SERAP Writes INEC, Seeks Details Of Financial Transactions Of Political Parties

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “widely publish the reports on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party submitted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to the National Assembly since 2015.”

SERAP urged him to “urgently examine the books and records of financial transactions of political parties, and to make public the outcome of any such examination.”

SERAP also urged him to “provide details of the guidelines, and steps that INEC is taking to prevent vote buying in the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun states and 2023 general elections, and to prosecute vote buyers and other electoral offenders.”

Recently, the All Progressives Congress (APC) collected N100 million for its presidential form while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) collected N40 million for its presidential form for the 2023 election. Some leading political parties and politicians also spend between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes.

READ ALSO: SERAP Sues Buhari For Spending N1.48 Trillion On Maintaining Refineries With No Crude Oil

In the letter dated 21 May, 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Nigerians have the right to know about the accounts and financial transactions of their political parties, especially the major parties with a strong possibility to assume government in the future.”

According to SERAP, “transparency and accountability of political parties is important to achieve greater transparency in public life, curb the influence of money in politics, promote a level playing field, and remove the risks to the independence of political actors and would-be public office holders.”

SERAP also said, “It is both immoral and illegal to pay citizens to vote for a particular political party or candidate. Unpunished cases of vote buying and related electoral offences would continue to undermine good governance, the rule of law, moral values, as well as hinder citizens’ participation in elections.”

The letter, read in part: “When a political candidate decides to buy the support of the people rather than contest fairly for their votes, there are possibilities that such candidate will show a disregard for democratic rules and a disposition to adopt illegal means becomes inevitable.”

“Vote buying and related electoral offences encourage poor governance and weaken citizens’ capacity to hold their elected officials accountable for their actions.”

“SERAP urges you to urgently take measures and to collaborate with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to ensure the effective prosecution of any outstanding cases of vote buying and related electoral offences allegedly committed in the context of the 2019 general elections.”

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

“The lack of transparency and accountability in political finance is seriously undermining the legitimacy and credibility of the democratic and electoral processes, and invariably contributing to denying the citizens the right to effective participation in their own government.”

“The failure of political parties to comply with transparency and accountability frameworks would undermine citizens’ trust in their political parties and lack of trust will inevitably destroy confidence in the system and decrease citizens’ interest and participation in the democratic process.”

“Elections are only one part of the democratic process, and a fair and effective electoral system must be founded in an adequate democratic infrastructure and responsibility of political leaders.”

“According to our information, several political parties have for many years failed to submit their annual financial statements to INEC. Many political parties have failed to submit election expenses reports, and to disclose material contributions received from individuals and corporate bodies to the Commission.”

“The Commission has also been apparently unable or unwilling to monitor, examine and publish these financial statements.”

“Also, some leading political parties, politicians and other political actors reportedly paid between N250 to N14,000 to buy votes. For many years, allegations of vote buying (the payment of cash or gifts in exchange for voting) and related electoral offences have characterised elections and party primaries in the country.”

“SERAP is concerned that despite several provisions of the Electoral Act (as amended), anti-corruption laws, and the country’s international anti-corruption obligations, suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences frequently escape justice for their crimes.”

“However, INEC has consistently failed to exercise its powers and to provide the leadership that would promote collaboration with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to facilitate and ensure thorough, transparent and effective investigation of cases, and the arrest and prosecution of suspected perpetrators.”

“Section 86(1) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires every political party to submit to INEC a detailed annual statement of assets and liabilities and analysis of its sources of funds and other assets and statement of its expenditure. Failure to comply is an offence under Section 86(2), which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of six months or a fine of N1,000,000 or both.”

“Under Section 86(3)(4) INEC has the power to examine the records and audited accounts kept by any political party, and to publish the report on such examinations and audit in two national newspapers and Commission’s website within 30 days of receipt of the results.”

“Section 226 (1) of the Electoral Act 2022 also requires INEC to prepare and submit a report every year to the National Assembly on the accounts and balance sheet of every political party. Under Section 225(5), INEC has the power to give directions to political parties regarding their books or records of financial transactions.”

“The Nigerian Constitution and international standards guarantee and protect the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in general elections.”
“The right to vote freely for the political party and candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.”

“The effective exercise of the right of qualified Nigerians to have a voice in the election of those who make and enforce the laws under which, as good citizens, they live can contribute to the enjoyment of other human rights, including to corruption-free public services, freedom of expression and digital and data rights.”

“Public confidence in voting systems serves as an indispensable feature of a full and healthy democracy.”

