SERAP Sues Buhari, NASS, Wants Court To Declare Electricity Tariff, Fuel Price Hike Illegal

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and 302 concerned Nigerians have filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly, asking the court to “declare illegal, unconstitutional and unfair the recent hike in electricity tariff and fuel price because top-level public officers cannot continue to receive the same salaries and allowances and spend public money to finance a life of luxury for themselves while asking poor Nigerians to make sacrifices.”

Joined in the suit as Defendants are the Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, and the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC).

President Buhari had while presenting the 2021 budget proposal of N13.08 trillion to the National Assembly reportedly stated that: “The new petro pricing has freed up resources that were used for subsidy payments, while the new cost-reflective pricing in the electricity industry is meant to address the liquidity challenges in the sector.”

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But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/330/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order directing and compelling the RMAFC to cut the salaries, allowances and other emoluments payable to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in line with the current economic realities, and principles of justice, fairness, equality and non-discrimination.”

SERAP is arguing that: “The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] makes it clear that the authorities should harness Nigeria’s resources to promote and ensure the maximum welfare, prosperity, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality. The country’s resources ought to be harnessed and distributed to serve the common good, and not to finance a life of luxury for politicians.”

According to SERAP: “Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic is antithetical to the public interest, the common good, and a fundamental breach of constitutional oath of office.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of injunction restraining the RMAFC from paying the same amount of salaries and allowances to President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila until the RMAFC comprehensively reviews downward the salaries and allowances and other emoluments of these top public officers and other high-ranking public officers, in line with Nigeria’s current economic realities, and consistent with the principles of the rule of law.”

Dr Lawan issued for himself and on behalf of all 109 members of the Senate, while Mr Gbajabiamila issued for himself and on behalf of all 360 members of the House of Representatives.

According to SERAP: “A public officer shall not put himself/herself in a position where his/her personal interest conflicts with his/her duties and responsibilities. Personal interest, in this case, is when top public officers like the Defendants continue to receive the same salaries and allowances while asking poor Nigerians to sacrifice and bear the burden of electricity tariff and fuel price hike.”

SERAP is also asking the court to determine “whether RMAFC can lawfully continue to maintain the same level of salaries and allowances for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila, in light of Nigeria’s current economic realities, and constitutional provisions, and despite their apparent roles in the increase of electricity tariff and fuel price.”

SERAP said: “Public money is spent as security votes without transparency, and to pay for lavish lifestyles for top public officers including lawmakers, who continue to buy expensive new cars at the expense of taxpayers, the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians. The National Assembly is also set to spend N27 billion to renovate the National Assembly Complex, as proposed in the budget.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “Public duty means showing leadership by example and commitment to the ideals of public service, including by reducing salaries and allowances of high-ranking public officers like the Defendants.”

“The Nigerian Constitution is founded on the rule of law the primary meaning of which is that everything must be done according to law. It also means that government should be conducted within the framework of recognized rules and principles, which restrict discretionary power.”

“The court, being the last hope of the common man, must come to the aid of the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians by granting the reliefs sought by SERAP and 302 concerned Nigerians. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, the Defendants will continue to breach the constitution at the expense of Nigerians living in poverty.”

“The poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians would be negatively affected by the hike in electricity tariff and fuel price. The increase is contrary to the oath of office by the President to faithfully ensure the well-being and prosperity of the people. Increasing electricity tariff and fuel price is neither in the public interest nor the well-being of Nigerians.”

“On or about the 1st September 2020, the Federal Government announced a total removal of subsidy from the price of the Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise known as petrol and thereby pushed the price per litre of petrol to N151. The Government had on 19th August 2020 announced an increment of more than 100 per cent in the electricity tariff per kilowatt to be paid by Nigerians who continue to face unjust electricity charges.”

SERAP is also seeking the following reliefs:

A DECLARATION that the exercise of the President Buhari’s power to increase the price of petrol under section 6 of the Petroleum Act 1969 and increase of electricity tariff is arbitrary, unjust, unfair, and in breach of the Oath of Office of President contained in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended].

A DECLARATION that it is unlawful and unconstitutional for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila to continue to receive the same salaries and allowances and the same level of budgetary allocations, despite Nigeria’s current economic realities and light of the Public Procurement Act 2007, constitutional code of conduct for public officers, and their respective oaths of office contained in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

A DECLARATION that the failure of RMAFC to reduce the salaries, allowances and other emoluments for President Buhari, Professor Osinbajo, Dr Lawan and Mr Gbajabiamila and other principal public officers in spite of their respective roles in the increase of electricity tariff and fuel price is in breach of the principle of equality before the law and equal application of the law, and Section 153 [1] [n] and Paragraph [N] 32[b] [c] [d] in Part 1 Third Schedule of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended].

AN ORDER restraining all the Defendants individually and/or collectively, directly or through their representatives and agents from implementing any purported increase in electricity tariff and fuel price until an impact assessment of the effects on the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians is carried out.

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.

#EndSARS: SERAP Wants Commonwealth To Sanction Nigeria Over Attacks On Protesters

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an Urgent Appeal to Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, urging her to use her “leadership position to apply the Commonwealth Charter to hold Nigerian authorities to account for widespread and persistent attacks on peaceful protesters, reports of human rights violations and abuses, corruption, impunity, as well as disregard for the rule of law.”

The organization asked Ms. Scotland to “urgently consider recommending the suspension of Nigeria from the Commonwealth to the Heads of Government, the Commonwealth Chair-in-office, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth, to push the government to respect the Commonwealth’s values of human rights, transparency, accountability and the rule of law.”

In the Urgent Appeal dated 10 October 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Such action by the Commonwealth will be commensurate with the gravity of the human rights situation in the country. A government that attacks its own citizens for peaceful protests severely undermines its credibility as a democratic regime that respects human rights and the rule of law.”

According to SERAP, “Respect for Commonwealth values is essential for citizens to trust Commonwealth institutions. The Commonwealth ought to make clear that respect for human rights, transparency, and the rule of law is fundamental to the integrity, functioning, and effectiveness of its institutions.”

SERAP said: “Persistent attacks on protesters have severely constrained the ability of the people to participate in their own government and to hold authorities and public officials to account for alleged corruption, and human rights violations and abuses, thereby causing serious hardships for ordinary Nigerians and undermining their rights, livelihood, and dignity.”

