SERAP Gives Buhari Govt 24 Hours To Withdraw ‘Gag Order’On Reporting Of Terrorist Attacks

A photo combination of SERAP and President Muhammadu Buhari

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to use his leadership position “to urgently instruct Mr. Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the directive containing a sweeping gag order banning journalists and broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims across the country.”

The NBC had in a letter dated 7 July, 2021 issued a directive asking journalists, television and radio stations in Nigeria to stop “glamourising and giving too many details on the nefarious activities of terrorists and kidnappers” during their daily newspaper reviews.

Reacting, SERAP in a letter dated 17 July, 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The contents of the directive by the NBC to journalists and broadcast stations are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s obligations under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

SERAP said: “We would be grateful if the repressive directive is withdrawn within 24 hours of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions in the public interest.”

The organization expressed “grave concern that the contents of the NBC directive would impermissibly restrict the rights to freedom of expression, information, and victims’ right to justice and effective remedies that are central to public debate and accountability in a democratic society.”

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SERAP said: “Reporting on the growing violence and killings in many parts of the country is a matter of public interest. The NBC directive to journalists and broadcast stations to stop reporting these cases, coupled with the possibility of fines and other punishment, would have a disproportionate chilling effect on the work of those seeking to hold the government accountable to the public.”

The letter, read in part: “The broad definitions of what may constitute ‘too many details’, ‘glamourising’, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ heighten concerns of overreach, confer far-reaching discretion on the government, and suggest that the NBC directive is more intrusive than necessary.”

“These words and phrases do not indicate precisely what kind of individual conduct would fall within their ambit.”

“The vague and overbroad definitions of ‘too many details’, ‘glamourising’, ‘divisive rhetoric’, and ‘security issues’ also raise concern that the NBC directive unduly interferes with the rights to freedom of expression and information, and is disproportionate to any purported legitimate governmental aim. Ill-defined and/or overly broad directives are open to arbitrary application and abuse.”

“The use of these words and phrases by the NBC, given their opaque and ambiguous meaning, leaves open the possibility for application beyond unequivocal incitement to hatred, hostility or violence. Such words and phrases may function to interpret legitimate reporting by broadcast stations, journalists, and other Nigerians as unlawful.”

“Exacerbating these concerns are growing restriction of civic space, the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, and the attempts by your government to push for the amendment of the Nigeria Press Council Act and the National Broadcasting Commission Act, to further suppress media freedom, freedom of expression and access to information.”

“Allowing the media to freely carry out their duties is essential to building a secure society and leaving no one behind. Conversely, imposing impermissible restrictions on broadcast stations, journalists and other Nigerians undermines the security that builds a healthy and vibrant society.”

“Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights establishes the right to freedom of opinion without interference. Article 19(2) establishes Nigeria’s obligations to respect and ensure this right, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media of one’s choice.”

“Under article 19(3), restrictions on the right to freedom of expression must be ‘provided by law’, and necessary ‘for respect of the rights or reputations of others’ or ‘for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health and morals’.”

“Although article 19(3) recognizes ‘national security’ as a legitimate aim, the Human Rights Council, the body charged with monitoring implementation of the Covenant, has stressed ‘the need to ensure that invocation of national security is not used unjustifiably or arbitrarily to restrict the right to freedom of opinion and expression.’”

“Since article 19(2) promotes so clearly a right to information of all kinds, this indicates that your government bears the burden of justifying any restriction on reporting of cases of violence and killings, and withholding of such information as an exception to that right.”

“Any restrictions should be applied strictly so that they do not put in jeopardy the right itself. The NBC directive to broadcast stations fails to meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality.”

“The requirement of necessity also implies an assessment of the proportionality of restrictions such as those being imposed by the NBC, with the aim of ensuring that restrictions target a specific objective and do not unduly intrude upon the rights of targeted persons.”

“The interference with the constitutional and legal duties of journalists and broadcast stations cannot be justified in the context of the right to information, as the NBC directive has not shown that their reporting would impose a specific risk of harm to a legitimate State interest that outweighs the public’s interest in such information.”

“The NBC directive may also create an environment that unduly deters and penalizes broadcast stations and journalists, and the reporting of government wrongdoing more generally.”

“The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom expression has concluded that national security considerations should be ‘limited in application to situations in which the interest of the whole nation is at stake, which would thereby exclude restrictions in the sole interest of a government, regime, or power group.’”

“SERAP notes the collective interdependency of the compendium of constitutional and international human rights, which function to collectively complement and enhance the advancement of the security and rights of each individual in society.”

“We hope that the aspects highlighted will help guide your actions in acting to ensure that Nigerian journalists and media can freely carry out their constitutional duties as contained in Section 22 of the Nigerian Constitution.”

“While your government has the obligation to maintain national security, this obligation is not set apart from the obligation to protect and ensure human rights. National security is a necessary and integral part of the right to security guaranteed to each person individually.”

