Corruption Remains A Serious Problem In Nigeria, Reveals SERAP Survey

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

 

A new public survey released today by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) shows that corruption remains a serious problem in Nigeria, and affecting the majority of Nigerians, despite Nigerian authorities’ oft-repeated commitment to address the problem.

According to the survey, “96.2% of the respondents believed corruption remains a serious problem in Nigeria today. There was no significant difference in opinion on this issue across the different geo-political zones surveyed. However, only 5% of the respondents from the North-West viewed corruption as a problem in Nigerian society.”

In addition to the acknowledgment that corruption is a major problem in Nigeria, the survey further established that “84.5% of Nigerians believed corruption affects them.”

The latest report by SERAP entitled Nigeria: Anti-corruption Social Norms Survey was launched today at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos. The survey is published as part of the organisation’s implementation of the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) project funded with UK aid from the British people.

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The survey shows that social media and the internet are the most common sources of information on corruption, according to 38% and 33% respectively, of the respondents surveyed. The survey further shows that to successfully reach the majority of Nigerians and influence behavior change; these are the most dependable channels.

In contrast, only 9.8% and 1.6% mentioned religious institutions and traditional rulers respectively, as influential to influence behavior change.

According to the survey, “Traditional leaders have lost their place in guiding the society on morals and ethics. Another noteworthy observation made on the diminishing role of the traditional leaders was recorded as follows: Some of the traditional rulers are key political players. They influenced elections for politicians who in turn grant them favors. Paying traditional rulers using public money managed by politicians also dilutes their power to stand against corrupt leaders.”

The report read in part: “Almost half of the respondents (43.5%) surveyed do not believe that corruption can be successfully fought in Nigeria. The result paints a citizenry that has resigned to the high levels of corruption. This response should be juxtaposed with 96% of the respondents who viewed corruption as a major problem in Nigeria and 86% who believed it affects them.”

“Notably, majority (23.8%) of the respondents’ perception is that this is a loss to the Nigerian people. However, a significant 18.8% view theft of public money as a loss to the government. This should be a cause for alarm as it would be hard to mobilize citizens against corruption until the point where Nigerians view it as an economic crime against the people.”

“Of greater concern is that a combined 18% seem to tacitly approve or at least admire the acts of corruption and illicit wealth acquisition. About 12% view the loss of public money as a source of wealth while 5% would even wish to get an opportunity to perpetuate such a vice.”

“The implication is that while the social norms, values, and experiences point to corruption as a negative vice, the citizenry have little faith in the efforts aimed at tackling it. Further inquisition on the negative perception of anti-corruption efforts pointed to the need for a mindset change. Some of the adverse attitudes identified were influenced by a perceived lack of punishment of corrupt persons.”

“This further entrenches the corrupt tendencies. Additionally, poverty among citizens was seen to compromise the expected citizen pressure against corruption. Some respondents mentioned the ease with which political players bribe their way to positions and once in office perpetuate corruption. The societal values that do not find voter bribery as repugnant therefore cultivates weak and corrupt leadership.”

“On the issue of personal responsibility against corruption, about 57% of the respondents believed they have a role in supporting anti-corruption efforts. It should be a matter of concern that more than 40% do not think there is anything they can do on this front.”

“Majority of the respondents who did not see their role in reducing or eliminating corruption (52%), were in a sense of helplessness as they either believed there is nothing an ordinary person could do to fight corruption or had negative experiences that nothing changes even when citizens make effort.”

“Perhaps the most adverse observation in this context was that 15% of the respondents believed it is the government’s role to fight corruption. This finding resonates with an almost equal proportion of the respondents who viewed the loss of large amounts of money through corruption as a loss to the government, and not the public.”

“It is imperative that Nigerians acknowledge corruption as thievery of their own money to cultivate a sense of personal responsibility against the vice.”

“The Federal Government should respect the rule of law and obey all court orders to improve the integrity and independence of the judiciary.”

“The Federal Government should ensure effective and full enforcement of the Freedom of Information Act to encourage citizens’ access to credible information about the frequency of corruption among public officials and in ministries, departments and agencies. This would help to gauge and change descriptive norms about corruption in Nigeria and subsequent behavior.”

“The National Assembly should show leadership in the fight against corruption by publishing its spending and members’ salaries and allowances as well as bring the salaries and allowances within the requirements of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) including on members’ constitutional oaths of office.

“The National Assembly should collaborate with traditional and religious and citizens’ and community institutions to promote transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors.”

“The National Assembly should drop the Social Media Bill and Hate Speech Bill, and be more proactive in the fight against corruption including bypassing the Proceeds of Crime Bill, the Whistle-blowers Bill, and the Witness Protection Bill among others.”

“The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) should hold regular public hearings into allegations of corruption in ministries, departments and agencies and encourage citizens’ participation in the fight against corruption.”

“The ICPC and EFCC should collaborate with religious institutions, traditional institutions and other critical members of the civil society and community-based institutions to develop strategies on how to relieve and shift some of the social pressures that sustain corruption.”

“State Governments should domesticate the Freedom of Information Act within their states if they have not already done so, and encourage Nigerians to blow the whistle and report on petty and grand corruption including on social media. They should end the harassment and intimidation of journalists and citizens who report on allegations of corruption including on social media within their states.”

“The National Human Rights Commission should establish a special task force in collaboration with traditional and religious leaders and citizens’ and community-based movements and members of the civil society to promote awareness among Nigerians about the negative effects of corruption on access to public goods and services and the society in general as well as why it is in everyone’s interest to resist all forms of corruption.”