The letter, read in part: “The ongoing events in Nigeria demonstrate the authorities’ determination to suppress all forms of peaceful dissent and freedom of expression of the Nigerian people. There are well-founded fears that the human rights situation in Nigeria will deteriorate even further if urgent action is not taken to address it.”

“These protests are taking place against a backdrop of the failure by the Nigerian government to address persistent concerns around police brutality and impunity, corruption, lack of respect for economic and social rights of the people, and disregard for the rule of law.

“The result has been a crisis of daily electricity outages, a struggling public education and health system, lack of access to clean water, and widespread youth unemployment.”

“Lack of transparency and accountability, and the absence of the rule of law in Nigeria have resulted in a growing level of protest activity, and an unprecedented brutal crackdown on human rights by the authorities.”

“People have been targeted simply for exercising their fundamental freedoms including their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression to end police brutality and impunity. SERAP is concerned about a significant deterioration in the human rights situation in the country since the assumption of office by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari in May 2015.”

“Nigerian authorities have since 2015 promised to address police brutality and impunity but have repeatedly failed to do so. Authorities would seem to be suppressing protests to punish and intimidate people campaigning for an end to police corruption and brutality, grand corruption and impunity, human rights abuses, and disregard for the rule of law.”

“Allowing citizens to freely exercise their human rights including to freedom of expression and peaceful protest without the threat of reprisal or attack would enable them to contribute to society on issues of transparency, accountability, good governance, integrity, and human rights.”

“The Commonwealth Charter recognises the inalienable right of individuals to participate in democratic processes, in particular through peaceful protests and freedom of expression in shaping the society in which they live and for these rights to be protected and respected.”

“Similarly, Nigeria has responsibility under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] and international human rights treaties to which the country is a state party to protect peaceful protesters and ensure a safe and enabling environment for people to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“According to our information, the Nigerian government has continued to crackdown on peaceful protesters, including #EndSARS protesters, who are campaigning against police brutality, corruption, and impunity.”

“The authorities are committing other ongoing, widespread violations of human rights, including arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment and killings in response to the exercise by the people of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“Amnesty International’s reports show disturbing cases of attacks on #EndSARS protesters. Jimoh Isiaq, a protester, was killed by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) operatives of the Nigeria Police in Ogbomoso. Tiamiyu Kazeem, a footballer was also killed in Sagamu by the police.

“These are just a few examples of the many human rights violations and abuses committed by the Nigerian police and security agents. According to Amnesty International, the ‘SARS detention centre in Abuja was previously a butcher’s yard and is commonly known as the abattoir. Some suspects detained in abattoir rarely come out alive.’”

“Nigeria police and security agents routinely respond to peaceful protests with disproportionate use of force, including using live ammunition, resulting in injuries to many individuals and deaths. Journalists covering protests have been targeted, some of whom have been beaten simply for performing their professional duty.”

SERAP, therefore, urged the Commonwealth to:

Establish a mechanism to visit Nigeria to monitor and report on human rights violations and abuses, absence of transparency and accountability, and persistent disregard for the rule of law, and to get to the root of the facts and circumstances of such abuses, with a view to ensuring full accountability;

Publicly condemn reports of human rights abuses, absence of transparency and accountability, and put pressure on the government to take preventive measures to end impunity in the context of its response to peaceful protests, including #EndSARS protests;

Urge Nigerian authorities to fully and adequately protect protesters from violent attacks by Nigeria police and security agents, and to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers observing, monitoring, and recording protests;

Urge Nigerian authorities to take measures to address the root causes of protests and longstanding injustices and socio-economic grievances that have driven people to the streets to protest;

Urge Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release anyone arrested in relation to #EndSARS protests and other peaceful protests, to promptly investigate all allegations of violations and abuses against protesters, and to bring suspected perpetrators to justice, as well as ensure access to justice and redress for victims;

Urge Nigerian authorities to ensure that people can enjoy their human rights without discrimination and to take all possible measures, including by cutting the costs of governance particularly the proposed spending in the 2021 budget of: N9.2 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex; N12.5 billion to maintain the Presidential fleet; N2.3 billion to pay entitlements of ex-heads of state, presidents, vice-presidents, and N500 million to buy cars for them. This is consistent with the government’s obligation to prevent corruption and misuse of resources.

SERAP To Buhari: Emulate Kebbi Deputy Governor’s Steps And Publish Your Assets

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to “follow a good example of Mr Yombe Dabai Samaila, deputy governor Kebbi state, by immediately publishing their asset declaration forms.”

The call was made on Sunday via a statement issued by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

According to the group, Mr Samaila forwarded his asset declaration form to the organisation last week in response to SERAP’s suit.

While making reference to the form dated May 28, 2019, and sworn to before the High Court of Justice, Birnin Kebbi, Kebbi State, the organisation claimed that Mr Samaila declared assets, including landed property and cash in banks, valued at N353,136,378.56.

In a suit with number FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020 filed in January 2020, SERAP asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to order President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income, contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) since assuming office.”

“We welcome Mr Samaila’s demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability, especially at a time when many government officials and institutions continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for Freedom of Information requests by refusing to even acknowledge several of such requests.

“President Buhari and Vice-President Osinbajo should show leadership by immediately widely publishing their asset declaration forms, just as Mr Samaila has rightly done.

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“We also call on Mr Abubakar Bagudu, governor Kebbi state and other governors and their deputies to emulate and learn from Mr Samaila’s good example by immediately publishing their assets,” the statement partly read.

 

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

SERAP to Buhari, Osinbajo: Follow Kebbi deputy governor’s example, publish your assets

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Professor Yemi Osinbajo to “follow a good example of Mr Yombe Dabai Samaila, deputy governor Kebbi state, by immediately publishing their asset declaration forms.”

Mr Samaila while responding to SERAP’s suit had last week forwarded his asset declaration form to the organization. The form dated 28 May 2019, and sworn to before the High Court of Justice, Bikebbi, Kebbi state, shows that Mr Samaila declared assets, including landed property and cash in banks, valued at N353,136,378.56, from which he stated that he receives N61,500,000.00 yearly as income.

SERAP had in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/65/2020 filed in January 2020 asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to order President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to “make public details of their assets, specifically property and income, contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) since assuming office.”