“Persistent failure to arrest and prosecute suspected perpetrators of vote buying and related electoral offences may ultimately undermine public confidence, the integrity of the country’s elections, and lead to wide-spread disaffection with the electoral process.”

SERAP Sues Buhari For Spending N1.48 Trillion On Maintaining Refineries With No Crude Oil

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari “over his failure to probe allegations that over N1.48 trillion reportedly spent on maintaining the country’s four refineries between 2015 and 2020 may have been stolen, mismanaged or diverted into private pockets.”

The government reportedly spent N10.23 billion in June 2020 on three refineries that processed zero crude. Also in 2021, the government approved $1.5 billion (about N600 billion) to repair the Port Harcourt refinery. Despite the huge spending, the refineries are still not working while fuel scarcity persists.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/806/2022 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to investigate the spending on Nigeria’s refineries, and alleged mismanagement of public funds budgeted for maintaining the refineries since 1999.”

SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to ensure the prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible for the importation and distribution of dirty fuel into Nigeria and to identify and ensure access to justice and effective remedies to affected victims.

SERAP is arguing that “It is in the public interest to ensure justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, which has resulted in the importation and distribution of dirty fuel and protracted fuel scarcity in the country.”

According to SERAP, “Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and international standards impose clear obligations on the Buhari administration to take effective accountability measures to weed out, expose, and punish allegations of corruption in the oil sector, and to ensure effective remedies for victims.”

SERAP is also arguing that “Ensuring justice and accountability in the spending of public funds on refineries would improve the availability of petrol and the enjoyment by Nigerians of their right to natural wealth and resources.”

“Impunity for alleged corruption in the oil sector has contributed to the importation and distribution of bad fuel, violating the human rights of many users, including to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

“The Buhari administration has legal obligations under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power, and article 26 of the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure effective prosecution of allegations of corruption.

“Alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector and the importation and distribution of dirty fuel have continued to deprive Nigerians of economic opportunities, subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment.”

The commission is seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to instruct appropriate anti-corruption agencies to jointly track and monitor the spending of public funds to rehabilitate, operate, and maintain Nigeria’s refineries.”

Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Nigeria has made legally binding commitments under the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”

“Directing and compelling President Buhari to probe allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the money meant to repair the country’s refineries would advance the rights of victims of corruption to restitution, compensation and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“Combating the corruption epidemic in the oil sector would alleviate poverty, improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods and services, and enhance the ability of the government to meet its human rights and anti-corruption obligations.”

“Despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, ordinary Nigerians have derived very little benefit from their own natural wealth and resources, primarily because of widespread grand corruption, and the impunity of perpetrators.”

“High-ranking public officials, including officers of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited suspected of complicity in the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, and the importation and distribution of adulterated fuel have continued to enjoy impunity.”

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, the government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’ Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”

“Under article 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigerians have the ‘right to a general satisfactory environment favourable to their development.’”

“According to reports, petroleum products with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification were recently imported into the country.”

“The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reportedly stated that the methanol-blended petrol was imported into the country by a few suppliers through four premium motor spirit cargoes under its Direct Sales Direct Purchase (DSDP) arrangement.”

According to further reports, for every 200 litres of the adulterated product, 800 litres of petrol with good quality would be required for the blending to be done.

“The government spends over N264 billion annually to operate and maintain the country’s refineries. Successive governments have reportedly spent trillions of Naira to rehabilitate, operate and maintain the refineries that have produced little or no fuel.”

“The government reportedly spent $396 million for maintenance of the country’s refineries between 2015 and 2020 alone. Despite this huge spending, millions of Nigerians continue to lack access to a full and unhindered supply of fuel.”

“About N82.82 billion was reportedly spent in 2015; N78.95 billion in 2016; N604.127 billion in 2017; N426.66 billion in 2019; N218.18 billion in 2019, and N64.534 billion expenditure was recorded from January to June 2020.”

A date for the hearing of the suit is yet to be fixed.

SERAP Asks Court To Declare Ex-Govs Dariye, Nyame’s Pardon Illegal

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari for granting pardon to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame.

Dariye and Nyame were investigated, prosecuted, and convicted for stealing N1.16 billion and N1.6 billion respectively from their state treasuries, while they were in office between 1999 and 2007.

After leaving office in 2007, they were recently pardoned alongside 157 others convicted for various offences.

SERAP in the suit number fled last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, asked the court to “declare illegal, and incompatible with the oath of office, and public interest the recent pardon granted to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame who are serving jail terms for corruption.”