“The Minister of Information and Culture should drop the push to regulate the Social Media and encourage diversity of access to information including on allegations of corruption involving high-ranking government officials; as well as collaborate with religious institutions, traditional institutions and other critical members of the civil society and community-based institutions to develop strategies on how to relieve and shift some of the social pressures that sustain corruption.”

“Religious Institutions should proactively address issues of corruption in the society among their members and encourage them to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and collaborate with civil society and community-based organizations to explore ways of working together in public spheres to address public issues including corruption for the betterment of Nigeria.”

“Traditional Institutions should proactively address issues of corruption in the society among people within their areas of authority and encourage them to participate in the fight against corruption in the country, and collaborate with civil society and community-based organizations to explore ways of working together in public spheres to address public issues including corruption for the betterment of Nigeria.”

“The survey was conducted using two data collection approaches. First, face to face interviews were conducted targeting 2,549 respondents across all the geo-political zones of Nigeria and covering the eight states of Ondo, Enugu, Rivers, Lagos, Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, and Kwara. Abuja was also included as an additional sampling area due to its capital city status.”

“The face to face interviews were conducted by trained field enumerators using semi-structured questionnaires embedded on a mobile telephone application. The data was then relayed to a central data center for analysis. Across the geo-political zones, the largest sample was picked from the North West (25.9%) followed by South West at 21.2%.”

“South East and North Central contributed the least proportions at 13% and 9.4% respectively. Out of the 8 states and Abuja, the Rivers and Kano states contributed the bulk of the sample at a combined total of 33% (17% and 16.3% respectively).”

“The survey also conducted key in-depth interviews among government ministries and other institutions including the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, the Economics Crime and Financial Crimes Commission among others. The in-depth interviews were also conducted among academia, the bar association, civil society organizations, traditional rulers and religious organizations.”

SERAP Condemns Rearrest, Invasion Of Justice Ojukwu’s Court

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has “strongly condemned the violent re-arrest today of Omoyele Sowore and his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare by officials of the Department of State Services (DSS), and the apparent harassment and intimidation of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.”

Armed DSS officials reportedly stormed the courtroom, causing pandemonium at the court and physically assaulting Mr. Sowore. The judge reportedly had to take cover. She had earlier ordered the DSS to release Sowore within 24 hours and also pay him N100,000 for improper legal conduct. The DSS then released Mr. Sowore only for him and his co-defendant to be violently re-arrested.

Reacting, SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The appalling invasion of the courtroom and the ill-treatment of Sowore and Bakare is a blatant attack on the rule of law and the sanctity and integrity of our justice system. An independent judiciary, free from intimidation and harassment is a basic precondition to a functioning democracy under the rule of law.”

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SERAP’s statement read in part: “The violent re-arrest of Sowore and Bakare right inside the courtroom is a textbook case of a mockery of justice and abuse of the judicial process. It drives home the failure of the Nigerian government to fulfill its constitutional and international human rights obligations to respect citizens’ human rights and observe the rule of law.”

“What happened in the courtroom is a fatal blow to human rights and the independence and integrity of the judiciary. SERAP is seriously concerned that the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari is not observing fundamental international human rights and due process standards.”

“We urge the Nigerian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Sowore and Bakare and end the fragrant attack on the rule of law. “If Nigerian authorities are serious about human rights and the rule of law, they should hold those responsible to account. Only then will Nigerians have full confidence in this government’s ability to protect their human rights, obey the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”

“The United Nations Human Rights Council, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and members of the international community should urgently put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to end serious violations and abuses of human rights and threats to the rule of law in Nigeria.”

State Pension Laws: Court Orders FG To Recover Money Collected By Former Governors

Court To Decide Certificate Case Against Buhari Today

 

Former governors now serving as ministers and members of the National Assembly may have to refund money they have collected as Pensions since leaving office as state chief executives.

This is because a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the Federal Government to recover the funds and also directed the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other public officials to collect such pensions.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) disclosed this in a statement signed on Wednesday by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare.

The rights group also disclosed this in series of tweets on their official Twitter handle.

Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo delivered the judgement following an application for an order of mandamus brought by the SERAP.

Justice Oguntoyinbo had disagreed with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice who had maintained that the states’ laws duly passed cannot be challenged.

She insisted that the Attorney General should be interested in the legality or validity of any law in Nigeria and how such laws affect or will affect Nigerians

In the words of Justice Oguntoyinbo, “the attorney general is hereby directed to urgently institute appropriate legal actions to challenge the legality of states’ laws permitting former governors, who are now senators and ministers to enjoy governors’ emoluments while drawing normal salaries and allowances in their new political offices and to identify those involved and seek full recovery of public funds from the former governors.”

The judgement comes against the backdrop of the recent decision of the Zamfara State House of Assembly abolishing the pension for former governors and other public officers in the state.

The enactment of the pension laws had attracted condemnation from Nigerians who have described it the trend as outrageous and morally indefensible by the former government officials.

SERAP Sues FG Over ‘Failed’ Chinese $460m Abuja CCTV Project

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, over an alleged failure to “disclose information and specific documents on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China.

The sum was said to have been obtained to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project, which SERAP described as failure.

It is also suing the government for its alleged failure to name the contractors involved, and is asking them to explain why they have continued to re-pay the loan, among other things.

See the full statement below.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning over failure to “disclose information and specific documents on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the apparently failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project, and failure to name the contractors involved and explain why the government has continued to re-pay the loan.”

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019 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/or compel the Minister of Finance to disclose the details of local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the failed Abuja CCTV project as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.”

SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel the Minister of Finance to disclose whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira paid in 2010 for the failed project meant to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB) was part of another loan obtained from China, and to clarify further whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira mobilsation fee for the construction of the Headquarters of the CCB in Abuja was part of another loan from China.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated 25 October 2019 to Mrs Ahmed, expressing: “concern that Nigerians are being made to pay for the Chinese loans for failed and abandoned projects, and for which they have not benefited in any way, shape or form.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Opeyemi Owolabi and Ms Atinuke Adejuyigbe, read in part: “Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.”

“The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure under the Act. The Respondent has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested.”

“Democracy cannot flourish if governments operate in secrecy. The citizens are entitled to know how the commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting.”

“By the combined provisions of Sections 1; 2; 3(4); 4; 7(1)&(5); 9; 14(2)(b); 19(2); 20 of the FoI Act, 2011, among other provisions; SERAP’s right of access to information is guaranteed and there is a statutory obligation on the Respondent, being public officer, to proactively keep, organize and maintain all information or records about her ministry’s operations, personnel, activities and other relevant or related information or records in a manner that facilitates public access to such information or record.”

“By virtue of 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 agency 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.”

“The Respondent is an appointee of the President of Nigeria and head of the Ministry of Finance. Her official duties include; collecting and disbursing government revenue, formulating policies on management of the Federal Government’s finance, preparing annual budget and accounts for ministries, departments and agencies and managing federal debt.”

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly 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. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm; it is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules to regulate matters”

The FoI request read in part: “As trustee of public funds, SERAP contends that your Ministry has a legal duty to disclose details of spending on the $460 million Abuja CCTV project and N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so. Any failure or refusal to provide the information will also be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the FoI Act.”

“Servicing Chinese loans for failed projects is double jeopardy for Nigerians—they can neither see nor benefit from the projects; yet, they are made to pay both the loans and the accrued interests.”

“The $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen, and in any case, remain unaccounted for.”

“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from China are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

The suit is seeking the following reliefs:

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide and make available to the Applicant information on the total amount of money paid to contractors, with specific details of names of companies local contractors involved, from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China by the Federal Government of Nigeria to fund the Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract.

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of Mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide the details of the local companies and Chinese contractors that have received funds from the $460 million loan for the finance of the Abuja CCTV contract as well as details of the status of implementation of the project.

AN ORDER granting leave to the Applicant to apply for judicial review and to seek an order of Mandamus directing and compelling the Respondent to provide details clarifying whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira paid in 2010 for the failed contract meant to construct the headquarters of the CCB was part of another loan obtained from China, and to clarify further whether the sum of N1.5 billion Naira mobilsation fee reportedly paid to the contractors for the construction of the Headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau in Abuja was part of another loan from China.

AND FOR SUCH FURTHER ORDER(S) the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.

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

SERAP Sues Buhari, NASS, Others ‘Over Failure To Account For Security Votes Since 1999’

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit in the Federal High Court, Abuja “seeking leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate president Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to disclose details of allocations, disbursement and spending of security votes by the Federal Government, 36 state governors and 774 local governments between 1999 and 2019.”

The suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1369/2019 and filed last Friday followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information requests and “the respondents’ failure to account for some N241.2 billion of public funds allocated, disbursed and spent yearly as security votes, and the corresponding lack of effective protection of the rights to security and welfare, life and physical integrity of millions of Nigerians.”

Others joined as parties in the suit are: Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation and Mr Anthony Ayine, Auditor General for the Federation.

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According to SERAP: “Nigerians have the constitutional and international human right to know details of the exact amounts that have been spent as security votes and specific areas and projects covered by the allocations, disbursement and spending. There is overriding public interest in Nigerians having access to these details, and the respondents have legal obligations to facilitate public access to such information.”

SERAP also argued that: “Constitutional provisions requiring governments to ensure the security and welfare of the people are intended to protect the security and safety of citizens and not the security of a few individuals in government. Without transparency and accountability, the mismanagement and corruption in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes will continue with devastating consequences.”

The suit filed by SERAP’s lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “The respondents have a legal duty to proactively record, keep and disclose information in respect of allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes without waiting for SERAP to request for such information. They are also required to maintain and publish documents containing information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public funds.”

“Public officials receiving and spending security votes ought to come clean with Nigerians on how exactly these public funds are spent. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes as a tool for self-enrichment.”

“The suit is seeking to offer governments at all levels an important opportunity to be transparent and accountable with the exercise of their discretionary powers in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes. The public interest in the disclosure of these details outweighs any private interest the respondents may be seeking to protect.”

“The right to know allows Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption, which is entirely consistent with the government’s own anti-corruption strategy to encourage citizens’ involvement in the fight against corruption. Access to information on details of security votes will ultimately foster security, sustainable peace, and development of democratic institutions across the country.”

“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. The citizens are entitled to know how their commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society.”

“The huge financial resources budgeted for security votes by successive governments have not matched the security realities in the country, especially given the level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in many parts of the country, which seem to suggest massive political use, mismanagement or stealing of security votes by many governments.”

“As revealed by a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen. It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2 billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.”

SERAP is therefore seeking the following reliefs:

A declaration that the failure of the Respondents to provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) allocated and disbursed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019 is illegal and constitutes a breach of the Applicant’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.

An Order of Mandamus directing and/or compelling the Respondents to urgently compile and provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019.

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.

LG Funds: SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Governors, Chairmen

SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Bribery Allegation Against Ganduje

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Muhammadu Buhari to probe how the funds allocated monthly to the 774 local governments in the country are being spent.

It made the request in a letter dated November 1 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

SERAP asked the President to order the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to urgently investigate corruption allegations in the use of the monies.

It also sought investigations into the alleged complicity of some state governors in corruption cases involving local government allocations between 1999 and 2019.