In a statement dated 4 October 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “We welcome Mr Samaila’s demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability, especially at a time when many government officials and institutions continue to exhibit a blatant disregard for Freedom of Information requests by refusing to even acknowledge several of such requests.”

SERAP said: “President Buhari and Vice-President Osinbajo should show leadership by immediately widely publishing their asset declaration forms, just as Mr Samaila has rightly done. We also call on Mr Abubakar Bagudu, governor Kebbi state and other governors and their deputies to emulate and learn from Mr Samaila’s good example by immediately publishing their assets.”

SERAP also said: “President Buhari and Vice-President Osinbajo should stand up for transparency in asset declarations by public officers as a sign of their oft-repeated principled stand on transparency and accountability in the management of the country’s resources. This government’s stated commitment to fight corruption will ring hollow as long as Buhari and Osinbajo continue to ignore repeated requests to publish their asset declaration forms.”

Mr Samaila’s letter dated 4 September 2020, and signed on his behalf by Nura Abdullahi Koko, Director of Administration, read in part: “In reference to your Freedom of Information request and suit, I am directed by Mr Samaila Yombe Dabai, Deputy Governor Kebbi state to forward herewith a copy of his assets declaration as requested by SERAP.”

“While thanking you for your understanding, please accept the assurance of the Deputy Governor best regards always.”

Mr Samaila’s assets declaration form, read in part: “Cash in Nigerian banks: N364,420, in a bank in Lagos, which is money from my military pension. N1,471, 958.56 in another bank in Kaduna, which is money from my personal income. I have no cash in foreign banks.”

“I bought a 3-bedroom flat [upstairs] in Kebbi state through my military savings and business income in 1984, and the property is valued at N16m. I also have a 6-bedroom and 2 Guest House of 3-bedroom in Kebbi state, valued at N38m. I have a 4-bedroom duplex in Asokoro, Abuja, which I bought in 2017 through personal income. I have no vacant/undeveloped plots.”

“I have a 2-bedroom flat in Kaduna state, and the property is valued at N30m. I bought it in 2001 through savings from business income. I earn N1m yearly from the property. I also have 48 hectares of farmland in Kaduna state, as a gift from the Emir of Dande in 1983. The property is valued at N10m. I make N2.5m yearly from the property.”

“I have a company named Yomed Nigeria Limited, Kaduna, which deals in air services, primary school and agriculture service equipment. The company was established in 2007 and is valued at N98m. I make N28m monthly as income from the company.”

“I also bought CESSNA 206 Aircraft, Kaduna in 2014, and it is valued at N99.6m, and I make N30m yearly as income from this.”

“I bought a Ford Bus Caravan in 2017, valued at N1.5m; Toyota Tundra in 2012 valued at N3m; Range Rover Jeep in 2013 valued at N7m; and another Ford Bus Caravan in 2016 valued at N5.2m.”

“I have 2 set of furniture and electronics in Kaduna and Zuru, which I bought between 2013—2019, and the property is valued at N3m. My wife owns a property valued at N25m but my children own no property. I have no government securities, no shares in and outside Nigeria.”

It would be recalled that SERAP had in its suit asked the court to grant “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to make public their summary of assets; disclose whether they have had any reason to review and update their asset declarations submitted to the CCB, and if the declarations have been made as constitutionally and statutorily required.”

In the suit, SERAP is seeking “an order to compel President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to disclose whether they have received any confirmation of the verification of their asset declarations by the CCB and to disclose whether they have taken any steps to encourage members of their cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB, and to make such declarations public.”

SERAP is also seeking: “a declaration that the failure of President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to provide SERAP with the requested information on their assets constitutes a breach of SERAP’s right under the FoI Act, 2011, and such further order(s) the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 3 January 2020, expressing concern that: “The non-public disclosure by public officials of their summary of assets undermines the effectiveness and integrity of the constitutional and statutory obligations to submit asset declarations.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “By a combined reading of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the FoI Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, President Buhari, Vice-President Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies ought to be directed and compelled to make public their asset declarations as submitted to the CCB.”

According to SERAP, two states — Lagos State and Niger State — have responded to its FoI requests. But both states declined the requests to make public the assets of their governors and deputies, on the ground that “the FoI Act is inapplicable to state governments, their agencies and officials, and that only houses of assembly of states are constitutionally empowered to make laws on public records of states.”

Also, while reacting to SERAP FoI request to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, had said: “SERAP asking the president to declare publicly, on the basis of what law? The president will do what the law requires of him and what the law requires is that he should declare his asset which he has done. Declaring publicly is not in our laws; it can only be a voluntary thing.”

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

4/10/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Writes Buhari, Seeks Trial Of High-Profile Corruption Cases, Details Of Missing Files

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to “instruct Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation to take immediate steps to expeditiously, diligently, effectively and fairly prosecute high-profile corruption cases, and to publish details of the whereabouts of allegedly missing case files, as well as the status of prosecution of all the cases being handled by his office.”

The organization said: “The high-profile corruption cases include 103 cases reportedly sent by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] in 2017, and the 15 allegedly missing case files sent by the now-defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, [SPIP] in 2019 to Mr Malami.”

In the letter dated 26 September 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The authorities’ failure to diligently and expeditiously prosecute high profile corruption cases amounts to a fundamental breach of constitutional and international obligations. Continuing failure to prosecute these cases may create the perception of a deliberate effort to protect those considered to be very influential and powerful.”

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According to the organization: “The fact that these cases have been pending for several years suggests that your government has not carried out its public, constitutional and international obligations, including the obligations to show that no one is above the law as far as the fight against corruption is concerned.”

The organization said: “Public interest demands that high-profile corruption cases are concluded within a reasonable time so that those guilty are punished and the innocent are set free. The rule of law and the preservation of democracy also require that the authorities duly proceed in accordance with the law against every high-profile person suspected of grand corruption, irrespective of where he/she is placed in the political hierarchy.”

The letter, copied to Mr Malami, read in part: “SERAP is seriously concerned about the apparent inertia by the authorities to diligently and expeditiously prosecute high-profile corruption cases. While many of these cases have been dragging before your assumption of office in May 2015, several of the cases have not satisfactorily progressed, contrary to Nigerians’ expectations.”