“According to our information, the NBC called for ‘caution’ by broadcasters while reporting security challenges in the country. The directive, titled: ‘Newspaper Reviews And Current Affairs Programmes: A Need For Caution’, was signed by the Director, Broadcast Monitoring, Francisca Aiyetan, on behalf of the new Director-General of the Commission, Balarabe Ilelah.”

Zamfara: ‘Treat Students Abductions As Breach Of Charter,’ SERAP Urges UN Security Council

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A logo of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to the UN Security Council and its members urging them to “urgently hold a special session on Nigeria and to visit the country to press the authorities to end continuing abductions of students and the increasing level of insecurity across the country.”

The organization is also urging “the Council and members to treat the failure of Nigerian authorities to prevent and prosecute attacks on students, and to end the growing insecurity in the country as a fundamental breach of the UN Charter and Nigeria’s international human rights obligations.”

In the letter dated 26 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Attacks on schools and abductions of students are a violation of children’s rights. Nigeria has legal obligations to ensure the immediate release of the abducted students, teachers, and family members, provide the necessary counselling following the traumatic experience, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

According to SERAP, “These abductions and attacks also undermine the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. If not urgently prevented and combatted, such attacks may rise to the level of threat to international peace and security. The first ‘purpose’ listed for the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace.”

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The letter, read in part: “SERAP is concerned that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari is failing to uphold its responsibility to protect Nigerian students from increasing abductions, and attacks on other people by armed men, and if not urgently addressed these abductions and attacks may constitute threat to regional peace and security, and by extension, international peace and security.”

“Ensuring the release of the students and holding perpetrators accountable will contribute to ending impunity. A UN Security Council resolution would help to put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to take urgent and concrete measures to end the abductions of students, secure their safety and promote the security and safety of all Nigerians.”

“The Security Council must act now to protect Nigerian students and other citizens, if the Council is not to be accused of failing the people of Nigeria.”

“SERAP urges the Security Council and its members to publicly condemn these terrorist attacks, express concern about the protection of Nigerian students and other people and communities affected by the violations of international law and press the authorities to put in place mechanisms for bringing those suspected to be responsible to justice, and victims to be receive redress, including adequate compensation and guarantee of non-repetition.”

“According to our information, some armed men today abducted over 300 schoolgirls at Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in the Talata-Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The armed men arrived in the school around 1am with Hilux vehicles and motorcycles and abducted the students.”

“This abduction occurred some eight days after armed men abducted dozens of students and workers of Government Science College in Kagara, Niger State. Last year, armed men abducted over 300 schoolboys from Government Science Secondary School in Kankara, Katsina State. Aside from Kankara and Kagara, hundreds of secondary school girls have also been abducted from Chibok, in Borno State; and Dapchi in Yobe State.”

“There are continuing reports of attacks against innocent citizens, including unlawful killings, destruction, and pillage of property by terrorists across the country. The attacks have been fuelled by the impunity that has plagued the authorities’ response to the problem.

SERAP, therefore, urged the Security Council and its members to adopt a resolution to:

Urge Nigerian authorities to urgently take steps to ensure the safe release of the students and workers, and to hold to account those responsible for the attacks on Nigerian students;

Characterise the abductions of students and attacks on other people as terrorist acts and mobilize international support for Nigeria to combat these attacks, including for the authorities to adopt and implement measures to tackle the causes and consequences of these attacks and end the abductions and attacks in the country;

Call on the UN Secretary-General to carry out a joint visit to Nigeria with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Union Peace and Security Council to investigate allegations of abductions of students and attacks on other people and to better understand their root causes and put pressure on the Nigerian authorities to end them;

Express concern that unabated abductions of students and attacks on other people by terrorists may ultimately contribute to undermining the ability of the Nigerian authorities to provide security, governance, social and economic development in the country;

Affirm the international community’s solidarity and full support for the victims;
Recognize that security, development, and human rights are interlinked and mutually reinforcing and are vital to an effective and comprehensive approach to countering all forms of terrorism in Nigeria;

Support collaboration with the African Union Peace and Security Council to combat the threats posed by terrorists and enable both institutions to support stability and development in Nigeria

Kagara: SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe, Recover ‘Billions Missing From UBEC, SUBEBs

 

 

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 to work with appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly probe allegations of corruption in the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) between 2004 and 2020, including missing N3,836,685,213.13 documented in the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation.”

The organization also urged him to “direct Mr Malami and the anticorruption agencies to make public the outcome of any investigation, and to prosecute suspected perpetrators if there is relevant admissible evidence, as well as fully recover any missing public funds.”

In the open letter dated 20 February 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of millions of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by the poor learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State where dozens of schoolchildren, teachers and their relatives were abducted by gunmen.”

SERAP said: “Investigating the allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs, prosecuting suspected perpetrators and recovering any missing public funds would contribute to addressing the education crisis in the country, which has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable and marginalized, and entrenched inequality.”