According to a statement issued on Sunday by the group’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, (SERAP) is asking the court for “a declaration that the exercise of the power of prerogative of mercy to grant pardon to Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame is compatible with the public interest, the oath of office, and constitutional duty to combat corruption.”

READ ALSO: Ibom Airlines Rejects Monday Shutdown, To Continue Operations

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “If the presidential pardon is not set aside, impunity for corruption will increase, and many influential politicians will continue to escape justice for their alleged crimes.

“It is in the interest of justice to set aside the pardon for Mr. Dariye and Mr Nyame. A presidential pardon for grand corruption cases is incompatible with the rule of law, as it undermines equality before the law.

“The pardon power ought not to be exercised to shield influential politicians and politically exposed persons from justice and accountability.”

SERAP is also asking the court for “an order directing and mandating President Buhari and future presidents to consider the public interest, the requirements of oath of office, and constitutional duty to combat corruption in any future exercise of the pardon power.”

SERAP is further arguing that “the presidential pardon power must be exercised in good faith, and in line with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution on fundamental rights.”

Joined in the suit as Defendant is Mr Abubakar Malami, (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “The pardon power, if properly exercised, can help to protect citizens against a possible miscarriage of justice.”

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

SERAP Sues Buhari For Failing To Protect, Rescue Kaduna Train Attack Victims

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari over “the failure to protect the rights to life, security, and dignity of the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack, and the failure to secure the safe release of those held captive by the terrorists.”

The suit followed reports that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) failed to approve funds for surveillance equipment that could have helped to prevent the train attack.

Terrorists had attacked the AK9 Abuja–Kaduna train on March 28, killing at least nine people, wounding several others, and abducting an unknown number of passengers.

The victims have remained with the terrorists for a month, despite repeated appeals for the government to free them from captivity.

In the suit No ECW/CCJ/APP/20/22 filed last week before the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja, SERAP is, therefore, seeking “a declaration that the train attack, abductions and killings of passengers by terrorists amount to a failure by the government to protect Nigerians, and to prevent these grave human rights violations.”

Read Also: Abuja-Kaduna Train Attack: ‘I Warned That Lives Will Be Lost’ – Amaechi

SERAP is also seeking “an order directing the Buhari government to protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of Nigerians, including travellers across the country, by ensuring adequate security and taking measures to prevent attacks.”

SERAP is seeking “an order directing the Buhari government to urgently find and identify all the passengers, victims and their families, and to pay adequate monetary compensation of N50 million to each of the passengers and victims and their families.”

In the suit filed together with an application for expedited hearing, SERAP is arguing that, “The Buhari government has a legal duty to protect individuals from real and immediate risks to their lives and security caused by actions of third parties such as terrorists.”

SERAP is also arguing that, “a fundamental notion of contemporary human rights law is that victims of violations such as the victims of the Abuja-Kaduna train attack enjoy an independent right to effective remedies. Rights without remedies are ineffectual, rendering illusory the government’s duty to protect such rights.”

According to SERAP, “the Buhari government has failed to protect the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed rights of the victims of the train attack to life, dignity and security, and their right to an effective remedy.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “the Buhari government is under a legal obligation to protect the life of every citizen in the country.”

“Remedies logically should be proportionate to the gravity of the harm or violations caused by the government and its agents or by terrorists or unknown perpetrators.”

“Human life has a special value and dignity which requires legal protection. It is the principle of international law, and even a general conception of law, that any breach of an engagement involves an obligation to make reparation.”

“The officials of the Buhari government have publicly stated that they knew or had information that an attack on the train was imminent but the government failed and/or neglected to take measures to prevent the train attack.”

“The government will still be held accountable for failing or neglecting to guarantee and protect human rights regardless of whether such violations are directly or indirectly attributable to the government or its officials.”

“The Buhari government has an obligation to promote and protect the rights to life, security and dignity. This obligation means that the government must create an enabling environment that facilitates the enjoyment of these rights by the people.”

“The failure of the Buhari government to protect and guarantee the rights to life, security, liberty and dignity of the passengers and victims of the train attack violates the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“The Buhari government and the Nigeria Railway Corporation had ignored several warnings in the past to take preventive measures to provide adequate security for the train services, and to suspend late rail services to prevent attack by terrorists and to ensure the security and safety of passengers.”

“Few days before the train attack, some terrorists had gained control of and entered the Kaduna airport in a daring attack. The Buhari government failed or refused to take preventive measures to ensure adequate security in the airport and its surrounding, and to prevent the attack on the train.”