“Speedily, diligently, effectively and fairly prosecuting high-profile corruption cases would demonstrate your government’s commitment to enhance probity in public life and willingness to enforce accountability in public life. The basic postulate of the concept of equality: ‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you’, should be your government’s approach to high profile corruption cases.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] particularly section 15[5], and Nigeria’s international obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, as well as the rule of law.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure the diligent, expeditious, and effective prosecution of longstanding high-profile corruption cases, including the 103 cases and the allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile corruption suspects.”

“We would be grateful if your 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, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to pursue prosecution of these longstanding high-profile corruption cases to their logical conclusion, and to regularly report to Nigerians on the progress of prosecution.”

“People get frustrated in the system if the process of justice is not allowed to take its normal course, more so, when apparently deliberate attempts are made to subvert and delay the process.”

“There is a nexus between corruption at high places in public life and threats to the integrity, welfare, security and economy of the country, as well as the rule of law. There is therefore a clear need for an expeditious, diligent and effective prosecution of these cases, which have already been delayed for several years.”

“Expeditious prosecution of those suspected of grand corruption irrespective of the position and status of that person is imperative to retain public confidence in the ability and willingness of authorities to prevent and combat corruption.”

“According to our information, details of about 103 high-profile corruption cases being handled by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] were reportedly made available in 2017 to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice upon request.”

“Further, the case files of 15 high-profile corruption suspects are allegedly missing. The missing files are among the 23 cases reportedly sent by the now-defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, [SPIP] in 2019 to Mr Malami, and include some charges of fraud involving some former governors and senators, as well as non-declaration of assets and possession of foreign accounts cases.”

SERAP, therefore, urged President Buhari to instruct Mr Malami to:

1. Explain why after several years these high-profile corruption cases have not been expeditiously, diligently, effectively, and satisfactorily prosecuted to logical conclusion;
2. Take immediate and concrete steps to prosecute the cases in close cooperation and collaboration with appropriate anticorruption agencies;
3. Publish details of the whereabouts of the allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile individuals suspected of corruption, including the status of prosecution of the cases, as well as those of the 103 cases reportedly sent to Mr Malami;
4. Invite civil society groups and the international community to monitor the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases, and to periodically report to Nigerians the status of their prosecution

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on the details of the whereabouts of allegedly missing 15 case files of high-profile individuals suspected of grand corruption, and the status of prosecution of the cases, as well as those of the 103 cases reportedly sent to Mr Malami.”

SERAP Files Suit Against Lawan, Gbajabiamila Over Failure To Publish Details Of Corruption Probes

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 filed a lawsuit against the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila over their failure to publish reports of all completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.

SERAP is also suing the duo for their failure to disclose the number of probes that have resulted in the indictment of suspects and to name such suspects.

In a statement on Sunday by the Deputy Director of the commission, Kolawole Oluwadare said that the suit followed recent public hearings by the National Assembly on corruption allegations in ministries, departments, and agencies, including the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).

“Reports of several public hearings and corruption probes have remained secret, and the allegations unresolved”.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1065/2020 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Dr. Lawal and Mr. Gbajabiamila to send all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel Dr. Lawal and Mr. Gbajabiamila to widely publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and to disclose the number and names of any indicted suspects since 1999.”

The commission is asking the court for “an order of mandamus to direct and compel Dr Lawal and Mr Gbajabiamila to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by MDAs, and to ensure the proper and effective exercise of their oversight functions over corruption allegations including in the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) requests dated 25 July 2020, stating that: “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.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “The court ought to compel Dr. Lawal and Mr. Gbajabiamila to publish the reports of hearings and probes and to send the reports to appropriate anti-corruption agencies for prosecution. Granting the reliefs sought would bolster public trust and confidence in the lawmakers’ oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of the hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve a personal interest, rather than the general public interests”.

SERAP is further arguing that Nigerians have the right to information, as guaranteed under Section 39(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which the country has ratified and domesticated as part of its national laws.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “There is no legally justifiable reason why the information should not be made widely available to Nigerians, and why the prosecution of indicted suspects should not be pursued, where there is relevant admissible evidence.”

“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. There is a 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.

“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 the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general.

“Both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose the pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs. Publishing the reports and pursuing prosecution would give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.

“Lack of transparency and accountability about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials has continued to create a culture of impunity, and to have 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.”

The commission however noted that no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

FG Says N30.5bn Spent In Response To COVID-19 Between April And July

A health worker is seen wearing a PPE amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The Federal Government has said it spent N30.5 billion in response to COVID-19 between April and July 2020. 

This is in response to a letter by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) which asked the government to provide a breakdown of how it spent the N36.3 billion donations and fund received to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris, N30.5 billion was spent within the said date and it represents 84 per cent of the total sum.

A further breakdown of the expenditure reveals that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 spent N22 billion while the 36 states spent a total of N7 billion.

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Others include the Nigerian Air Force which spent N877 million for the deployment of assets in support of COVID-19 operations; the Nigeria Police Force spent N500 million on Personal Protective Equipment while about N18,000 was paid as bank charges.

But SERAP alleged that the document submitted does not contain other significant details as indicated in their Freedom of Information request, including details and breakdown of the number of Nigerians who directly or indirectly have benefited from the spending, and details on plans to spend the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 eradication support accounts.

 

SEE THE FULL STATEMENT HERE

‘How we spent N31bn in 4 months to fight COVID-19’, FG replies SERAP, CODE

The Federal Government of Nigeria has disclosed that it “spent N30,540,563,571.09, representing 84% of the N36.3 billion public funds and donations received to respond to COVID-19 between 1st April 2020 and 31st July 2020, leaving the balance of N5.9 billion.”

The Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr. Ahmed Idris stated this in response to the Freedom of Information request dated 10 August 2020 and sent to him by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Connected Development (CODE).

In the reply to Mr Idris dated 4th September 2020, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare and CODE Chief Executive Hamzat Lawal, the organizations said: “We note among others that the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 spent N22 billion, and 36 states spent N7 billion to support their COVID-19 initiatives.”

The groups said: “We also note that the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spent N877 million for the deployment of assets in support of COVID-19 operations; while the Nigeria Police spent N500 million on personal protective equipment. N17,865.09 was paid as bank charges.”

The reply by the groups, read in part: “However, we also note that the documents sent to us do not contain other significant details as indicated in our FoI request dated 10 August 2020, including details and breakdown of the number of Nigerians who directly or indirectly have benefited from the spending, and details on plans to spend the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.”