SERAP also urged President Buhari to “ensure prompt investigation into the spending of money budgeted for the Safe School Initiative since 2014, including N3.2 billion from the Federal Government and private donors meant to ensure a safer school environment for children, and to clean up an apparently entrenched system of corruption in the education sector.”

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According to SERAP: “Many years of unresolved allegations of corruption and mismanagement in UBEC and SUBEBs have resulted in decreasing quality of education for poor children while many politicians send their own children to the best private schools in the country and abroad, and thereby leaving behind generations of poor children.”

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

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

“Allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs undermine public confidence in the education sector, lead to the erosion of education quality and access, and if not urgently addressed will lead to an increase in out-of-school children, and exacerbate educational inequalities in the country.”

“According to the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, UBEC spent ₦7,712,000.00 to engage external solicitors between January to December, 2015 without due process and the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation. UBEC also reportedly failed to explain the nature of the legal services rendered. The Auditor-General is concerned UBEC may have engaged ‘unqualified solicitors.’”

“The Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board also reportedly failed to account for ₦37,200,000.00 despite repeated requests by the Auditor-General. The Plateau SUBEB also spent ₦9,709,989 without any payment vouchers. The SUBEB spent ₦1,607,007,353.72 Special Intervention funds by the Federal Government without any documents.”

“The Plateau SUBEB also paid ₦10,341,575.00 to various contractors without evidence of advance payment guarantee. The SUBEB paid ₦70,569,471.00 through cheques to a staff, in violation of the Federal Government e-payment policy. The SUBEB also failed to explain the purpose of the payment. It spent ₦120,948,000.00 on professional development of teachers but failed to retire and account for the money.”

“The Imo State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly spent N482, 560,000.00 as mobilization fees to some contractors without due process, and any advance payment guarantee. The contracts were funded from the Matching Grant Account. The Auditor-General stated that the contractors selected lacked ‘the financial capacity to handle the contracts.’ The SUBEB has also failed to account for ₦140,774,702.12 of project fund since 2015.”

“The Kano State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly paid ₦71,263,000.15 to contractors without due process and without open competitive bidding. Similarly, the Ebonyi State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦569,758,938.00 to ‘unqualified contractors and companies’ for the reconstruction and renovation of classrooms. The Ebonyi SUBEB also spent ₦10,123,892.46 to buy store items but without any documents.”

“The Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board paid ₦31,822,600.00 to a staff from its teachers’ professional development funds but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General is concerned that ‘the payment is fictitious’, and that ‘the funds did not benefit the intended beneficiaries.’ The SUBEB also reportedly paid ₦41, 277,983.00 as cash advance to staff to ‘buy some materials and for press coverage but failed to account for the money.’”

“SERAP is concerned about allegations of widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement within UBEC and several SUBEBs, the failure to investigate these allegations, and to recover any missing public funds. The Federal Government bears responsibility for ensuring that every Nigerian child has access to quality education in conducive learning environment, and to safeguard education as a public good.”

“Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the right to quality education for every Nigerian child is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to investigate the missing public funds from UBEC and SUBEBs, to prosecute suspected perpetrators, recover the money, and to remove opportunities for corruption in these institutions.”

“Access to quality education would empower children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life.”

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

“The letter is copied to Mr Malami; Professor Bolaji Owasanoye, Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC); and Mr Mohammed Abba, Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”

$500m: SERAP Asks World Bank To Publish Documents On Funded Electricity Projects

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A logo of the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the World Bank President Mr. David Malpass “to exercise the Bank’s prerogative to release archival records and documents relating to spending on all approved funds to improve access to electricity in Nigeria between 1999 and 2020, the Bank’s role in the implementation of any funded electricity projects, and to identify and name any executed projects, and Nigerian officials, ministries, departments and agencies involved in the execution of such projects.”

The World Bank Board of Directors had last week approved $500m “to help boost access to electricity in Nigeria and improve the performance of the electricity distribution companies in the country.”

But in the application dated 6 February 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization urged the Bank to “explain the rationale for the approval of $500m to implement electricity projects in the country, despite reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the sector, and the failure of the authorities to enforce a court judgment ordering the release of details of payments to allegedly corrupt electricity contractors who failed to execute any projects.”

SERAP said: “This application is brought pursuant to the World Bank’s Access to Information Policy, which aims to maximize access to information and promote the public good. There is public interest in Nigerians knowing about the Bank’s supervisory role and specifically its involvement in the implementation of electricity projects, which it has so far funded.”

According to SERAP, “The $500m is part of the over one billion dollars available to Nigeria under the project titled: Nigeria Distribution Sector Recovery Program. We would be grateful for details of any transparency and accountability mechanisms under the agreement for the release of funds, including whether there is any provision that would allow Nigerians and civil society to monitor the spending of the money by the government, its agencies, and electricity distribution companies.”