SERAP is also asking the ECOWAS Court for the following reliefs:

  1. A DECLARATIONthat the Abuja-Kaduna train attack amounts to a failure by the government to exercise due diligence to prevent the attacks, abductions and killings, and cannot be justified, and therefore constitutes a serious breach of Nigeria’s obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  2. A DECLARATIONthat the failure of the government to exercise due diligence and to take steps to prevent the train attack, abductions and killings by terrorists is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  3. A DECLARATIONthat the failure of the government to conduct prompt, impartial, thorough, transparent and effective investigations into the attacks, and to find and hold those responsible to account, is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
  4. A DECLARATIONthat the failure of the government to provide an effective remedy and reparation for the passengers and victims of the train attack is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
  5. A DECLARATION that the failure of the government to provide an environment to secure and protect the human rights to life, dignity and security anywhere in Nigeria is unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to protect, promote and fulfil human rights.
  6. AN ORDER directing the government to promptly, thoroughly, transparently and effectively investigate the attacks on the train, and to find and bring perpetrators to justice.
  7. AN ORDER directing the government to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of Nigerians, including travellers across the country.
  8. AN ORDER directing the government to provide effective remedies and reparation, including restitution, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition that the Court may deem fit to grant to the victims of the train attack.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the application for expedited hearing, and the substantive suit.

NIN-SIM: SERAP Sues Buhari Over Blocked Lines

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari over his failure to order the unblocking of millions of telecommunication subscribers barred from making calls on their SIMs.

This is coming two weeks after the group issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Federal Government to unblock millions of unregistered lines, following a recent directive for telecommunications companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines, as the deadline for the verification expired on March 31.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/711/2022 filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP sought an order to set aside the directive by Buhari to telecommunications companies to block outgoing calls on all unlinked lines without due process of law.

SERPA joined the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, and his Communications and Digital Economy counterpart,  Isa Pantami as respondents in the suit.

READ ALSO: SERAP Gives FG 48-Hour Ultimatum To Unblock Millions Of Unregistered SIMs

“While Nigerian authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property, any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with human rights standards,” the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part.

“Fundamental rights are regarded as part of human rights and are protected to enhance human dignity and liberty.

“Unblocking the phone lines unlawfully barred from making calls would improve respect for the rule of law, and ensure people’s right to freedom of expression, and access to information, as well as their right to associate with others.

“The blocking of people from making calls constitutes impermissible restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, information, and association.

“The rights to freedom of opinion and expression and access to information are protected under section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

“These rights must be protected online as they are protected offline. Any restriction on these rights must be provided by law, be necessary for a democratic society and serve a legitimate aim.

“The blocking of people from making calls on their SIMs also amounts to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their right to family life, and socio-economic rights, as it unnecessarily or disproportionately interferes with these fundamental human rights.

“The decision to block the phone lines also appears to be arbitrary and lacks any legal framework, independent and judicial oversight. This may allow authorities to act in an unfettered and potentially arbitrary or unlawful manner.

“Under international human rights law, States including Nigeria ‘shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.’ States must refrain from cutting off access to telecommunications services.

“Millions of Nigerians including persons with disabilities, elderly citizens, persons living in remote areas have been unable to capture their biometrics, and obtain their NINs due to logistical challenges, administrative and bureaucratic burdens, as well as the persistent collapse of the national grid.

“The rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of association, whether offline or online, promote the democratic ideal by allowing citizens to voice their concerns, challenge governmental institutions, and hold the government accountable for its actions.”

SERAP Asks Buhari To Withdraw Pardon For Dariye, Nyame

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Muhammadu to withdraw the pardon granted to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame.

The duo is serving jail terms after being convicted of corruption since leaving office.

But on Thursday, the Council of State, chaired by President Buhari, granted a presidential pardon to 159 convicts on Thursday.

Three days after, SERAP asked the President to immediately revoke the pardon granted to the ex-governors.

In a statement issued by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP asked Buhari to use his “good offices to urgently review and withdraw the pardon granted to former governors of Plateau State, Senator Joshua Dariye, and Taraba State, Rev Jolly Nyame who are serving jail terms for corruption”.

Specifically, the group wants Buhari to “propose constitutional amendment to the National Assembly to reform the provisions on the exercise of the prerogative of mercy to make the provisions more transparent, and consistent and compatible with Nigeria’s international anti-corruption obligations”.

Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame were jailed for stealing N1.16bn and N1.6bn, respectively. However, the National Council of State last week endorsed the pardon of Mr Dariye, Mr Nyame and 157 others serving jail terms following the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy.

In the letter dated 16 April, 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Impunity for corruption will continue as long as influential politicians escape justice for their crimes. The constitutional power of prerogative of mercy ought not to be an instrument of impunity.”

SERAP said, “The pardon power ought to be exercised in a manner that is consistent with the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], particularly the provisions on oath of office by public officers, and section 15[5] which requires your government to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

SERAP also said, “Indeed, the presidential pardon power must be exercised in good faith, and in line with the provisions of Chapter 4 of the Nigerian Constitution on fundamental rights.”

According to SERAP, “We would like your government to clarify if the pardon granted to Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame would entitle them to the return of the stolen assets already forfeited to the government.”

SERAP said, “The pardon also constitutes an interference in the exercise of judicial power. Because the pardon appears to be arbitrary, it undermines the authority and independence of the judiciary, and access to justice for victims of corruption.”

The letter, copied to the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, read in part: “The pardon is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption.”

“Presidential pardon for corruption cases is inconsistent with the rule of law, and the public interest, as it undermines the principle of equality before the law. It will undermine public confidence in your government’s fight against corruption, and the justice system.”

“SERAP is concerned that while the pardon power is routinely exercised to shield influential politicians and politically exposed persons from justice and accountability, ordinary people who have committed petty offences but with no money or influential politicians to speak for them, languish in prisons and are rarely considered for pardon.”

“While there is no doubt that Section 175 of the Constitution vests wide discretionary power in the Nigerian president to grant pardon, it does not stipulate the conditions under which such power should be exercised.”

“However, when section 15(5) of the Constitution is read together with the oath, it would seem to impose some ethical conditions on you to ensure that the exercise of the discretionary power of prerogative of mercy is not such that it will encourage corruption or impunity of perpetrators.”

“Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame should have been allowed to complete their jail terms. The exercise of the presidential pardon in their cases would seem to be unfair and undeserving.”

“The investigation and prosecution of the corruption cases involving the pardoned former governors Dariye and Nyame reportedly cost over N300 millions of taxpayers’ money. The cases went from the High Court to the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”

“Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that ‘The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.’ Similarly, article 26 of the UN Convention against Corruption requires your government to ensure ‘effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions’ in cases of grand corruption.”

“Article 26 of the convention complements the more general requirement of article 30, paragraph 1, that sanctions must take into account the gravity of the corruption offences.”

“SERAP notes that in your inaugural speech on May 29, 2015 you stated that, ‘We are going to tackle pervasive corruption head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us.’”

“However, the latest Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index shows that Nigeria scored 24 out of 100 points, and ranked 154 out of 180 countries surveyed, falling back five places from the rank of 149 in 2020. This places Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa.”

“The pardon power, if properly exercised, can help to protect citizens against possible miscarriage of justice.”

“SERAP therefore urges you to urgently withdraw the presidential pardon granted to Mr Dariye and Mr Nyame, and to propose amendment to section 175 of the Nigerian Constitution that will make the exercise of the power to pardon more transparent and consistent and compatible with the country’s international obligations.”

“Any proposed amendment should also empower the citizens to challenge the legality of any arbitrary exercise of the power of prerogative of mercy.”

 

 

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

17/4/2022

Lagos, Nigeria

SERAP Gives FG 48-Hour Ultimatum To Unblock Millions Of Unregistered SIMs

The  NCC logo and some SIM cards.

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Federal Government to unblock millions of unregistered lines.

Just last week, the Federal Government directed telecommunication companies in the country to bar all outgoing calls on unlinked lines from Monday, April 4, 2022. Unlinked lines are Subscriber Identity Modules (SIMS) not yet registered and linked with the National Identification Number (NIN) by users.

While reacting to the ban via a statement issued on Sunday, SERAP asked President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, and the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to immediately reverse the apparently unlawful decision to block over 72 million active telecommunication subscribers from making calls on their SIMs”.

“Blocking people from making calls undermines their ability to communicate freely, and associate with others. It infringes their rights to freedom of expression and family life, as well as socio-economic rights,” SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said.

READ ALSO: NIN: Millions At Risk As FG Orders Telcos To Bar Outgoing Calls On Unlinked SIMs

While noting that the decision will have a chilling effect, dissuading the free expression of ideas and information, SERAP argued that the move is inconsistent and incompatible with the country’s international legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and facilitate economic and social rights. The decision contradicts the tenets of the rule of law and democratic society, it said.