“It is refreshing to note that 115 ordinary Nigerians donated between N1 and N100 to support the authorities’ efforts to fight COVID-19, despite the fact that it is the country’s poorest and most disadvantaged sectors of the population that continue to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This is a huge lesson for public officials and politicians about the idea of public service to one’s country. It also sends a powerful message about the need for politicians to see public office as an opportunity to serve and give something back to the country, and not a place to mismanage, steal or divert the people’s commonwealth into private pockets for personal benefits.”

“We welcome your demonstrated commitment to transparency and accountability, and hope other public officials and institutions would emulate and learn from the good example you have shown by honouring and respecting FOI Act as a matter of routine and practice.”

“We would therefore be grateful to receive more specific details and additional information on the spending of N34.4bn between April and July, and details on plans to spend the balance of the balance of N5.9 billion in the COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.”

“Of the N36.3bn public funds and donations received, N1.4bn came from Nigerians and companies through accounts at the First Bank; Access Bank; GTB, Zenith, and UBA, while N536m donations were made through the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN]. The N536 donations comprise of N89m and N279m from the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.”

“In addition, China General Chambers of Commerce in Nigeria donated N48m; the Petroleum Equalization Management Board gave N50m while the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board donated N70m.”

“We would be grateful if the requested details and additional information are 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 and CODE 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 request.”

“We are writing to acknowledge receipt of the undated letter signed on your behalf by Mrs Odanwu Chizoba, from the Office of Accountant General of the Federation, but received 2nd September, 2020, on the above subject-matter in which the Federal Government provided some information on inflows and outflows of COVID-19 funds, drawn from COVID-19 Eradication Support Accounts.  We appreciate your co-operation in this regard.”

Specifically, the groups are asking Mr Idris to provide to them with the following:

Details and breakdown of where the N34.4bn public funds from the Federal Government came from, and whether or not the money was duly appropriated by the National Assembly;

Details of specific projects and activities on which the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has spent the N22.16bn, which represents 72% of the money spent, including how the spending has directly or indirectly benefited Nigerians, as well as details of names of any such beneficiaries;

Details and breakdown of money, if any, spent to provide personal protective equipment to Nigerian doctors and medical workers who are at the forefront in the fight against COVID-19;

Details and breakdown of the N7bn given to 36 states, and the specific amount of money collected by each state. This money represents 23% of the total amount spent within 4 months;

Details and breakdown of the N877m [2.9% of the money] spent by the Nigerian Air Force for deployment of assets in support of COVID-19 operations, as well as the nature of any such operations;

Details and breakdown of the N500m [1.6% of the money] spent by the Nigeria Police on personal protective equipment;

“The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation should also take steps to approach and request from the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, the Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police Force, and the 36 states any of the details highlighted above, if the information is not held by your Office, in line with the provisions of the FoI Act.”

“Under the FoI Act, other public institution or institutions that may be holding the requested information are obligated to provide the information.”

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

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

6/09/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

 

 

 

 

SERAP Sues Buhari Over ‘Failure To Publish Details Of N800bn Recovered Loot’

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over failure to publish details of the N800bn recovered loot.

In a statement issued on Sunday by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the group wants the Federal Government to “disclose information and documents relating to the names of people from whom N800 billion in looted public funds have been recovered, specific dates of the recovery, and details of projects on which the money has been spent.”

The group recalled that during the Democracy Day on June 12, President Buhari revealed that his administration has recovered looted funds more than N800billion which were being used for infrastructural projects.

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP sought for “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari 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 specific dates of the recovery.”

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Joined in the suit as Respondents are the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and the the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

SERAP sues Buhari over ‘failure to publish details of N800bn recovered loot’

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over failure to “disclose information and documents relating to the names of people from whom N800 billion in looted public funds have been recovered, specific dates of the recovery, and details of projects on which the money has been spent.”

The President had in paragraph 78 of his speech to mark the occasion of the Democracy Day on June 12, 2020, stated that: “the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed last Friday 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/or compel President Buhari 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 specific dates of the recovery.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to instruct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, thoroughly and transparently investigate alleged payment of N51 billion of public funds into individual private accounts in 2019.”

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

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “The court ought to compel the Respondents to disclose the details and whereabouts of the public funds. There is no legally justifiable reason why the information should not be made widely available to Nigerians, especially as the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) requires the government in section 15(5) to abolish all forms of corruption. That means ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and wealth.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated 13 June, 2020 to President Buhari, stating that: “The public has a right to know how recovered N800bn loot has been spent, and the details and purpose of the alleged payments of N51bn into individual private accounts. Transparency over transactions by the government is critical to ensuring public confidence in the integrity of management of public resources and wealth.”

SERAP is also arguing that: “Granting the reliefs sought will ensure transparency and accountability, as the information sought to be published will reveal the truth of where 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 private accounts.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “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 ensure transparent management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”

“Transparency and accountability in governance is in the public interest. Publishing the details regarding the N800 billion recovered loot and investigating the alleged suspicious payments into personal accounts would be entirely consistent with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption commitments.”

“The authorities are required to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in the management of these resources and wealth, and the programmes that they oversee.”

“Disclosing the details of projects on which the N800bn recovered loot have been spent and publishing a comprehensive list of names of people from whom they have been recovered, as well as investigating alleged payment of billions of naira into individual private accounts, would be entirely consistent with the oft-expressed anti-corruption commitments by the government.”

It would be recalled that BudgIT, a civic tech organization, recently reported that “the open treasury portal by the federal government allegedly showed that payments totalling N51bn were made into individual accounts in 2019.”

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

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

30/08/2020

Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Asks Buhari To Rescind Assent To Companies And Allied Matters Act

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 written to  President Muhammadu Buhari requesting him to “urgently rescind your assent to the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020, [CAMA 2020], and to send the legislation back to the National Assembly to address its fundamental flaws.

The commission requested a review of the repressive provisions of the Act, particularly sections 839, 842, 843, 844, and 850 contained in Part F of the Act, and any other similar provisions.”

The organization is also urging him to “instruct the Registrar-General of the Corporate Affairs Commission, Alhaji Garba Abubakar, and Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, not to implement or enforce the CAMA 2020 until the legislation is repealed by the National Assembly, and brought in line with the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.”