SERAP also said: “Should the Bank fail and/or refuse to release the information and documents as requested, SERAP would file an appeal to the Secretariat of the Bank’s Access to Information Committee to challenge any such decision, and if it becomes necessary, to the Access to Information Appeals Board. SERAP may also consider other legal options outside the Bank’s Access to Information framework.”

The letter copied to Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, read in part: “SERAP believes that releasing the information and documents would enable Nigerians and civil society to meaningfully engage in the implementation of electricity projects funded by the Bank, contribute to the greater public good, and enhance the Bank’s oft-stated commitment to transparency and accountability.”

“The World Bank has been and continues to be involved in overseeing the transfer, disbursement, spending of funds on electricity projects in Nigeria. The Bank also reportedly approved a $750 million loan for Nigeria’s electricity sector in June 2020 to cut tariff shortfalls, protect the poor from price adjustments, and increase power supply to the grid. As such, the World Bank is not a neutral party in this matter.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the funds approved by the Bank are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The World Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the Nigerian authorities and their agencies are transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how they spend the approved funds for electricity projects in the country, and to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

“SERAP also believes that the release of the requested information and documents is of paramount importance to the public interest in preserving the legitimacy, credibility, and relevance of the Bank as a leading international development institution. The Bank ought to lead by example in issues such as transparency and public disclosure raised in this request.”

“It would also demonstrate that the Bank is willing to put people first in the implementation of its development and governance policies and mandates, as well as remove any suspicion of the Bank’s complicity in the alleged mismanagement of electricity projects-related funds.”

“The information is also being sought to improve the ongoing fight against corruption in the country and the provision of regular and uninterrupted electricity supply to Nigerians as a fundamental human right.”

“The information requested is not affected by the “deliberative” “corporate administrative matters” or “security and safety” exceptions under the Policy. The information requested is crucially required for Nigerians to know how the funds released to the authorities to improve electricity supply in the country have been spent, and monitor how the funds are being used.”

“SERAP’s report, titled: From darkness to darkness: How Nigerians are paying the price for corruption in the electricity sector documents widespread and systemic corruption in the electricity sector, and reveals how about N11 trillion electricity fund was squandered by successive administrations in Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999.”

“This report raises specific questions of public interest, and the World Bank ought to be concerned about how Nigerian authorities are addressing reports of widespread and systemic corruption in the electricity sector, and to seek some answers from the authorities on the problems.”

“However, as the report shows, the Bank’s funding of the electricity sector has not resulted in corresponding access of Nigerians to the regular and uninterrupted electricity supply. Successive governments have failed to provide access to regular and reliable electricity supply to millions of the citizens despite budgeting trillions of naira for the power sector.”

“Millions of Nigerians still lack access to free pre-paid meters. Authorities continue to use patently illegal and inordinate estimated billing across the country, increasing consumer costs, and marginalizing Nigerians living in extreme poverty, disproportionately affecting women, children and the elderly.”
SERAP, therefore, urged Mr. Malpass to:

Disclose and release information and documents relating to spending of funds approved and released to Nigeria between 1999 and 2020 to improve access to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply, including copies of supervision reports, periodic reviews and other appropriate reports on the Bank’s role in the spending and disbursement of the funds, as well as specific projects on which the funds have been spent;

Disclose implementation status and results and completion reports on the electricity projects that the Bank has so far funded in Nigeria;

Disclose information on the of level of involvement of World Bank in the implementation of electricity projects between 1999 and 2020;

Disclose information on agreements and the mechanisms the Bank is putting in place to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of all funds on electricity projects in Nigeria;

Disclose the terms and conditions of all electricity projects related funds that have been approved for Nigeria between 1999 and 2020.

SERAP To Buhari: Drop Plan To Borrow Dormant Account Balances, Unclaimed Dividends

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari urging him to use his leadership position “to promptly drop the plan by the Federal Government to borrow about N895bn of unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the patently unconstitutional and illegal Finance Act, 2020, and to ensure full respect for Nigerians’ right to property.”

The Finance Act, signed into law by Buhari last December, would allow the government to borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country.

But SERAP in a letter dated 9 January 2021 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The right to property is a sacred and fundamental right. Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts amount to an illegal expropriation, and would hurt poor and vulnerable Nigerians who continue to suffer under reduced public services, and ultimately lead to unsustainable levels of public debt.”

SERAP said: “The right to property extends to all forms of property, including unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts. Borrowing these dividends and funds without due process of law, and the explicit consent of the owners is arbitrary, and as such, legally and morally unjustifiable.”

According to SERAP: “The borrowing is neither proportionate nor necessary, especially given the unwillingness or inability of the government to stop systemic corruption in ministries, departments, and agencies [MDAs], cut waste, and stop all leakages in public expenditures. The borrowing is also clearly not in pursuit of public or social interest.”