The organisation urged that in the case where there was relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, suspected perpetrators should be prosecuted by relevant agencies and stolen public funds be recovered.

It explained that the letter to the President became necessary following the arrest of 16 local government chairmen in Kwara State by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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“Investigating state governors and local government chairmen over allegations of corruption and abuse of power in the use of federal allocations meant to provide public goods and services would best serve the general public interests and welfare.

“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 group said.

It explained that its request was based on the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), the country’s anti-corruption legislation and international obligations, particularly the UN Convention against Corruption.

According to SERAP, Section 7(6)(a) of the Constitution anticipates the allocation of public revenue to the 774 local governments in the country.

It added that the proposed investigations and prosecution do not offend the constitutional principles of the federation in any way, shape or form.

Part of the letter read:

Section 15(5) of the Constitution requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, regardless of where such practices are taking place in Nigeria.”

Over N15 trillion of federal allocations meant for provision of public goods and services by local governments have been allegedly mismanaged or pocketed by state governments, local council chairmen, and the authorities of the Federal Capital Territory in the last 12 years.

As the Supreme Court of Nigeria once correctly stated, ‘Corruption is not a disease which afflicts public officers alone but society as a whole. If it is therefore to be eradicated effectively, the solution to it must be pervasive to cover every segment of the society. Corrupt practices and abuse of power can, if not checked threaten the peace, order and good government of Nigeria or any part thereof.’

’Corruption is a national malaise which must be tackled by the government of the Federal Republic. The disastrous consequences of the evil practice of corruption have taken this nation into the list of the most corrupt nations on earth.’

Public schools and clinics across the 774 local governments in several states have been left to crumble and wither away, with ordinary citizens made to pay the price for the decay of those vital public services.

The failure to act as recommended would leave a doubt in the public mind about your government’s commitment to rid Nigeria of corruption.

The use of federal allocations has been characterized by allegations of waste, opacity and misappropriation, thereby undermining the ability of state and local governments to provide public goods and services such as health, education and water.

Immunity From Investigation

Corruption in Nigeria will remain if relevant federal authorities and agencies continue to fail to stem corruption in state and local governments.

Local governments across the country rarely get the exact federal allocations meant for them as the allocations are allegedly mismanaged or misappropriated by state governments.

Despite the country’s oil wealth, millions of Nigerians continue to live in extreme poverty, as funds that state and local governments could have spent on basic health care, education and clean water have instead been mismanaged or stolen.

SERAP, therefore, believes that anyone involved in alleged corrupt practices and abuse of power including at the state and local government levels should be promptly, thoroughly and effectively investigated and prosecuted if there is relevant and admissible evidence of corruption, and stolen public funds recovered both to provide public goods and services to ordinary citizens and to serve as deterrent.

State governors do not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any criminal allegation against any sitting governor can and should be investigated pending the time the governor leaves office and loses immunity.

The findings of such investigation can also be the basis for initiating impeachment proceedings against the governors.

SERAP hopes that you will exercise your constitutional powers to promote transparency and accountability and stop corruption in the use of federal allocations to state and local governments across the country.

The constitutional authority by federal authorities and agencies to fight corruption and ensure the peace, order and good government extend to any part of the country, as contained in the Exclusive Legislative List in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Nigerian constitution.

The EFCC also reportedly probed how N11 million was allegedly taken by each of 33 former local government caretaker chairmen, which was spent to secure Oyo State against incursion by Boko Haram insurgents during the 2015 general elections.

The money was allegedly disbursed from the Local Government Stabilization Account to each of the 33 local government areas of the state.

SERAP Writes Trump, Seeks Travel Ban For Governors Jailing Journalists, Others

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the US President Donald Trump asking him to exercise his constitutional powers “pursuant to the Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 to instruct the US Secretary of State and US Ambassador in Nigeria to temporarily ban Nigerian state governors and other senior public officials misusing the criminal justice system to jail journalists, bloggers and activists reporting on allegations of corruption from entering the US.”

SERAP also urged Mr Trump to “use Presidential Proclamation 8697 (which allows the US Department of State to deny visas to foreign officials, their families and friends) who participate in serious human rights violations and other abuses such as misusing the criminal justice system to jail journalists, bloggers and activists to prevent them from reporting on allegations of corruption and other related cases.”

The letter followed SERAP’s report titled “A Downward Spiral: How Federal and State Authorities are Tightening the Screws on Media Freedom in Nigeria” and launched today in Lagos.

In the letter dated 30 October 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Democracy demands ‘maximum disclosure’ of all government held information, and this won’t happen without respect for media freedom and the citizens’ rights to know. Undue restrictions on media freedom and the right to know would imply nothing short of abrogation of the ideals of democracy and good governance. Citizens’ right to know is vital for social welfare and other human rights.”

SERAP also said, “Media freedom and the right of citizens to know constitute a crucial bulwark of democracy. It is essential for the general progress of a democratic society if people are to effectively monitor their government’s affairs and democratically participate in the running of society, they must have access to government-held information, which the media should be allowed to freely report.”

READ ALSO: SERAP Seeks Details Of Spending On Failed $460m CCTV, Other Chinese Loans

SERAP’s report documents the increasing cases of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detention and deaths of journalists, bloggers and other media workers while carrying out their legitimate work

SERAP’s letter read in part: “Specifically, the report documents cases of attacks on journalists, bloggers and activists reporting on allegations of corruption and related matters in the following states of Nigeria: Cross River state; Abia state; Ebonyi state; Kano state; Jigawa state; Bauchi state; and Kaduna state.”