In the letter dated 22 August, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “With these provisions, the government now has overly broad and discretionary powers to arbitrarily withdraw, cancel or revoke the certificate of any association, suspend and remove trustees, take control of finances of any association, and to merge two associations without their consent and approval of their members.”

According to SERAP, “Rather than taking concrete measures to improve the legal environment and civic space that would ensure respect for human rights and media freedom, your government has consistently pursued initiatives to restrict the enjoyment of citizens’ human rights. These rights are protected from impairment by government action.”

SERAP said: “These restrictions, coupled with repressive broadcasting codes and Nigerian security agencies’ relentless crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society, demonstrate the government’s intention to suppress and take over independent associations.”

The letter, read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the provisions would be used by the authorities to exert extensive scrutiny over the internal affairs of associations, as a way of intimidation and harassment, which would eventually unduly obstruct the legitimate work carried out by associations.”

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

“Please note that SERAP has instructed its Legal Counsel Femi Falana, SAN to take all appropriate legal actions on our behalf should your government fail and/or neglect to act as requested.”

“Citizens’ decision to join with others in pursuit of a common goal is a fundamental aspect of their liberty. The right to freedom of association also plainly presupposes a freedom not to associate. This freedom is at risk if the government can compel a particular citizen, or a discrete group of citizens, to merge their associations.”

“Constitutional guarantees of freedom of association would be very limited if they are not accompanied by a guarantee of being able to share one’s beliefs of ideas in community with others, particularly through associations of individuals having the same beliefs, ideas or interests.”

“Similarly, freedom of association creates a forum for citizens in which they may freely seek, without any unlawful interference by the state, to move public opinion and achieve their goals. That “forum” cannot exist if the government is at liberty to treat one association as forming part of another or coercing one association to merge with another association.”

“By seeking to suspend and remove trustees, and appoint interim managers for associations, the government seems to want to place itself in a position to politicise the mandates of such association, and to undermine the ideas that the right to freedom of association and related rights are supposed to protect in a democratic society.”

“SERAP believes that the government granting itself the powers to suspend and remove trustees of legally registered associations and to take control of their bank accounts constitute an effective restraint on human rights.”

“Allowing the government to take control of the bank accounts of association would impact on the rights of the associations, and also seriously undermine civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights as a whole.”

“These rights are in fact parts of the attributes of citizenship under a free government. “Liberty” includes the right to enjoy the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly. Our constitutional jurisprudence and international standards allow only the narrowest range for their restriction.”

“Combatting fraud, mismanagement, corruption, money-laundering and other modes of trafficking by associations is legitimate. However, it is not sufficient to simply pursue a legitimate interest, limitations need also to be prescribed by law and be necessary in a democratic society.”

“Under the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law, controls need to be fair, objective and non-discriminatory, and not be used as a pretext to silence critics. Your government has legal obligations to create an enabling environment in which associations can effectively carry out their legitimate activities.”

“These restrictions have no legal basis, as they fail to meet the requirements of legality, legitimacy, proportionality and necessity. The Human Rights Council has called on States to ensure that any regulations of associations ‘do not inhibit the independence and functional autonomy [of associations]’”

“We have also sent a Pre-Action Notice of a lawsuit pursuant to Section 17[2] of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020, to the Corporate Affairs Commission to urgently initiate, promote and support deletion of Sections 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 and any other repressive provisions of the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020.”

“In communication No. 1274/2004, the Human Rights Committee observed that ‘the right to freedom of association relates not only to the right to form an association, but also guarantees the right of such an association freely to carry out its statutory activities. The protection afforded by article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights extends to all activities of an association.’”

“According to the Committee, ‘the existence and operation of a plurality of associations, including those which peacefully promote ideas not necessarily favourably received by the government or the majority of the population, is a cornerstone of a democratic society.’”

“Under international law, the use of the term “democratic society” places the burden on States imposing restrictions on freedom of association to demonstrate that the limitations do not harm the principles of pluralism, tolerance, and broadmindedness.”

“The Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has also called on states not to pass legislation that would ‘give the Government control over the right of associations to manage their own activities.’”

“Associations, as organised, independent, not-for-profit bodies based on the voluntary grouping of persons who pursue activities on a wide range of issues, such as human rights, democratic reforms, and social and economic development, are an integral part of democratic institutions.”

“The right to freedom of association is to be enjoyed alone or in community with others. Without this collective dimension, the effective realisation of the right would often not be possible. SERAP believes that the rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly to advance beliefs and ideas are inseparable aspects of the “liberty” assured by due process of law.”

“The right to freedom of association is interrelated with other human rights and freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, protection of property, the private life and correspondence, an effective remedy, fair trials; and right to be protected from discrimination.”

“A genuine and effective respect for freedom of association cannot be reduced to a mere duty on the part of the State not to interfere. Therefore, it is incumbent upon your government and all public authorities to respect and protect this right, and to guarantee the proper functioning of an association, even when they annoy or give offence to persons opposed to the lawful ideas or claims that they are seeking to promote.”

“Any limitations on human rights, including the right to freedom of association must be proportionate to the interest to be protected, and must be the least intrusive means to achieve the desired objective.”

“Implementing or enforcing these repressive provisions will have a significant chilling effect on legitimate activities of associations, and would seriously undermine their independence and operations.”

“SERAP considers the CAMA 2020 the most repressive legislation in Nigeria’s history, especially given the unlawful and impermissible restrictions contained in Part F of the Act. Sections 831, 839, 842, 843, 844 and 850 of the Act are manifestly inconsistent with sections 36, 39 and 40 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999.”

“Under section 831[i][ii], the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) is empowered to treat any unregistered association as part of an already registered association, and without any lawful justifications whatsoever. The government also has the power to treat two or more associations as a single association on the flimsy pretext that the associations have the same trustees.”

“Section 839[1] and [7] of the Act also grants the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission the powers to arbitrarily and unilaterally suspend and remove the trustees of any legally registered association, and to appoint an interim manager or managers to run the affairs of any such association, if the Commission reasonably believes that there is “misconduct, mismanagement, and fraud” in the association, or on the basis of undefined “public interest.”

“The government will determine and decide what constitutes “public interest” in all cases. The exercise of the powers under section 839[1][7] is subject only to the approval of the supervisory Minister, a political appointee.”

