SERAP Writes World Bank On Abacha Loot Alleged Mismanagement

AbachaThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has written an open letter to the World Bank’s President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, requesting him to use his “good office and leadership position to urgently address the public perception that the World Bank is seeking to distance itself from responsibility over alleged mismanagement in the spending of recovered Abacha loot.

Specifically, the organisation is asking Dr. Kim to “establish a special inspection panel on Nigeria to visit locations across the country to verify whether or not the projects reportedly executed by the Nigerian government with the funds were indeed executed.”

A statement signed by the SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, disclosed this.

The bank had told SERAP that it has no more information to provide on the status of the projects reportedly executed with the funds.

The response sent last week to SERAP, by the World Bank Access to Information Appeal Committee said: “In response to your request under case number AI4288 (related to your initial request case number AI3982, we wish to inform you that we have thoroughly searched our records and databases but have not been able to locate any additional information that is responsive to your request beyond what we have already shared with you. Therefore, we are unable to fulfill your request.”

In 2016, the World Bank had asked for more time to release details on the spending of recovered loot by Abacha. This followed the bank’s decision to refer “portion of appeal by SERAP to the Bank Archives Unit for processing for public access. The Bank’s request for more time followed the appeal SERAP lodged with the Bank on February 5, 2016 on the ground that the Bank’s decision on its initial request did not reveal “important portions of the information requested on how Abacha loot was spent.”

Outstanding Questions

The letter from SERAP, read in part: “Getting to the root of how Abacha loot was spent would demonstrate that the World 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 the recovered public funds.

“There would be an acute risk that the Bank’s on-going and future role in supervising and monitoring of spending of recovered stolen public funds would be questioned and may be legally challenged for lacking transparency and accountability.

“SERAP believes that given its supervisory and monitoring roles in the spending of the recovered Abacha loot, the World Bank ought to do much more to clarify outstanding questions regarding the status of projects reportedly executed with the funds. It is vital that the Bank is able to show that it is up to the task whenever it takes up the responsibility of supervising and monitoring the spending of recovered funds in Nigeria and elsewhere across the world.

“SERAP also believes that the Bank ought to have classified the execution of the projects by the Nigerian government as high or substantial risk especially given the prevalent of corruption in the country, and exercised due diligence including by keeping proper records on the conditions of projects supervised and monitored by the Bank.

“Any failure to take decisive action to uncover what exactly happened to the projects reportedly executed by recovered Abacha loot which the Bank volunteered to supervise and monitor would shed a bad light on the World Bank, undermine its goal of alleviating poverty, and may mark the demise of transparency and accountability at the Bank.

“The proposed inspection panel on Nigeria should be able to ask appropriate questions from the authorities and engage with the communities affected by the alleged mismanagement of the recovered funds. This process would help to enhance compliance on the ground with the Bank’s safeguards and thereby bolstering the Bank’s accountability under its policies.

“The panel should also undertake a full investigation into whether there has been a serious failure by the Bank supervisors and monitors to observe its operational policies and procedures regarding the execution of projects with recovered Abacha loot; the role played by any government officials including in the Ministry of Finance, and the material adverse effects on communities across the country.

“Communities that have been affected by the apparent mismanagement of recovered Abacha loot should receive from the Bank proper and adequate compensation as well as community-based development benefits such as education, sanitation systems, health care, and community services (particularly for the elderly, mothers and children), access to clean water, access to livelihoods, and other locally determined remedial measures. SERAP considers this is a basic corrective justice, and it is the bare minimum required in the circumstances.”

Furthermore, the group expressed concern over the apparent lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of the recovered loot.

“SERAP also urges you to adopt and implement a Transparency Charter with respect to your ongoing and future supervisory and monitoring duties on the spending of recently recovered Abacha loot in order to ensure the integrity of the process of project execution. SERAP believes that the Bank’s goals of promoting transparency, accountability and the rule of law in countries would gain more credibility and respect if the Bank can lead by example particularly in its supervisory and monitoring role of spending of recovered stolen public funds.