“Also, 109 journalists were attacked between 2010 and 2015, and several more journalists, bloggers, radio and TV stations and activists have been targeted since 2015. At least 36 attacks on journalists were recorded between January and July 2019 alone, 30 of the attacks happening during the 2019 general elections.”

“The attacks and harassment include arbitrary arrests and detention, physical attacks and even deaths. In 2018, at least 45 radio and TV stations were sanctioned by the authorities on unfounded allegations of breaching some codes of conduct.”

“Proactive initiatives to protect media freedom and human rights that would invariably contribute to transparency and accountability globally have always been in the best long-term interests of the US. Your application of targeted sanctions would reaffirm US commitments to human rights, and media freedom and help to supplement the criminal justice in Nigeria and be entirely consistent with the US international obligations.

“SERAP believes that your government’s imposition of targeted sanctions against those accused of misusing the criminal justice system to attack, intimidate, harass and jail journalists, bloggers and activists in Nigeria would help to deter other state governments, governors and other senior public officials from limiting the enjoyment of Nigerians’ right to information about what their government is doing in their names.”

“Such sanctions would not violate due process and presumption of innocence principles, as long as the reasons for the sanctions are communicated to those that may be affected, as what is recommended is a temporary travel ban. We argue that the imposition of temporary travel bans on public officials complicit in violation of media freedom and preventing reporting of allegations of corruption is a preventive and not punitive measure.”

“SERAP therefore urges you to apply the presidential proclamations 7750 and 8697 as instruments of foreign policy to promote targeted sanctions against state governments, governors and other senior public officials in Nigeria, just as the US has for many years applied targeted sanctions, including imposing travel restrictions on systematic violations of human rights.”

“SERAP believes that applying presidential proclamations 7750 and 8697 as recommended would be very helpful to Nigeria’s efforts to protect media freedom, improve transparency and accountability and generally ensure full respect for the human rights of journalists, bloggers and activists across Nigeria. It would also facilitate equivalent visa bans in other globally desirable locations as well.”

“SERAP hopes that you will exercise your constitutional powers to promote human rights, media freedom, transparency and accountability in Nigeria.”

“SERAP also notes that Presidential Proclamations 7750 and 8697 underscore the important role of the media in the establishment of legitimate and transparent public institutions to world stability, peace, and development.”

“The proclamations note the US ‘enduring commitment to respect for human rights and humanitarian law’, which requires that its Government be able to ensure that the US does not become a safe haven for suspected violators of human rights and other abuses. They also aim to help the US authorities to secure peace, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, and strengthen democracies around the globe.”

“Significantly, the Presidential Proclamations underscore that it is in the interests of the United States to take action to restrict the international travel and to suspend the entry into the United States, as immigrants or non-immigrants, of certain persons who are suspected to be involved in serious violations of human rights, humanitarian law and other abuses.”

SERAP Seeks Details Of Spending On Failed $460m CCTV, Other Chinese Loans

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has requested for details of the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the ‘failed’ Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract.

According to a statement signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the FoI request was sent to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

SERAP also sought: “disclosure of details of repayment for other Chinese loans for allegedly failed projects between 1999-2015, the status of any such projects, and details of local and Chinese contractors involved in the projects.

The group further stated that it would take legal action if the requested information is not provided within the next 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter.

Read the full statement below.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, asking her to “urgently provide information on the total amount of money paid to contractors from the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the apparently failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) contract, the loan which the Federal Government has continued to re-pay.”

SERAP urged Mrs Ahmed to “disclose specific details of local contractors, if any, that have received funds from the loan for the CCTV contract, reportedly awarded to China’s ZTE Corporation, as well as the implementation status of the project.”

SERAP also sought: “disclosure of details of repayment for other Chinese loans for allegedly failed projects between 1999–2015, the status of any such projects, and details of local and Chinese contractors involved in the projects.

We urge you to clarify if the N1.5 billion paid in 2010 for another apparently failed contract to construct the headquarters of the Code of Conduct Bureau is part of another Chinese loan.”

In the FoI request dated 25 October 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “We are concerned that Nigerians are being made to pay for the Chinese loans for apparently failed projects, and for which they have not benefited in any way, shape or form.

Transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.”

SERAP said it would take legal action “if the requested information is not provided to us within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

SERAP said: “Servicing Chinese loans for failed projects is double jeopardy for Nigerians—they can neither see nor benefit from the projects; yet, they are made to pay both the loans and the accrued interests.

The loans should never have been obtained in the first place, as successive governments should have drawn funds from the over $670 million (N241.2 billion) budgeted annually as security votes, but which remain synonymous with official corruption and unaccounted for.”

The organization expressed “concern that the $460 million loan got for the failed Abuja CCTV project and the N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, which may be part of another Chinese loan, may have been mismanaged or stolen, and in any case, remain unaccounted for.”

The FoI request read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the allegations of corruption involving the use of the funds and other similar Chinese loans may be responsible for the security challenges confronting Abuja, and the limited capacity of the CCB to discharge its constitutional and statutory mandates to prevent corruption in asset declarations of presidents, vice-presidents, governors, and other public officers, as prescribed by the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended).”

“As trustee of public funds, SERAP contends that your Ministry has a legal duty to disclose details of spending on the $460 million Abuja CCTV project and N1.5 billion for the construction of CCB headquarters, to the beneficiaries (Nigerians) of the trust, if and when called upon to do so. Any failure or refusal to provide the information will also be clearly inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the FoI Act.”

“If the allegations of mismanagement and corruption in the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China are true, such allegations will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anticorruption obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. The facts relating to these serious allegations require your immediate and urgent disclosure and clarifications.”