“Similarly, sections 842, 843 and 844 grants the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission overly broad powers and discretion to arbitrarily, unlawfully and unilaterally regulate the finances of any association, and to take control and take over bank accounts lawfully belonging to legally registered associations under Part F of the CAMA 2020.”

“Further, section 850[2][e] empowers the government through the Corporate Affairs Commission to arbitrarily and unilaterally withdraw, cancel or revoke the certificate of registration of any duly and legally registered association.”

“These repressive provisions clearly and directly threaten and violate the rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, privacy, property, and other human rights guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“SERAP notes that legally registered associations have also deposited their constitutions and other documents with the Corporate Affairs Commission under the now repealed and replaced CAMA 2004.”

“The Commission also enjoyed wide ranging powers under CAMA 2004 to regulate these associations, as the associations are required to periodically report to the Commission. Registered associations are also regulated under other existing laws, including anti-corruption and money laundering laws, the Criminal Code and Penal Code.”

NBC Code: SERAP Writes Buhari, Demands Withdrawal Of N5m Hate Speech Fine

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 written to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to instruct the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the 5million naira fine on hate speech.

In the letter, the commission asked President Buhari to direct the Information Minister and the NBC to immediately rescind the fine of N5m imposed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM radio station, following the reported comments by a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, during an interview with the station.

The NBC last week reportedly issued a stern warning to journalists and broadcast stations, stating that “To denigrate our governors, lawmakers, elders, and leaders in abusive terms is not our culture, we respect our leaders as a positive cultural value.

“The Commission may be compelled to impose sanctions where stations fail to curb this practice.”

SERAP in a statement by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “Rather than pushing to enforce a culture to respect president, governors, lawmakers, elders, and other leaders, the Information Minister and the NBC should use their entrusted public office and mandates to promote a culture of public debate, access to information, transparency and accountability in government.”

The organisation stated that nothing can be more destructive to people’s exercise of basic human rights, and to democratic politics than the suppression of the media, and media freedom, the alleged ‘cultural codes’, which Mr. Mohammed and NBC are now using to punish journalists, broadcast stations and other Nigerians are patently contrary to the public interests.

The statement explained that “implementation of the code and the memo would further deter meaningful citizens’ engagement, and have a chilling effect on Nigerians’ human rights, particularly the rights to freedom of expression and access to information, undermine the idea of representative democracy, as well as make public officials less responsive to the people.”

The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, briefs reporters at the unveiling of the reviewed 6th Broadcasting Code in Lagos on August 4, 2020.

 

The letter, a copy of which was sent to Mr. Lai Mohammed, read in part: “We would be grateful if the requested action and measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then that the measures have been taken, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you to do so in the public interest.”

“Our requests are entirely consistent and compatible with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), and the country’s international legal obligations, including under the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which the country is a state party.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the implementation of the code and the memo would lead to unjust punishment and self-censorship among journalists and the media, and exacerbate the growing level of impunity for attacks on media freedom.”

It said, “Self-censorship would undermine media freedom and the right to receive and impart information, public debate and further impair the ability of Nigerians to hold to account public officials and politicians accused of grand corruption.

“SERAP is concerned that the action by Mr. Mohammed and NBC has further undermined public trust in government and politicians, as it shows that public officials are taking for granted their entrusted public functions, and accountability to Nigerians.

“The speed at which the code and the memo have been issued and applied may lead to public suspicion that the authorities are deliberately pushing to undermine the ability of journalists and the media to report on public interest issues, such as the growing poverty, widespread violence and killings, poor quality education, poor infrastructure and lack of access of millions of Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”

According to SERAP, it “is concerned that rather than addressing these matters of public interest and revelations of massive allegations of corruption and mismanagement in ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), your government is devoting time and energy to stop the media and journalists from reporting on the issues.

“Transparency would build trust and confidence in the government. The public interest in transparency and public monitoring of the use and management of the country’s natural wealth and resources by politicians outweighs any perceived cultural injunctions of ‘respect for Presidents, governors, lawmakers, and other leaders.

“Transparency will mean little without media freedom, which is important to shine a light into government activities and bring matters to the attention of the public. Public debate and access to information would promote a culture of transparency, and accountability, which in turn would facilitate Nigerians’ right to participate in their own government.

“In a truly representative democracy that Nigeria is striving to become, those who venture into public life, whether in the capacity of president, governor, or lawmakers, must expect to have their constitutional and public functions subjected to scrutiny and public discussion.

“By allowing journalists and the media to freely and independently perform their roles of informing the public, Nigerians will be able to monitor and keep politicians on a tighter leash, which will contribute to good government.

“The code and the memo are illegal, unconstitutional and amount to a misuse of public office insofar as they blatantly fail to follow due process of law, meet basic constitutional and international fair trial standards, and a strict three-part test of legality, necessity, and proportionality.”

“According to the UN Human Rights Committee, the free communication of information and ideas about public and political issues between citizens, candidates and elected representatives is essential. This implies a free press and other media able to comment on public issues without censorship or restraint and to inform public opinion.”

According to SERAP, “the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly held that freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. It is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.

“The NBC on Thursday 13 August 2020 reportedly sent a ‘memo’ to journalists and broadcasters threatening to ‘sanction and punish them if they violate a culture stopping them from denigrating, disrespecting, insulting, and abusing president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority.

“In the memo reportedly signed by Mr. Chibuike Ogwumike, Zonal Director of the NBC Lagos office, the NBC cited the provisions of the Broadcasting Code: Section 3.1, Professional Rules: 3.1.1, and Broadcasting Code: 3.1.19 to justify the existence of such culture to respect public officials and other elders and leaders in authority in the country.”

SERAP, therefore, urges President Buhari to urgently:

1. Instruct Lai Mohammed and the NBC to immediately withdraw the code and memo to journalists and broadcasters threatening to sanction and punish them on the basis of cultural codes prohibiting them from denigrating, disrespecting, insulting and abusing president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority;

2. Instruct Lai Mohammed and the NBC to immediately rescind the apparently illegal fine of N5m imposed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM radio station;

3. Propose and promote rules and codes that would ensure a culture of public accountability, prevent grand corruption, curtail abuse of power by public officials and politicians, as well as improve a democratic relationship and engagement between citizens and the government;

4. Publicly commit to enforcing constitutional and international human rights of journalists and the media and all Nigerians, and to faithfully fulfill your constitutional oath of office;

5. Publicly commit to restoring public trust in government, and to respect and protect the constitutional rights of journalists and the media to report on allegations of corruption and other socio-economic challenges confronting the country

SERAP Asks World Bank To ‘Tread Carefully In Disbursing $114.28m Credit For Nigeria’

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) has sent an open letter to the World Bank President Mr David Malpass, urging him to use his “good offices to encourage the Federal Government and 36 state governments to publicly commit to transparency and accountability in the spending of the $114.28m credit and grant for COVID-19, which the Bank’s Board of Directors recently approved for Nigeria, including by publishing details on a dedicated website.”