The letter, read in part: “The security of property, next to personal security against the exertions of government, is of the essence of liberty. It is next in degree to the protection of personal liberty and freedom from undue interference or molestation. Our constitutional jurisprudence rests largely upon its sanctity.”

“Rather than pushing to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, your government ought to move swiftly to cut the cost of governance, ensure review of jumbo salaries and allowances of all high-ranking political office holders, and address the systemic corruption in MDAs, as well as improve transparency and accountability in public spending.”

“The borrowing also seems to be discriminatory, as it excludes government’s owned official bank accounts and may exclude the bank accounts of high-ranking government officials and politicians, thereby violating the constitutional and international prohibition of discrimination against vulnerable groups, to allow everyone to fully enjoy their right to property and associated rights on equal terms.”

“SERAP is concerned that the government has also repeatedly failed and/or refused to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of recovered stolen assets, and the loans so far obtained, which according to the Debt Management Office, currently stands at $31.98 billion.”

“SERAP notes growing allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of these loans and recovered stolen assets.”

“We would be grateful if your government would drop the decision to borrow unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts, and to indicate the measures being taken to send back the Finance Act to the National Assembly to repeal the legislation and remove its unconstitutional and unlawful provisions, including Sections 60 and 77, within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

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

“The government cannot lawfully enforce the provisions on Crisis Intervention Fund and Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund under the guise of a trust arrangement, as Section 44(2)[h] of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] is inapplicable, and cannot justify the establishment of these funds.”

“SERAP notes that while targeting the accounts of ordinary Nigerians, the Finance Act exempts official bank accounts owned by the federal government, state government or local governments or any of their ministries, departments or agencies.”

“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party, and which has been domesticated as part of the country’s domestic legislation.”

“According to our information, your government has reportedly completed plans to borrow an estimated N895bn of unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts using the Finance Act 2020 you recently signed into law.”

“Under the law, the government will be able to access and take without consent unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts in any bank, on the basis of the vague and undefined ‘Crisis Intervention Fund,’ and patently unlawful ‘Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund’.”

“The government is justifying the borrowing on the ground that it would improve access of the Federal Government to much-needed funds, and remove the burdens of foreign exchange and punitive loan conditions imposed by multilateral lenders.”

“According to the Finance Act, the operation of the trust fund is to be supervised by the Debt Management Office (DMO) and governed by a governing council chaired by the finance minister and a co-chairperson from the private sector appointed by you.

“The Nigerian Constitution in Section 44(1) provides that, ‘no moveable property or any interest in an immovable property shall be taken possession of compulsorily and no right over or interest in any such property shall be acquired compulsorily in any part of Nigeria except in the manner and for the purposes prescribed by a law.’”

“Similarly, Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantee the right to property and prohibit the arbitrary deprivation of the right. Thus, everyone is entitled to own property alone as well as in association with others.”

“Respect for the right to property is important to improve the enjoyment of other basic human rights and to lift Nigerians out of poverty. The Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law limit the ability of any government to interfere with private property without any legal justifications.”

The letter is copied to Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, and Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SERAP Drags Nigerian Government, Military To ICC Over Shooting Of #EndSARS Protesters

SERAP Asks Buhari To Probe Bribery Allegation Against Ganduje

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a petition to Mrs Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor, International Criminal Court (ICC), urging her to “promptly investigate reports that Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have used/ and are using thugs, soldiers and security agents to intimidate, harass, attack and kill #EndSARS peaceful protesters in several parts of Nigeria, including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

SERAP urged Mrs Bensouda to “push for those suspected to be responsible for these crimes, mostly security officials, soldiers, some politicians and other actors who directly or indirectly have individually and/or collectively contributed to the attacks, deaths, and injuries, and are therefore complicit in the crimes, to be tried by the ICC.”

In the petition dated 21 October 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “The Nigerian authorities over the years have been unwilling and/or unable to prosecute suspected perpetrators of the killing of protesters, which in turn has promoted a culture of impunity and emboldened authorities, the military, politicians and their accomplices who continue to commit human rights crimes against protesters.”

SERAP said: “The violent attacks on peaceful protesters in Lekki, Alausa, and other parts of the country suggest the lack of political will by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to respect people’s human rights, including the rights to life, dignity of the human person, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

According to SERAP: “The repeated attacks on peaceful protesters suggest the misuse of the military and security agents by the Nigerian authorities and the failure to apply criminal sanctions to suspected perpetrators.”

The petition, read in part: “Without accountability for these serious human rights crimes against peaceful protesters, the victims will continue to be denied access to justice, and impunity of perpetrators will remain widespread and the result will continue to be a vicious cycle of violence against Nigerians.”

“Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have failed abysmally to ensure the enjoyment of the rights to life, dignity, freedom of expression, and peaceful protest by the people. These events suggest criminal conduct within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

“SERAP believes that violence against protesters gives rise to the individual criminal responsibility of those suspected of perpetrating and/or failing to address the problem. as entrenched in the Rome Statute.”