“SERAP hopes that the World Bank would act as requested. However, take notice that should the Bank fail and/or neglect to take the steps recommended, the Registered Trustees of SERAP would pursue appropriate international and national legal actions to ensure transparency and accountability in this matter.”

SERAP therefore said that the proposed panel should find out the following:

– Why 2 rather 8 health centers were completed as disclosed by the report produced by the Bank. The location of the 2 completed projects should be disclosed. If it is true that 174 health centers were built with the Abacha loot and commissioned by the government and to disclose the locations of the centers;

– If payments were made to contractors who reportedly executed 10 of the 18 power projects pertained to physical electrical installations, and disclose the names of those contractors. If it is true that recovered Abacha funds were used to provide additional financing for the Universal Basic Education (UBE) program in the amount of NGN24.25 bn to support basic education throughout the country, and to disclose the number and location of schools which benefited from these funds at the time;

– If it is true that 13 road projects were completed including 3 of the largest road and bridge projects in each geo-political zone with the funds, and to disclose the locations of individual projects, including the largest roads and bridges completed.”

SERAP Asks Buhari To Clear Air On Ownership Of Ikoyi Funds

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseFollowing the discovery of the sum of 13 billion Naira by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) at Osborne Tower, Ikoyi, Lagos, the Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to clarify the issue in the ownership of the money.

The organisation also called on the president to “ensure legal backing for his government’s whistle-blowing policy by vigorously pursuing the passing, by the National Assembly of the whistle-blower bills.”

A statement, signed by the Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, read in part: “No good comes from secrecy in governance, as officials who have become accustomed to operating without accountability are loath to relinquish the power that comes from conducting their business without public scrutiny.”

“The government’s increasing reliance on whistle-blowers’ tips to fight corruption has to be backed by some level of transparency and accountability in the real identities of those claiming recovered cash. Clearing the doubts surrounding the real identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul would demonstrate that the president values transparency over secrecy, provide further encouragement to blow the whistle on governmental corruption, and enhance the public right to know.”

Also according to the organisation, “Democracy abhors secrecy, and for Nigerians to be able to hold elected leaders accountable, they must have access to information such as on the real identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul. This transparency is fundamental to the operation of the government’s whistle-blower policy, and inextricably rooted in the notions of good governance and the rule of law under the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended).”

“No good comes from secrecy in governance, as officials who have become accustomed to operating without accountability are loath to relinquish the power that comes from conducting their business without public scrutiny. When public authorities resist efforts to shine a light on their activities, it gives the impression that there is something to hide. It’s counter-productive to overstate national security based secrecy needs, as secrecy encourages poorly informed and under-vetted decision-making.”

“Public scrutiny is a prerequisite for changing harmful, entrenched practices. Rather than operating the whistle-blowers policy as hidden, mysterious mechanism at the far edge of democracy, this government should make the operation of policy more transparent and accessible to the public. Both transparency and accountability are necessary to uphold the rights of victims of corruption and ensure that suspected perpetrators are held to account. The ‘sky will not fall’ if the true identities of those behind the Ikoyi cash haul are revealed.”

“It’s clear that as the EFCC continues to uncover more suspected looted or ill-gotten cash, those blowing the whistle will need greater level of protection. But without outlawing retaliation and attacks against whistle-blowers, and taking a firm stance on protecting them, the incentive of bounty rewards would be negated, as potential whistle-blowers may be discouraged from performing invaluable public interest service.

“It shouldn’t be the case that the government knows the risks of whistle-blowing and yet fails to provide the needed legal protection against retaliation and attacks, regardless of whether whistle-blowers are entitled to bounties.

“The policy of giving whistle-blowers some percentage of recovered loot would seem to be a game changer in the fight against corruption but this government now has to squarely address the significant risks that those who blow the whistle face by urgently working with the National Assembly to ensure the necessary legal backing that would ensure protection against reprisals and attacks.

“The government should ensure that the National Assembly expedites the process of passing the Whistle-Blower Bill, as ensuring that the bill is passed without further delay would recognize the necessity of whistle-blowers and the value they add to the anti-corruption fight by reporting otherwise unknown corruption-related information. It would also ensure that whistle-blowers are fully protected from any retaliation and attacks they may experience, and that the government fully appreciates the information they provide.