“As a key agency of government, the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has a sacred duty to ensure that the country’s loans including those obtained from China are transparently and accountably used solely for the purposes for which the loans are obtained, and for the effective development of public goods and services as well as the general public interests.”

“This implies providing strong leadership in the efforts to curb public sector corruption, and to refer to appropriate anticorruption agencies any allegations of corruption in which any agencies of government and/or contractors may be involved. This leadership is important if the Ministry is to enjoy the public trust and confidence essential for its effectiveness and impact.”

“We would like you to clarify if the N1.5 billion mobilisation fee reportedly paid in September 2010 to contractors for the construction of the headquarters of the CCB in Abuja is part of another loan obtained from China.”

“We are concerned that the CCB building project is still in foundation level several years after payment of N1.5 billion of the total contract fee of N3.5billion. However, the contract was reportedly reviewed in October 2012 from N3.5 billion to N8.7 billion, with the contract agreement signed on February 5, 2013.”

“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, education and administrative services. Another consequence of corruption is the growing inequality in the country, where the privileged few have access to all public resources, while the vast majority of citizens are deprived of access to public goods and services.”

“Also, corruption undermines economic development of the country, trapping the majority of Nigerians in poverty and depriving them of employment opportunities.”

SERAP, therefore, urged Mrs Ahmed to:

1. Disclose the total amounts of money, if any, that have been paid/released for the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China;

2. Compel the contractors and companies including Chinese companies that have been paid from the loans to go back to sites and urgently complete the projects;

3. Suspend repayment of any Chinese loans until there are specific guarantees by local and Chinese contractors and companies that transparency and accountability will be ensured in the execution of the affected projects;

4. Disclose the amount of interests so far paid on the loans obtained for the project which have allegedly not been fully, properly or satisfactorily executed;

5. Refer any allegations of corruption involving the execution of projects for which loans have been obtained from China to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for investigation;

6. Ensure that anyone involved in alleged corruption in projects supported by China is brought to justice if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence;

7. Set up processes and procedures to safeguard Chinese loans and mitigate corruption risks in the spending of the loans and to promote fair and free competition, consistent with Nigeria’s anti-corruption legal frameworks and international standards.

SERAP Asks EFCC, ICPC To Investigate MDAs Over Recruitment Sandals

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) have been asked to “jointly carry out a prompt, thorough, transparent and effective investigation into allegations that principal officers and members of the Nigerian Senate are using their official positions to get job slots from government agencies.”

The call was made by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) in a petition dated 18 October 2019 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

SERAP also urged the anti-corruption agencies to: “probe allegations that some ministries, departments, and agencies are selling the employment slots at their disposal, with a single slot being allegedly sold for as much as N1.5 million.

“We urge you to prosecute anyone suspected to be involved should you consider there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, and to make public the outcome of any investigation.

“These allegations show the face of public recruitment in Nigeria in recent decades, which has typically been that of political influence, cronyism, patronage, and corruption. The allegations amount to a fundamental breach of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the country’s anti-corruption legislation and international obligations, particularly article 7 of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

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The letter copied to the chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Itse Sagay, read in part: “SERAP urges you to invite the principal officers and members of the Senate and government agencies allegedly involved for interrogation and questioning, and to prosecute them if your investigation indicates relevant and sufficient admissible evidence. This would show your agencies’ willingness to proactively exert your mandates and act as a deterrent against breaches of Nigeria’s constitution, anti-corruption legislation, and international standards.”

SERAP also alleged that “The leadership of the Senate allegedly received 100 employment slots from FIRS to share among themselves. The Senate President Ahmad Lawan (Yobe North) allegedly secured 26 job slots from the FIRS.”

Meanwhile, the statement also quoted the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character, Danjuma La’ah, reportedly saying that: We are aware that some of the agencies are selling the employment slots at their disposal. They are commercialising employment, selling a single slot for as much as N1.5m when we have children who have graduated from tertiary institutions who could not get any job for many years. Some people are just taking Nigerians for granted. Our children are suffering, running from one end to another, looking for jobs.”

Withdraw Life Pensions For Ex-Officials, SERAP Tells Abuja Council Chairman

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mr Abdullahi Candido, to withdraw the bill seeking payment of life pensions to former chairmen, vice-chairmen, speakers and other officials of AMAC.

According to a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the human rights group issued a 14-day ultimatum for the withdrawal of the bill.

In an open letter dated October 11 and addressed to Candido, it described the payment of such money as unconstitutional and illegal.

It said, “If the bill/edict is not withdrawn within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter, we will take all appropriate legal action to challenge the illegality and to compel you to comply with our request.

SERAP disclosed that under the bill, AMAC’s past council chairmen would receive an annual pension of N500,000 while former vice chairmen are to receive N300,000 each and former speakers will be paid N200,000 each.

It added that the payment of life pensions would cost the council several millions of naira of taxpayers’ money annually.

“The payment of life pensions to the council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would cause massive financial crisis and cripple the council’s ability to discharge its mandates of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja.

“It would also put in jeopardy citizens’ access to those services,” the group decried.

SERAP believes payment of life pensions to AMAC’s officials undermines the concept of representative government.

It insisted that such action was a flagrant violation of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 and the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act.

The group said it also amounts to an abuse of official power, position, and resources for personal gains, and reverses the notion of government as the public’s servant and not its master.

The letter read: The payment of life pensions to AMAC’s former officials is a copycat of the unconstitutional and illegal life pension laws that have been passed by several of the 36 state governments in Nigeria.

Your council is setting a bad precedent as the first local council in Nigeria to introduce life pensions for its officials.