“The incidents of intimidation, harassment attacks, and killings of peaceful protesters also strike at the integrity of the democratic process and seriously undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s oft-expressed commitment to human rights and the rule of law, and to end impunity of perpetrators.”

“Persistent attacks on peaceful protesters by Nigerian authorities, military, security agents and some politicians seriously undermine the people’s right to participate in their own government, and have resulted in serious human rights crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

“Ending impunity for attacks on peaceful protesters would improve respect for human rights in the country, and empower the citizens to hold their leaders to account. Unless the citizens are freely allowed to exercise their right to protest, the pervasive culture of impunity will continue to flourish in the country.”

“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has repeatedly failed to address these grave human rights violations, which amount to crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC.”

“The use of thugs and soldiers against peaceful protesters have resulted in several deaths and injuries. Nigerian authorities have failed and/or neglected to prevent these crimes against peaceful protesters.”

“Nigeria is a state party to the Rome Statute and deposited its instrument of ratification on 27 September 2001. It is therefore important to promptly investigate allegations of killings and other attacks on peaceful protesters if the ICC is to contribute to preventing escalations in the coming days, months and years.”

“The CCTV monitoring cameras at the Lekki toll gate and street lights were reportedly turned off before soldiers opened fire on peaceful protesters. This suggests a deliberate ploy by the authorities to cover up these crimes against humanity.”

“Nigerian authorities, military, and politicians have failed to understand the seriousness of killings of peaceful protesters, and have been complicit in the commission of these crimes.”

“According to our information, Nigerian authorities, military, and some politicians have used thugs, the police and soldiers to intimidate, harass, attack and shoot at peaceful protesters campaigning against police brutality across several parts of the country including Abuja, Lagos, Edo, Oyo, Osun, Plateau, and Kano states.”

“The protests began on October 8, 2020, calling on the authorities to abolish an abusive police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). Just last night, several people taking part in the #EndSARS peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate, and Alausa in Lagos were reportedly shot dead or wounded by soldiers. Several journalists covering the protests have been severely attacked.”

“Nigerian authorities have shot tear gas, water cannons, and live rounds at protesters, reportedly killing at least 60 people and wounding several others. According to Amnesty International, on October 10, Jimoh Isiaka was allegedly killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters in Ogbomosho, Oyo state.”

“At least two other people were killed the following day in protests against Isiaka’s death. On October 12, police officers in Surulere, Lagos, reportedly opened gunfire to disperse protesters, killing 55-year-old Ikechukwu Ilohamauzo.”

“On October 15, the Nigerian army warned ‘subversive elements and troublemakers’ to desist and offered to ‘support the civil authority in whatever capacity to maintain law and order.’ The Nigerian military has also been complicit in human rights abuses, including the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters.”

“Nigeria has a long history of systematic and widespread attacks on peaceful protesters especially since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed power in May 2015. Nigerian authorities have failed to ensure justice for the killings of protesters. Hundreds of members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were killed by the Nigerian Army in Zaria, Kaduna State on December 12, 2015.”

“The Rome Statute in article 7 defines “crime against humanity” to include “inhumane acts causing great suffering or injury,” committed in a widespread or systematic manner against a civilian population. The common denominator of crimes against humanity is that they are grave affronts to human security and dignity.”

“The consequences of persistent violence, attacks, and killings of peaceful protesters in Nigeria are similar to those of the offences in article 7(1). Senior government officials, the military, and some politicians know well or ought to know that their failure to prevent these crimes will violate Nigerians’ human rights and dignity.”

“SERAP considers the apparent failure of the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to prevent widespread and systematic attacks on peaceful protesters and the killing of protesters as amounting to complicity under the Rome Statute. SERAP, therefore, believes that the widespread and systemic nature of the problem fits the legal requirements of violence against the Nigerian people and crime against humanity.”

“The national authorities of the Court’s States Parties form the first line of defense in addressing the crime against humanity during protests, as they shoulder the primary responsibility for the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators of the crime. But Nigerian authorities have been unwilling or unable to address the problem of attacks on peaceful protesters, and end the crimes against humanity.”

“SERAP urges you to investigate the killing of protesters, and other attacks perpetrated against protesters, and if there is sufficient admissible evidence prosecute officials, soldiers and any politicians for allegations of killing and violence against protesters, as provided for under the Rome Statute, and other relevant treaties, to deter the crimes and end impunity in the country.”

“SERAP believes that substantial grounds exist to warrant the intervention of the Prosecutor in this case. Under Article 17 of the Rome Statute, the Court is a court of last resort, expected to exercise its jurisdiction only if states themselves are unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate and prosecute international crimes.”

“Also, pursuant to the Rome Statute, the Prosecutor has the power to intervene in a situation under the jurisdiction of the Court if the Security Council or state parties refer a situation or if the information is provided from other sources such as the information SERAP is providing in this case.”

