healthcare and education;

*Provide details of initiatives to cut the costs of governance;

*Provide information about the government and National Assembly’s plans to ensure that people will enjoy access to healthcare and quality education; and the authorities’ plans to maintain progress towards the achievement of the SDGs, including to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all;

*Provide details on specific steps taken to protect the rights of vulnerable and disenfranchised groups to access quality education, and to achieve the right to health of women and core-obligations which encompass maternal health care

SERAP Calls For Audit Of Loans Obtained By Buhari’s Govt

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to provide the spending details of all loans obtained by his administration since May 29, 2015.

In a letter to the President dated May 30, 2020, the group urged the Nigerian leader to use his leadership position and the opportunity of the fifth year anniversary of his government to grant its request.

It called for an independent audit of all loans to resolve the purported allegations of mismanagement and corruption.

SERAP also urged the President to publish the spending details of loans obtained by successive administrations since 1999, as well as the list of countries and bodies that have given such loans with the specific repayment conditions.

It noted that President Buhari had last week sought the National Assembly’s approval for a fresh loan of $5.513 billion to fund the 2020 budget deficit, critical projects, and support some states.

In its Freedom of Information request, the group decried that while successive governments have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens since 1999, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered.

According to it, opacity in the spending of loans will continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.

SERAP, however, believes transparency will ensure the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

It also advised the President to cut the costs of governance rather than taking more loans and increasing the nation’s debt burden.

Read the Freedom of Information request addressed to the President below:

30 May 2020

His Excellency

Muhammadu Buhari GCFR

President, Federal Republic of Nigeria

Aso Rock Presidential Villa

Abuja

Your Excellency,

 

Re: Freedom of Information request to publish details of spending of loans and Nigeria’s debts since the return of democracy in 1999

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is writing on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of your government in office and pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to request you to provide details of the spending loans obtained by your government since May 29, 2015, including details of projects on which the loans have been spent.

SERAP is also urging you to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, a list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific conditions of repayment of the loans.

SERAP is a non-profit, nonpartisan, legal and advocacy organization devoted to promoting transparency, accountability, and respect for socio-economic rights in Nigeria. SERAP received the Wole Soyinka Anti-Corruption Defender Award in 2014 and was nominated for the UN Civil Society Award and Ford Foundation’s Jubilee Transparency Award. SERAP serves as one of two Sub-Saharan African civil society representatives on the governing Committee of the UNCAC Coalition, a global anti-corruption network of over 380 civil society organizations (CSOs) in over 100 countries.

According to our information, your government has recently sought the approval of the National Assembly for a fresh loan of $5.513 billion, reportedly to finance the 2020 budget deficit and critical projects as well as support states in the country. Several such loans have been obtained from China, the World Bank, and other sources, including the N850 billion loan, which the National Assembly speedily approved. Another loan of $22.79bn, which has reportedly been approved by the Senate is now pending before the House of Representatives.

SERAP is seriously concerned that while successive governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen, or squandered, leaving the future generation of Nigerians with the burden to repay these loans.

We are concerned about the massive and growing national debts, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape, or form.

Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by your government and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption. It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of visiting the sins of corrupt governments and officials on innocent Nigerians.

Opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens. Transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that these loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

Any unresolved allegations of mismanagement, bribery and corruption in the use of loans would continue to deprive millions of Nigerians access to basic public goods and services including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and would leave your government without the resources to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Rather than taking more loans and increasing Nigeria’s debts burden, we urge you to exercise sufficient political will to urgently promote ground-breaking reforms to cut the costs of governance, including by instructing the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN to immediately enforce the judgment by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo ordering your government to recover pensions collected by former governors and challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting public officials to collect such pensions.

Ensuring the enforcement of the judgment would remove the burden on your government of constantly providing financial support to state governors, and ensure that state governors are not using financial support from the Federal Government to finance the lavish lifestyles of former governors with impunity.

SERAP, therefore, urges you to urgently commission an independent audit on the spending of loans so far obtained by your government and previous administrations with a view to resolving any allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the spending of such loans.

We urge you to ensure that those suspected to be responsible for any mismanagement and corruption are promptly referred to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for further investigation, and where there is relevant admissible evidence, prosecution.

We also urge you to promptly instruct Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since the assumption of office of your government in May 2015.

SERAP also urges you to disclose:

  1. Details of the spending of loans obtained by your government since May 29, 2015, including specific details of projects and locations of the projects as well as the conditions of any such projects;
  2. Total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by your government, including the interest rate, the details of debts inherited from the previous administrations, and details of refinancing of any such loans, as well as any strategy put together on borrowing decisions, and to promote sustainable borrowing;
  3. Whether any public officials solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans

By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the details of spending of the loans and debts incurred by your government and previous administrations. By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.

By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FoI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information relating to the details of spending of the loans and debts incurred by your government and previous administrations are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means. The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act.

The information requested for as indicated above, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of national interest, public concern, the interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency, and accountability.

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, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.

Please accept the expression of our highest consideration. Thanking you in advance for your urgent attention to the matter.

Yours sincerely,

Kolawole Oluwadare

Deputy Director

 

CC:

Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN

Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice

Federal Ministry of Justice

Shehu Shagari Way,

Central Area

Abuja

 

Mrs Zainab Ahmed

Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning

Ahmadu Bello Way, Central Business District

Abuja

 

Ms Patience Oniha

Director-General of the Debt Management Office

NDIC Building (1st Floor)

Plot 447/448 Constitution Avenue,

Central Business District

P.M.B. 532, Garki Abuja