“Continuing delay in the passing of the Whistle-Blower Bill would have a chilling effect on potential whistle-blowers and hinder the public’s ability to learn about the kind of cash haul found in Ikoyi and elsewhere across the country. It’s also contrary to Article 33 of the UN Convention on Corruption, which Nigeria has ratified. The convention obligates the government to put in place appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with the convention.”

Following the recovery, a Federal High Court in Lagos, has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the fund, (43 million Dollars, 23 million Naira and 27,000 Pounds), to the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Meanwhile, both Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state and the National Intelligence Agency last week reportedly claimed ownership of the cash.

SERAP Asks Buhari To Refer High-Profile Corruption Cases To ICC

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseAs the Nigerian government’s anti-graft war continues to draw reactions, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has asked the President, Muhammadu Buhari, to refer high level official corruption cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A statement released on Sunday, by the agency’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, stated that the measure would improve deterrence and show commitment in confronting grand corruption.

Mr Adewale further noted that referring corruption cases to the ICC should be part of a strategy to require a fundamental reform of Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

“As a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the government should also consider drawing from the expertise, experience, and international best practices of the court to complement the mandates and powers of our anti-corruption agencies and judiciary to successfully and satisfactorily investigate, prosecute and hear high-profile corruption cases.

“The latest setbacks in the prosecution of high-profile corruption cases show the need for effective enforcement measures to weed out, expose, and punish grand corruption in the country. Referring large-scale corruption cases to the International Criminal Court would in the short-medium term improve deterrence, and at the minimum demonstrate a symbolic commitment to confront grand corruption head on.

“Referral to the ICC should be considered as a stop-gap measure, and as part of an all-embracing strategy that would inevitably require a fundamental reform of the criminal justice system and the strengthening and empowerment of the country’s anti-corruption agencies.

“SERAP argues that corruption by high-ranking officials and their families and associates is an international crime, especially given the sheer amounts of national wealth involved, and the devastating effects of such plundering, including political instability, weak rule of law, and destruction of the country’s economy.

“Without effective investigation and prosecution of high-ranking public officials charged with corruption, and a judiciary that is willing and able to satisfactorily play its own interpretative role, this government’s fight against corruption may sadly turn out to be all motion and no movement, and this will eventually undermine the legitimacy of the anti-corruption efforts,” the organisation stated.

SERAP also advocated that more training be provided to those charged with the task of investigating and prosecuting large-scale corruption.

“SERAP believes that radical and more robust criminal enforcement measures are necessary to appreciably improve anti-corruption efforts, by equipping, empowering and providing opportunities for training and re-training of those charged with the investigation and prosecution of large-scale corruption so that they can fearlessly, impartially, efficiently and energetically enforce anti-corruption laws and ensure justice for the countless victims of corruption in the country.

“It should not be the case that only petty offenders are successfully prosecuted while high profile corrupt officers escape punishment and justice. Prosecuting the ‘small fry’ and leaving the ‘big fish’ to go unpunished would send a particularly damaging message about the government’s commitment to end large-scale official corruption, legitimize offenders’ impunity, and clearly violate the underlying legal and moral assumptions that a govern­ment will treat all persons equally, fairly, and with respect.

“Effectively prosecuting high-ranking officials would help to persuade foreign jurisdictions keeping stolen public funds, and facilitate international cooperation and assistance that may lead to the recovery of such assets.

“Efforts must also be intensified to apply stronger preventive measures to ensure that Nigerians are informed of the dangers of corruption. By ensuring that the Nigerian public views grand corruption with a ‘human face,’ the public may be more likely to build a united front and demand change from their leaders, which, in turn, would gradually strengthen Nigeria’s political will to end the problem. This is the surest way to help keep Nigeria fair, just, stable and prosperous.

“As the situation in the country has shown, corruption is costly to good governance, human rights and national development, and leads to erosion of confidence in good governance, rule of law and economic stability.

“SERAP argues that grand corruption in the country violates fundamental human values, and the values protected by international human rights law, as well as negates the doctrine of fiduciary relations that obligate public officers to faithfully perform the duties of their office, and to preserve state property.”