SERAP, therefore, urged the ICC to:

1. Urgently commence an investigation proprio motu on the widespread and systematic problem of attacks on protesters, with a view to determining whether these amount to violence against the Nigerian people and crime against humanity within the Court’s jurisdiction. In this respect, we also urge you to invite representatives of the Nigerian government, the military to provide written or oral testimony at the seat of the Court, so that the Prosecutor is able to conclude since available information whether there is a reasonable basis for an investigation, and to submit a request to the Pre-Trial Chamber for authorization of an investigation;

2. Bring to justice those suspected to be responsible for widespread and systematic attacks on peaceful protesters across the country;

3. Urge the Nigerian government to fulfil its obligations under the Rome Statute to cooperate with the ICC; including complying with your requests to arrest and surrender suspected perpetrators of the widespread and systematic crime of violence against peaceful protesters, testimony, and provide other support to the ICC;

4. Compel the Nigerian authorities to ensure that Nigerians are afforded their right to life, dignity, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and ensure reparations to victims, including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, and guarantee of non-repetition

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SERAP, therefore, urged the Commonwealth to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing N30trn: Okonjo-Iweala Takes Legal Action

Okonjo-IwealaThe former Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, says that she was never served any court processes in relation to the allegation by former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo that 30 trillion Naira was missing during the past administration.

The suit was instituted by the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project (SERAP) pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.

A statement signed by the former minister’s Media Adviser, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, says that she has instructed her lawyers to take steps to set aside the judgment as it affects her.

The statement adds that the decision of SERAP to anchor its case on an allegedly baseless and unsubstantiated allegation by former CBN Governor, Professor Charles Soludo that 30 trillion Naira is missing confirms SERAP’s alleged dubious motives and its role as a tool for politically motivated actors.

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had ordered Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government to provide information on the spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion.

The fund, according to the court, represents some accruable income to the Federal Government during the last four years of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The judgment was delivered by Justice Ibrahim Buba following a Freedom of Information suit brought by SERAP.

SERAP’s suit followed revelations by the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, that at least N30 trillion “has either been stolen or unaccounted for, or grossly mismanaged over the last few years under the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s watch.”

You Must Account For Alleged Missing N30tn, Court Tells Okonjo-Iweala, FG

Dr-Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala-2The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government to provide information on the spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion.

The fund according to the court represents some accruable income to the Federal Government during the last four years of the Administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

The judgment was delivered last week by Justice Ibrahim Buba following a Freedom of Information suit brought by a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

SERAP’s suit followed revelations by the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, that at least N30 trillion “has either been stolen or unaccounted for, or grossly mismanaged over the last few years under the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s watch.”

Justice Buba said, “Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government have no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested for. The Court has gone through the application and agrees that SERAP’s application has merits and the argument is not opposed. SERAP’s application is granted as prayed.”

The Court agreed with the arguments by SERAP Deputy Director, Olukayode Majekodunmi that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government “should have either supplied the information requested by SERAP or communicate her denial within 7 days of receipt of the letter from SERAP if she considers that the request should be denied.”

The judgment by Justice Buba reads in part: “Preliminary objection by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government is misconceived, the court upholds the arguments by SERAP for the reasons stated herein.”

“SERAP commenced this proceeding by way of Originating Summons dated 23 February 2015 and filed 25 February 2015. Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government filed a Memorandum of Conditional Appearance, a Notice of Preliminary Objection and written address, all undated but filed on 29 September 2015.”

“The preliminary objection is on the following grounds: that SERAP did not obtain the mandatory leave of the Federal High Court to issue and serve the Originating Summons and other processes outside Lagos State; that there is no mandatory endorsement on the Originating Summons that it is to be served on Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government in Abuja and outside jurisdiction of this Court.”

“The only issue for determination is whether Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government should be heard on their preliminary objection considering the totality of the circumstances of this case.”

“He who wants equity must do equity. This suit was filed on 25 February 2015 and from the record of the court was served on Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government on 3rd July, 2015. It took about 3 months for them to come up with technical response to the simple request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2011.”

“Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government have therefore been caught by Order 29 of the Rules of this Court, which requires that an application shall be made within 21 days after service on the Defendants of the originating summons.”

“If Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government want to raise issues about service, the law does not permit of demurer. The proper route for them should have been to join issues with the originating summons and also file their objections. In the present case by SERAP, the Notice of Preliminary Objection by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government is incurably defective for not conforming to order 29 of the Rules of this Court.”

“The process adopted by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government in this suit is to come by way of demurer. This process has long been abolished by the Rules of this Court. By Order 16 Rule 1 of the Rules of this Court, no demurer shall be allowed and rule 2 provides that a party shall be entitled to pursue by his pleadings any point of law and any point of law so raised shall be disposed by the judge who tries the cause at or after trial.”

“The implication of this clear provision of the rule of court is that Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government must join issues with SERAP on the originating summons no matter how flimsy, instead of looking for a technical way out. This technical way out has failed.”