This would send a dangerous message to other councils and risks opening the floodgates of life pension bills/edicts in several of the 774 local governments across the country.

Rather than spending millions of taxpayers’ money on life pensions, your leadership should prioritise addressing the poor state of basic amenities and deficits in educational institutions, primary healthcare facilities, potable water, sanitation and the basic infrastructural needs of the residents within the council’s area.

The leadership of AMAC ought to be exercised for the purposes of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja and not to grant personal benefits for past officials.

The AMAC is constitutionally and statutorily obliged to act in the public interest.

Implementing the edict would defeat the very purpose for which your council is established, that is, to provide public goods and services.

Granting life pensions to council’s chairmen, vice-chairmen and speakers would seriously undermine the accountability of the council and citizens’ trust in its leadership.

People have the right to honest and faithful performance by public officials, who are under a fiduciary duty to the public.

And no public officer should put himself/herself in a position in which his/her personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.

That is exactly the case with the life pensions.

The public trust to AMAC leaders and officials is not without its corresponding burden: accountability to the public is the obligation of all who hold public offices, including the position of chairman of AMAC.

This notion of accountability requires you to take immediate steps to withdraw the life pensions bill/edict.

You reportedly stated that the payment of life pensions was meant to ‘honour past heroes of the council who sacrificed their talents and energy in building the council.

This is to celebrate Nigeria’s 59th independence anniversary as well as celebrate the 35th anniversary since AMAC’s creation.

It would be a disservice if the past leaders and ambassadors of the council are not honoured.

Sowore: SERAP Writes CJN, Calls For Respect For Citizens’ Rights

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, asking him to urgently develop measures to stop state and federal governments from using “the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights”.

The letter dated October 4, 2019, and signed by the SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, was in reaction to the ongoing trial of the convener of the #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore.

According to SERAP, the NJC should ensure that when the authorities disobey court orders and suppress human rights, they are not allowed to come to the court and seek reliefs until they purge their contempt. Otherwise, “the justice system and the Nigerian constitution become a solemn mockery”.

Read the full statement below.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent an open letter to Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman, National Judicial Council (NJC), urging him to use his offices and leadership of the NJC to “urgently develop measures and issue directives to all courts to respond to the disturbing trends by state governments and Federal Government to use the court as a tool to suppress citizens’ human rights.”

SERAP said: “Across the country, state governors and federal government are charging citizens, mostly journalists, bloggers and activists, with serious crimes such as ‘treason’, ‘treasonable felony’ or bogus crime of ‘insulting public officials’, simply for exercising their human rights.”

In the letter dated 4 October 2019 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “These charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions seem to be dangerous manipulation of judicial authority and functions by high-ranking politicians, something which the NJC and the judiciary under your watch should resist.”

SERAP also said: “In the climate of a growing clampdown on human rights of journalists and activists by several state governments and federal government, the NJC ought to push back and act as protector of individuals’ rights against abuses by the authorities.

We believe that the courts, not the state government or federal government, should have the final say in matters of citizens’ human rights.”

According to the organization, “The NJC should ensure that when the authorities disobey court orders and suppress human rights, they are not allowed to come to the court and seek reliefs until they purge their contempt.


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Otherwise, the justice system and the Nigerian constitution become a solemn mockery.”

The letter, copied to Mr. Diego GARCÍA-SAYÁN, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, read in part: “If the practice by state governments and federal government is allowed to continue, the courts will be relegated to desuetude, and will lead to arbitrary and unrestricted power as well as further suppression of citizens’ human rights.”

“It is essential for the NJC to issue directives to all courts to promptly consider on the face of the papers filed by the authorities whether the charges brought against journalists, bloggers and activists are truly based on facts or fabricated to secure indefinite detention of citizens with judicial authority.”

“In several cases, journalists, bloggers and activists have either been denied bail, as it is the case with journalist Agba Jalingo, or granted bail with stringent conditions that implicitly violate human rights, as it is the case with journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare.

In all of such cases, the alleged offences are not constitutionally and internationally recognizable.”

“It is important for the judiciary to exercise all the judicial power placed in its hands by the constitution with firm determination and to guard against encroachments on that power by either the state governments or the federal government.”

“Even during many years of military dictatorship when the constitution was suspended and with it, Nigerians’ fundamental rights, the judiciary was still able to play an important role in securing protection of individuals’ rights and rejecting any forms of executive rascality by drawing on a variety of sources, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

“The return of democracy in 1999 gave rise to a legitimate public expectation that the NJC and the judiciary would be more active and proactive in enforcing the fundamental rights of Nigerians and pushing back in cases of violations and abuses of those rights, for the sake of the Nigerian constitution of 1999 (as amended) and as a step forward for increased accountability and greater integrity in government.”

“Nigerians now have a high degree of scepticism about the ability of the authorities at the state and federal levels to protect their human rights. We urge you to ensure that the NJC and the judiciary consistently demonstrate their original and sacred functions of standing between government and the governed.”

“Charging citizens for crimes of treason and treasonable felony or ‘insult’ simply for exercising their human rights shows the authorities’ lack of commitment to protecting the human rights of all Nigerians, particularly those who perform critical roles and contribute to strengthening and sustaining the Nigerian democratic system.”

“No government should have the power to use the courts as a tool of overriding the rights of individuals. The NJC has a responsibility to ensure that the courts play a central role in enforcing fundamental rights, and ensuring that the authorities do not use the courts as a tool to charge citizens with crimes, which are not constitutionally and internationally recognizable, simply for exercising their human rights.”