SERAP Calls On FG To Investigate Amnesty International Office Attack

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has called on both President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to urgently instruct appropriate authorities to promptly and thoroughly investigate the attack on the Amnesty International office in Nigeria, and ensure the safety and security of its staff.

It would be recalled that a group of protesters on Monday, barricaded the Abuja office of Amnesty International and asked the international organisation to quit Nigeria within 24 hours.

In a statement signed on Tuesday, by SERAP Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, the organization called on Buhari and Osinbajo to “Act swiftly to end the attack, intimidation, harassment and threats against Amnesty International Office in Nigeria and its staff.

“Any failure to hold to account those who may be responsible will invariably increase the vulnerability of civil society in the country, and strengthen the perception that attacks against the Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) and the human rights workers can happen with impunity.”

“If the Buhari government does not take all necessary measures to immediately end the mob attack on Amnesty International or any other civil society group for that matter, SERAP will be compelled to take appropriate legal action nationally and internationally including approaching the United Nation (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders for remedy.

“SERAP will continue to work to challenge any attempt to restrict, silence or eliminate the voices of credible civil society in the country.

“We urge the presidency to speak out strongly against intimidation and harassment of Amnesty International office in Nigeria and its staff.

“Investigating the attacks against naming and shaming the sponsors and bringing them to justice will send a powerful message of protection and support to civil society groups who stand up to speak truth to power.

“Any attack on Amnesty International office in Nigeria or harassment and intimidation of its staff members is an assault on the entire human rights community in the country.

“This government has an obligation to support and protect civil society groups and human rights defenders against violence and sponsored attacks.

“Nigeria is a democratic society and the government can’t just sit back and watch reprisals, threats and increasing hostility to Amnesty International in particular and the NGO community in general.

“Under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and International Human Rights Law, everyone whose rights are violated are entitled to a right to an effective remedy.

“Exposing human rights violations and seeking redress for them is largely dependent on the degree of security enjoyed by civil society groups and human rights defenders.

“Protecting NGOs against sponsored attacks and ending impunity for such attacks is therefore a critical element in the promotion and protection of human rights in this country.

“While some may not like to hear these things Amnesty International has said, this in no way justifies this kind of mob attack on its office and staff members.

“The authorities should show its commitment in protecting the right to freedom of expression and guarantee conditions for civil society to flourish.”

SERAP Urges Osinbajo To Warn Trump Against Harassment Of Nigerians

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to “tell the U.S President, Donald Trump, in no uncertain terms that Nigeria would not tolerate any harassment and unfair treatment of her citizens with valid multiple-entry U.S visas at U.S airports.”

This was revealed in a statement released on Tuesday and signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

It follows a disclosure by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, that in the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S visas being denied entry and sent back to Nigeria.

According to Mrs Dabiri -Erewa, such affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flight and their visas were cancelled.

SERAP further said: “The Nigerian government must stand up to Trump and defend Nigerians’ internationally recognised right to freedom of movement just as the Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider Al-Abadi did for his own citizens.

“The Iraqi leader ensured that his country was taken off the obnoxious executive order list. Osinbajo must now show the leadership needed to defend the country’s citizens who are facing unfair treatment in the hands of U.S immigration officers.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) guarantees liberty of movement, and provides in article 13 that, “everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

“2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. The declaration also guarantees the right of everyone including Nigerians to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration can be fully realized.”

“SERAP notes that Eleanor Roosevelt, late wife of American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR drafting committee.

“On the basis of the UDHR, persons are entitled to move from one place to another and to establish themselves in a place of their choice. The enjoyment of this right must not be made dependent on any particular purpose or reason for the person wanting to move or to stay in a place. Any restrictions must be in conformity with international standards.

“The Nigerian authorities must ensure that Nigerians’ liberty of movement is protected from interference by the trump government.

“The authorities should carefully study the revised executive order and take proactive measures to prevent any harassment and unfair treatment of Nigerians in the hands of U.S immigration officers.”

SERAP Writes Trump, Demands Return Of Nigeria’s Stolen Assets

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseA civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent an open letter to U.S President, Donald Trump, urging his administration to “attach and release to Nigeria, some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha”.