“Immediately reversing the decision would be in conformity with the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. Reversing the decision would also improve the confidence of the international community in human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria.

“The decision will cause a wide variety of harms to economic activity, and personal safety, and disproportionately affect those on the margins of society. This will directly hinder the ability of the government to achieve the 2030 Agenda’s Goal 8 on the promotion of sustained, inclusive, sustainable economic growth.

“Millions of Nigerians including persons with disabilities, elderly citizens, persons living in remote areas have been unable to capture their biometrics, and obtain their National Identity Numbers [NINs] due to logistical challenges, administrative and bureaucratic burdens, as well as the persistent collapse of the national grid,” the statement added.

“We would be grateful if the decision to block people from making calls on their SIMs is reversed within 48 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest to ensure full compliance with human rights standards.”

“The rights to freedom of expression, access to information, and freedom of association, whether offline or online promote the democratic ideal by allowing citizens to voice their concerns, challenge governmental institutions, and hold government accountable for its actions.”

“The democratic ideal rationale also recognizes the necessity of having a well-informed citizenry to participate in the democratic process.”

“We support any lawful means to address the growing insecurity across the country. However, while the authorities have a legal responsibility to protect, ensure and secure the rights to life and property, any such responsibility ought to be discharged in conformity with human rights standards.”

“While we recognize the need for your government to take measures to ensure security and safety of the people in the country, we are seriously concerned that the decision to block people from making calls appears to go beyond the restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, information, and association.”

“The rights to freedom of opinion and expression and access to information are protected under section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.”

“These rights must be protected online as it is protected offline. Any restriction on these rights must be provided by law, be necessary in a democratic society and serve a legitimate aim.”

“The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that when a state party invokes a legitimate ground for restriction of human rights, it must demonstrate in specific and individualized fashion the precise nature of the threat, and the necessity and proportionality of the specific action taken, in particular by establishing a direct and immediate connection between the expression and the threat.”

“The decision to block over 72 million subscribers from making calls on their SIMs also amounts to an arbitrary or unlawful interference with their right to family life, and socio-economic rights, as it unnecessarily or disproportionately interferes with these fundamental human rights.”

“According to our information, your government recently directed telecommunication companies in the country to block over 72 million active telecommunication subscribers from making calls on their SIMs. The ‘order’ to the telecommunications companies was apparently to enforce compliance with the Federal Government’s National Identification Number-Subscriber Identity Module policy.”

“The policy effectively restricted outgoing calls on all unlinked lines, effective April 4, 2022.”

“We are concerned that the decision to block Nigerians from making calls will have a disproportionate chilling effect on vulnerable groups that rely on such peaceful means to communicate, and convey their opinions and views.”

“SERAP is concerned that the decision appears to be arbitrary, and lack any legal framework, independent and judicial oversight. This may allow authorities to act in an unfettered and potentially arbitrary or unlawful manner.”

“The decision to block people from making calls also does not appear to be the least intrusive instrument available to the government to achieve the desired results, i.e., the maintenance of national security and public safety.”

“The decision is also not proportionate to the perceived goal to be achieved, as it is not appropriately tailored to achieve its protective function in the least intrusive manner.”

“The mass disconnection of telephone subscribers from making calls is apparently without any legal justification. It is a form of collective punishment of the people affected by the decision.”

“Under international human rights law, States including Nigeria ‘shall not engage in or condone any disruption of access to digital technologies for segments of the public or an entire population.’ States must refrain from cutting off access to telecommunications services.”

SERAP Writes INEC, Seeks Safeguard Details On Privacy, Security Of Election Data

SERAP INEC
A photo combination of the SERAP logo and the INEC chairman.

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “widely publish the details of safeguards and mechanisms put in place to protect the privacy and security of election information and data in the custody of INEC, including in its servers, databases and other electronic formats”.

SERAP urged him to “clarify whether any third-party is involved in the collection, control, and use of election information and data, the legal rules and processes guiding the choice of any such third party”.

SERAP also urged him to “clarify the other location or locations where election information is stored apart from Abuja, and the details of any third-party who has access to such a database, the safeguards and contingency plans put in place by INEC to address any threats to the privacy and security of election information”.

In a Freedom of Information request dated 26 March 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Ensuring adequate safeguards and mechanisms to protect the privacy and security of election information and data would improve the ability of INEC to effectively discharge its constitutional and statutory duties”.