“Democracy requires some protection of the weak from the strong. The NJC ought to push for courts’ activism in the area of human rights, especially at this time when the authorities are regularly clamping down on citizens’ human rights. This will enhance democracy, the rule of law, and will be entirely consistent with the constitutional role of the judiciary.”

“Human rights and constitutional principles are fundamental and it is the role of an independent judiciary to give effect to those rights and principles, within the rule of law.”

“We believe that the NJC can ensure that the courts are better protectors of human rights than the executive at state and federal levels can ever be. Indeed, Nigerians including journalists, bloggers and activists require protection from both the state governments and federal government.”

“We believe that it is only an independent and courageous judiciary that can ensure full respect for the human rights of those brought before the courts by the authorities.”

“Agba Jalingo, journalist and publisher of the online CrossRiverWatch, is charged with treason over a report about an alleged diversion of N500 million by the Cross River governor, Ben Ayade.

According to our information, a Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, Cross River State, and presided over by Justice Simon Amobeda on October 4 2019 denied him bail. He was handcuffed to another inmate when he appeared in court.”

“Similarly, journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare are facing trial on seven counts of treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari, simply for exercising their human rights.”

“Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Sowore and Bakare bail but imposed stringent conditions that implicitly violate their constitutional rights to personal liberty, presumption of innocence, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your action by ensuring that the NJC is able to urgently respond to the threats to judicial independence and authority highlighted above. We would be happy to provide further information or to discuss any of these issues in more detail with you.”

Kolawole Oluwadare
SERAP Deputy Director
6/10/2019
Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Urges Buhari To Implement Report On Financial Autonomy For Judiciary

SERAP Threatens To Sue UI, AAUA Over Increased Fees

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to use his good offices and leadership position to “urgently publish and fully implement the recommendations of the report on financial autonomy of state legislature and judiciary submitted to you in June 2019.”

SERAP said: “In the context of a growing attack on the country’s judiciary by the authorities and politicians, the full implementation of the report will contribute to improving judicial independence, and respect for constitutional principles of separation of powers and systems of checks and balances designed to prevent political interference and ensure respect for the rule of law.”

In the letter dated 27 September 2019, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Equal treatment before the law is a pillar of democratic societies. But when judicial financial autonomy and by extension, independence and sanctity is undermined, the scales of justice are tipped, and ordinary Nigerians suffer. In fact, when judicial autonomy and independence is under siege, everyone loses, as the voice of the innocent goes unheard, while the guilty continue to act with impunity.”

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The letter read in part: “The failure to publish the full recommendations of the report and to begin to implement them has continued to undermine the country’s judicial systems, and deny citizens’ access to justice and basic human right to a fair and impartial justice system.”

“Ensuring the financial autonomy and independence of the courts would improve the ability of our judicial systems to deliver justice effectively and efficiently. It would also allow the court to jealously guard the rights of innocent men and women, and ensure that the guilty receive a fair and impartial hearing, as well as remove the dangerous possibility of summary justice.”

“We urge you to ensure full respect for the rule of law and due process in words and actions.”

“A financially autonomous judiciary is crucial for the effectiveness and success of your anti-corruption agenda, and important for the realization of citizens’ human rights. Unless the report is fully implemented, trust in the court’s impartiality and independence will continue to be eroded, and the core judicial functions, access to justice, and the broader accountability function of the judiciary, will continue to be undermined.”

“A weak judiciary would mean that impunity for corrupt officials will remain, as the ability of your government and anti-corruption agencies to prosecute grand corruption, as well as public trust and confidence in institutions of government and public officials, will continue to be undermined.”

“SERAP is extremely concerned about the growing attack on the independence of the judiciary and the sanctity of our justice system, particularly the repeated failures by your government, state governments and politicians to respect and comply with court decisions and orders.”

“SERAP notes that you received in June 2019 the Report of the Abubakar Malami-led Presidential Implementation Committee on Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and Judiciary. The committee, inaugurated by you on March 22, 2019 was tasked to fashion out strategies and modalities for implementation of the financial autonomy of the state legislature and judiciary, in compliance with Section 121 (3) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

“When you received the report, you stated that, ‘I went through a terrible time getting here for the three times I contested elections. That is why I want to stabilise the system so that others will not pass through the same experience.’”

“This worrying situation threatens to undermine the judiciary’s fragile independence, and the sacred constitutional principles of separation of powers and systems of checks and balances.”

“Continuing refusal to respect and obey court decisions and orders if not urgently stopped will lead to increased corruption and impunity. Disobedience of court orders is an implicit interference in the judicial system, and shows a flagrant disregard for Nigeria’s Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international obligations. Persistent disobedience of court orders and decisions threatens any gains in the fight against corruption that your government may have recorded.”

“SERAP is concerned about the growing list of court orders and decisions that have been flagrantly disobeyed by your government, the most recent being the order by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, Federal High Court, Abuja granting bail to the Publisher of SaharaReporters, Mr. Omoyele Sowore, and the reported attempts by your government to drag Justice Taiwo before National Judicial Council (NJC) on account of his decision to grant bail to Mr Sowore.”

“Other high-profile judgments your government is refusing to obey include at least three judgments obtained by SERAP. The first is the judgment by Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari ordering the government to tell Nigerians about the stolen asset it allegedly recovered, with details of the amounts recovered. The second judgment, by Justice Mohammed Idris, ordered the government to publish details on the spending of stolen funds recovered by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.”

“The third judgment, Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor, a Professor of Law, ordered the government to publish details of payments to all defaulting and allegedly corrupt electricity contractors and companies by the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, former President Goodluck Jonathan, and your government.”

“Another court order that is yet to be complied with is the order for the release of Islamic Movement of Nigeria leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenah, from unlawful detention, obtained by human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana.”