SERAP also urged Mr Malpass to “put pressure on authorities and the 36 state governors to accept voluntary scrutiny by Nigerians and civil society regarding the spending of the funds and use of the resources, including on how they will spend the money to buy medical equipment, and improve access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.”

The World Bank Board of Directors last Friday approved a $114.28 financing “to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on state level responses.” According to the Bank, the $100 million credit with Project ID number: P173980, is due to be paid back over 30 years, with additional 5 years grace period.

In the letter dated 8 August, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that federal authorities and state governments are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved credit and grant. The Bank should tread carefully in the disbursement of funds or distribution of resources to states if it is to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

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SERAP expressed “serious concerns that the money and resources may be stolen, diverted or mismanaged by state governors without effective transparency and accountability mechanisms, especially given increasing reports of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of COVID-19 funds by agencies of the Federal Government and state governments, and impunity of perpetrators.”

SERAP said: “Insisting on transparency and accountability would ensure repayment of the credit, and protect the project objectives and intended purposes for which the funds and resources are approved, disbursed and distributed.”

According to SERAP, “The Bank’s power to provide credits and grants is coupled with a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that governments spending such funds meet international standards of transparency and accountability, including those entrenched in the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

The letter copied to Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, read in part: “Implementing these recommendations would prevent a repeat of alleged diversion and mismanagement of recovered Abacha loot disbursed by the Federal Government to state governments.”

“The World Bank should make clear to all the governors that it will cancel the credit and grant should they renege on their transparency and accountability commitments to spend the money and use the resources exclusively for COVID-19 related projects, and not to steal, divert or mismanage them.”

“As the level of Federal Government monitoring of the spending of the credit and grant and use of the resources by state governors may be based on political considerations, the Bank’s influence might be the only restraining force state governors will take seriously.”

“SERAP encourages you and the World Bank in any future engagements with state governments in Nigeria to insist on accessing the information on how governors are spending security votes, and the amounts of public funds states are allocating to pay former governors life pensions, among others, as well as consider the level of corruption within each state before approving any credits and grants.”

“SERAP also encourages you and the World Bank not to sacrifice international standards of transparency and accountability in the rush to provide COVID-19 credit and grant to the 36 state governments.”

“According to our information, the World Bank Board of Directors on Friday, 7 August, 2020 approved a $114.28 financing “to help Nigeria prevent, detect and respond to the threat posed by COVID-19 with a specific focus on state-level responses.”

“This includes $100 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA) and $14.28 million grant from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.”

“SERAP notes that the Government of Nigeria is expected to disburse the money and distribute the resources to the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as ‘immediate support to break the chain of COVID-19 local transmission and limit the spread of coronavirus through containment and mitigation strategies.’”

“The approved money will also “help to finance federal procurements of medical equipment, laboratory tests, and medicines to be distributed to the states based on their needs, and to provide support to laboratories for early detection and confirmation; equipping and renovating isolation and treatment centers including community support centers; and improving in patient transfer systems through the financing of ambulances and training.”

SERAP, therefore, urged Mr. Malpass and the World Bank to:

Disclose and widely publish the terms and conditions of the credit and grant, and the exact amount repayable by Nigeria in 30 years’ time, including the details of the interest, if any; and the consequences of Nigeria defaulting;

Ask President Muhammadu Buhari to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor spending of the credit and grant by state governments;

Ask state governments to allow the media to freely report on their spending of the funds and use of the resources, and not to clamp down on journalists and the media in the exercise of their constitutional responsibilities to expose corruption and hold governments to account;

Ask state governments to explicitly commit to encouraging and protecting whistle-blowers as a way of ensuring that the funds and resources are not stolen, diverted or mismanaged;

Clarify if, to the Bank’s knowledge and information, the credit and grant have been approved by Nigeria’s National Assembly pursuant to its constitutional duties, including its oversight functions under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended);

Ensure increased transparency of sanctions and terms and conditions of the credit and grant to each state to enable Nigerians to ask questions as to the spending of the money and use of the resources from their state governments.

SERAP Condemns Attack On #RevolutionNow Protesters

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) has “strongly condemned reported violent attacks on #RevolutionNow protesters in Abuja, Osogbo, and other parts of the country.

SERAP said the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must end the use of excessive force against protesters, and allow people to peacefully exercise their human rights.

The Department of State Services today reportedly arrested Olawale Bakare and six other #RevolutionNow protesters wearing orange-colored caps around the Olaiya area of Osogbo, Osun State capital. Several protesters were also arrested by the police and the Nigerian Army in the Abuja metropolis.

DSS, Police Disperse #RevolutionNow Protesters in Abuja

In a statement today by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “By failing to adequately protect protesters from violent attacks, Nigerian authorities have blatantly violated their obligations under the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“Nobody should be arrested or subjected to torture and ill-treatment simply for taking part in peaceful protests. The authorities should stop criminalising peaceful protesters.”

#RevolutionNow Protesters In Ondo

“Rather than suppressing peaceful protests, the authorities ought to protect peaceful protesters and ensure a safe and enabling environment for people to exercise their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“SERAP urges the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested, promptly investigate attacks on protesters, and identify security agents suspected to be responsible and bring them to justice.”

“Nigerian authorities need to take seriously the protesters’ socio-economic grievances, including by immediately taking measures to genuinely fight grand corruption, and improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services.”

“SERAP urges the international community including the UN Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to publicly condemn attacks on peaceful protests and to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to effectively investigate attacks on protesters, prosecute perpetrators and to respect and protect the human rights of everyone.”

“Nigerian constitution and human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party guarantee the rights to liberty and security of person, freedom from arbitrary detention, freedom of expression, and the right of peaceful assembly.”

“The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials prohibit the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters.”

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.