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SERAP said: “This would also help to remove risks of attack and unlawful interference by any unauthorised person with election information and data”.

According to SERAP, “Widely publishing the details of safeguards and mechanisms of election information and data would also contribute to improving the sanctity and integrity of the electoral process, and public trust and confidence in the process”.

The letter, read in part: “Putting in place adequate technological security measures to prevent unauthorized access to election information and data would improve the credibility of the electoral process and the enjoyment of people’s right to participate in their own government.

“As an institution, which collects, controls and uses election-related information and data in the discharge of its constitutional and statutory duties, INEC has a legal responsibility to ensure adequate protection of such information and data from threats and vulnerabilities to attack or interference.

“Any interference by unauthorised third party in election information and data may be used for corrupt, political and other unlawful purposes, and would expose election systems to fraud and meddling, as well undermine the right to participation and the country’s democratic system.

“The right of people to participate in their government is a fundamental feature of any democratic society, and any infringement of privacy and security of election information and data would strike at the heart of representative government.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel INEC to comply with our request in the public interest.

“SERAP notes that voter registration systems and voting systems are the most vulnerable and susceptible to manipulation by corrupt politicians and other actors.

“As the experiences in other countries have shown, election information is often susceptible to unlawful interference by corrupt politicians and other actors, which can be damaging to the integrity of the electoral process and democratic practices.

“The experiences of other countries demonstrate the need for INEC to take effective and transparent measures to ensure and protect the privacy and security of election information and data, which would protect the integrity of the country’s democracy.

“Any privacy or security weakness in any component of any of the election systems can be easily exploited to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process.

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Electoral Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance.

“SERAP notes that Section 9(2)(a) of the Electoral Act 2022 provides that INEC ‘shall keep the Register of Voters in its National Headquarters and other locations as the Commission may determine.’ The provision also states that INEC ‘shall keep the Register of Voters in electronic format in its central database.’

“Section 153 of the Act defines ‘electronic format’ to include ‘the electronic version of the Register of Voters or National Electronic Register of Election Results, as the case may be, created, recorded, transmitted or stored in digital form or in other intangible forms by electronic, magnetic or optical means or by any other means.”

The organisation said: “Section 37 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights protect against arbitrary or unlawful interference with one’s privacy.

“Interference with the privacy of election information and data would clearly undermine the security of any such information and data. Similarly, Article 9 (1) of the African Charter provides that, ‘Every individual shall have the right to receive information.

“Article 2(10) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance requires states parties including Nigeria to ‘promote the establishment of the necessary conditions to foster citizen participation, transparency, access to information, and accountability in the management of public affairs.’”

National Grid: SERAP Gives Buhari Seven Days To Probe Missing N11trn Electricity Fund

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly investigate how over N11 trillion meant to provide regular electricity supply has been allegedly squandered by governments since 1999.”

A statement signed on March 19 by the SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing public funds should be traced and fully recovered.”

SERAP also urged the President to refer to the International Criminal Court, all unimplemented reports of corruption in the electricity sector gathering dust on the shelves, and to arrest and surrender those named in the reports to the court for prosecution.

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This follows the collapse of the national grid, which SERAP says has plunged the country into total darkness as generation capacity is said to have dropped to 2,000 megawatts with about 14 power plants shutting down.

“Nigerians have for far too long been denied justice and the opportunity to get to the bottom of why they continue to pay the price for corruption in the electricity sector–staying in darkness, but still made to pay crazy electricity bills,” Oluwadare said.

According to SERAP, the staggering amounts of public funds alleged to have been stolen over the years in the electricity sector have had catastrophic effects on the lives of millions of Nigerians, akin to crimes against humanity against the Nigerian people.

The organisation, therefore, stressed that an investigation into the allegations of missing N11 trillion electricity funds, the prosecution of suspected perpetrators and recovering any missing public funds would end a culture of impunity and subsequently address the persistent collapse of the electricity grid.

NIN-SIM Linkage: SERAP Sues Buhari Over Privacy Breach

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari over “the failure to review and rescind his reported approval for security agencies to access people’s personal details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of law”.

It asked the court for an order to set aside the approval, saying it amounts to violations of the citizen’s rights. SERAP also requested for “an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Federal Government or any other authority, persons or group of persons from unlawfully accessing people’s personal details via NIN-SIM linkage without due process of the law”.

In a statement issued by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare on Sunday, the agency accused the president of giving approval to the security agencies without due process.

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“If President Buhari’s approval is not rescinded, millions of law-abiding Nigerians may feel that their private lives are the subject of constant surveillance,” the suit, filed by Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part.