“The concept of demurer as presently raised by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government is no longer known to law especially the Federal High Court of Nigeria. It is the position of the law that the application of Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government should fail. Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government, having failed to file Counter Affidavit to SERAP’s suit, are deemed to have forfeited that option of filing anything again.”

“Having shown why the Application by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government should be dismissed for failing to join issues with SERAP, the originating process must be moved on the merits.”

“On the issue of failure to obtain pre-requisite consent/leave of Court to issue and serve the originating summons on Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government outside of jurisdiction, Order 6 Rule 31 states that ‘in this Order out of jurisdiction means out of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’”

“It is also necessary to refer to sections 97 and 99 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act. The provisions apply to the validity of the service and have nothing to do with the validity of the originating process. On the strength of this clear provision, which Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government did not deny and incapable of denying at this point, their objection is dismissed as the validity of the process is not affected in any way.”

“The main issue in this Court’s view bothers on the legal binding obligation imposed on Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government by the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act access to a record of information requested for. In the case at hand, SERAP through its letter of 2 February 2015, Exhibit A, sought the information relating to the spending of the alleged missing N30 trillion, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government during the last 4 years of the Administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Exhibit A has been received by them, and Exhibit B is the acknowledgement of receipt of Exhibit A.”

“However Mrs Okonjo-Iweala and the Federal Government have since the receipt of the request letter failed, refused and or neglected to provide SERAP with the information it requested for within their custody. They should have either supplied the information requested by SERAP or communicate their denial within 7 days of receipt of the application from SERAP if it considers that the application should be denied.”

It would be recalled that SERAP in February 2015 dragged Mrs Okonjo-Iweala to court over “failure to provide information about spending of the alleged missing N30tn, which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government in the past four years.”

SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “This judgment shows the important role that Nigerian courts can play in the efforts to promote transparency in government and combat corruption and the impunity of perpetrators. It also confirms that high-ranking government officials can no longer escape accountability for their action while in office. We urge Mrs Okonjo-Iweala to cooperate with the authorities in the efforts to ensure the full and effective enforcement of the judgment.”

Mr Soludo had earlier reportedly asked Mrs Okonjo-Iweala: “How many trillions of naira were paid for oil subsidy (unappropriated?) How many trillions (in actual fact) have been ‘lost’ through Customs duty waivers over the last four years? Can you tell Nigerians why the price of diesel has still not come down despite the crash in global crude oil prices, and how much is being appropriated by friends in the process?”

Saraki’s Senate Is Perpetrating A Parliament Of Men, Not Of Laws – SERAP

fuel scarcitySocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Wednesday accused the 8th Senate under the leadership of Dr Bukola Saraki of perpetrating a parliament of men and not of laws.

The non governmental organisation has also called on the leadership of the Senate to immediately withdraw the unconstitutional summon for Justice Danladi Umar, Chairman Code of Conduct Tribunal to appear before its Ethics Committee.

The Senate, according to SERAP, “can’t arrogate to itself the power to summon judges without violating constitutional safeguards.”

The group said that “The summon represents a direct assault upon the principle of judicial independence as it undermines the constitutional principle of separation of powers and guarantee of a judicial system that is free from outside influence of whatever kind and from whatever source”.

The statement, signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, adds that “the constitutional power of the Senate can only be validly exercised if it’s intended to be in aid of the function of law-making itself.

“There is clearly no suggestion of contemplated legislation in this case. The Senate not only has exceeded the limit of its own authority, but assumed a power which could only be properly exercised by another branch of the government.

“We therefore advise Justice Umar to ignore its invitation as it is of no legal effect whatsoever.

“The Senate in its blind zeal to protect the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, who is facing corruption charges before the Tribunal is working hard to destroy the foundation of the country’s constitutional democracy. This is a blatant usurpation of power, and an attack upon the integrity of constitutional government and the rule of law.

“The Senate doesn’t have the power to summon any judge, including Justice Umar. If there is any credible allegation of corruption against Justice Umar, it ought to be dealt with by the appropriate law enforcement agencies and that cannot be the Senate.”

“The Senate can’t lawfully exercise any authority beyond the limits marked out by the constitution. It is manifestly repugnant to constitutional safeguards which assigns to each organ of the government its exclusive functions and a limited sphere of action. This invitation, coming on the heels of the decision by the Tribunal for Saraki’s trial to be conducted day-by-day pursuant to Section 396(6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, is clearly politically motivated.”

“While the Senate is empowered under Section 88 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to conduct an inquiry for the purpose of enabling it to among others make laws, correct any defects in existing laws, expose corruption, inefficiency or waste in the execution or administration of laws within its legislative competence, it doesn’t possess the power to get involved in alleged criminal matter.

“The Senate is in no sense a court, police or anti-corruption agency, and for it to attempt to act as one, would bring about insurmountable legal and political problems.”, SERAP said.