SERAP maintained that “interference with an individual’s right to privacy is not permissible if it is unlawful or arbitrary”.

According to the suit with number FHC/L/CS/448/2022 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP asked the court to determine “whether the approval for security agencies to access people’s personal details via the National Identification Number [NIN] without due process is consistent with the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality”.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and his Communications and Digital Economy counterpart, Isa Pantami, are joined in the suit as Respondents.

“The power to access individual’s details raises serious concerns as to their arbitrary use by the authorities responsible for applying them in a manner that reduces human rights by the monitoring and surveillance of millions of Nigerians,” the suit noted.

No date has been fixed for the hearing.

Fuel Scarcity: Probe Spending On Refineries Or Face Legal Action, SERAP Tells Buhari

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to probe the spending on the country’s four refineries.

The organisation also asked the President to probe alleged corruption and mismanagement of public funds budgeted for the rehabilitation, operation, and maintenance of the refineries since 1999 or risk legal action.

“Anyone suspected to be responsible should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any mismanaged public funds should be fully recovered,” SERAP said in a statement signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, on March 5.

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It also urged President Buhari to “direct Mr Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for the importation and distribution of dirty fuel into the country, and to urgently identify and ensure access to justice and effective remedies to affected victims.”

“There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector and the resulting importation and distribution of dirty fuel and protracted fuel scarcity in the country.

“The importation and distribution of dirty fuel, and the current fuel scarcity across the country demonstrate the need for effective accountability measures to weed out, expose, and punish allegations of corruption in the sector, and to ensure justice and effective remedies for victims.”

The agency believes that allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector have contributed to the importation and distribution of bad fuel, causing environmental problems and violating the human rights of many users, including to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment.

To curb the situation, SERAP says investigating and prosecuting allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending on the refineries would be entirely consistent with constitutional guarantees and international standards.

“It may also galvanize public support for your government’s anti-corruption efforts,” it added.

“Alleged corruption and mismanagement in the oil sector, the importation and distribution of dirty fuel, and protracted fuel scarcity amount to a fundamental breach of constitutional and international human rights obligations, depriving Nigerians of economic opportunities and subjecting them to cruel and degrading treatment.”

The organisation, therefore, asked the Federal Government to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of public funds to rehabilitate, operate, and maintain the country’s refineries.

Stressing that the situation has caused serious hardship for Nigerians, SERAP reminded the government of its responsibility to protect and secure the maximum welfare of citizens.

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’ Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.”

The agency asked the government to act on the recommended measures within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of the letter in which the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Malami was also copied.

SERAP threatened that if it does not hear from them within the given time frame, it will “consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

SERAP Sues Buhari Over ‘Failure To Probe Alleged Misuse Of Security Votes By Governors’

A photo combination of SERAP’s logo and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari “over the failure to promptly and thoroughly probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999, and to ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible”.

The suit followed Buhari’s 2022 New Year Message in which he raised concerns about “the persistent insecurity in certain parts of the country,” and his promise in his 2015 inaugural speech to “check gross corruption and ensure that there is accountability at all levels of government in the country”.

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/189/2022, filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999”.

SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to prosecute anyone suspected to be responsible, as appropriate; if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to recover any mismanaged public funds”.

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In the suit, SERAP is arguing that “Compelling the Federal Government to probe the spending of security votes since 1999 would ensure accountability, and improve the ability of the government to deliver on the promises to ensure the security of Nigerians, and to keep them safe”.

SERAP is also arguing that “It is in the interest of justice to grant this application. Ending impunity for allegations of corruption in the spending of security votes and recovering any mismanaged public funds are matters of public interest”.

It maintained that “the responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to ensure accountability for the spending of security votes by state governors”.

Also, the agency said, “The government has the primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of the Nigerian people. Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’”.

SERAP further said “Pervasive tendency by public officers since 1999 to regard or treat security votes given to them for [the] security of the state as their personal entitlement or funds is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution and international standards”.

“Security votes should be used for improving the security situation in the states or returned to the public treasury,” it added.

Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Malami.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Joke Fekumo read in part: “Longstanding allegations of mismanagement of security votes have hugely contributed to the growing insecurity in the country, and the failure to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians.

“As revealed by a recent 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, state governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.

“Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption impose legal obligations on the government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.

“While sitting state governors may enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution, they do not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any allegations of mismanagement of security votes against sitting governors can and should be investigated pending the time they leave office and lose immunity.”

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