The letter dated February 3, was signed by the organization’s U.S Volunteer Counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck and its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP.

SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, revealed content of the letter in a statement to the media on Sunday, February 5.

The letter tells President Trump: “These proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the U.S under an August 2014 U.S Federal District Court order. SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the U.S and Nigeria have ratified.

“The U.S Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against these proceeds so as to fulfill several non-controversial commitments by the U.S to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials.”

The letter, of which copies were sent to the US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, further reads in part:

“SERAP urges your new Administration to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.

“Simultaneously, the Administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500 million in assets described above.”

“Any bilateral discussions between the U.S and Nigeria concerning these assets should include clear acknowledgement of the significant role that civil society plays in asset recovery matters.

“To that end, the respective governments ought to commit to promptly sharing information with relevant civil society organizations on stolen assets of Nigerian origin located in the US or otherwise subject to US jurisdiction. This proposed commitment is similar to one between the US and Kenya as well as consistent with Articles 46(4) and 56 of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

“SERAP notes that Article 51 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides for the return of “corrupt” assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Article 43 provides likewise.

“Similarly, under Articles 47(3)(a) and (b) states parties have an obligation to return forfeited or confiscated assets in cases of public corruption, as here, or when the requesting party reasonably establishes either prior ownership or damages to the states.”

“In SERAP’s judgment, some or all of these requirements have been met with respect to the $500 million in proceeds described above. A resolution adopted by the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption in Panama in November 2013 reaffirms this obligation, by requiring state to make “every effort” to return such proceeds. to the victim state.

“Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has recently informed SERAP that the U.S Government has identified another $500 million or so proceeds of Nigerian corruption, subject to US jurisdiction.”

In January 2017, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, had raised the alarm that Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the government of United States.

Sagay said that the amount represented a separate tranche from the $480m earlier forfeited to the U.S, following a court judgment.

According to him, “Nigeria presently stands to lose another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the US, contrary to the earlier promise by the U.S to return same to Nigeria.”

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF’s Case

SERAP Urges Buhari To Hand SGF Over To EFCC, ICPCThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari over what it termed ‘grass-cutting’ allegations against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Lawal Babachir.

The agency has urged him to use his good office and leadership position to “urgently refer the allegations of corruption against Mr Lawal to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) for further investigation.

They have also asked that “if any relevant and admissible evidence is found, he should be made to face prosecution.”

In addition to that, the organization has asked President Buhari to “urgently publish the outcome of the investigation conducted on the matter by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, (SAN), and to ask Mr Malami to hand over the file to both the EFCC and ICPC.

No Double Standards

In a statement signed by the SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization said, “We are concerned that the failure to suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the investigation by Mr Malami.

“The perceived lack of transparency in the outcome of that investigation may have created the impression that your government is treating Mr Lawal as a sacred cow.”

The letter, sent to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbayo reads in part:

“SERAP believes that Mr Lawal’s case presents your administration with a real opportunity to reassure a lot of Nigerians who may be worried about the direction of travel of your anti-corruption agenda.

“Rather than assuming a defensive posture to the matter, we advise you to use this case to show to Nigerians that there will be no two standards of justice in your Administration’s fight against corruption.

“SERAP also believes the recommended approach would help to address the growing public suspicion and pessimism about your government’s ability to fight high-level official corruption to a standstill, and to avoid any collateral consequences.

“It is absolutely important that the public should have complete confidence and trust in your administration’s oft-repeated commitment to fight corruption and the impunity of perpetrators.

“It is true that Mr Lawal enjoys a constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction.

“But we believe that the right to presumption of innocence is one that should have personally been raised by Mr Lawal and not your government, especially given his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

“SERAP believes that the guilt or innocence of Mr Lawal is for the court to decide, following a due process of law.”

Inflated Contracts

To assist the government in achieving public confidence and trust and effectively spread the gospel of anti-corruption, the agency made the following recommendations:

  1. “Urgently refer the allegations against Mr Lawal to both the EFCC and ICPC for further investigations, and if there is relevant and sufficient admissible evidence, for him to face prosecution.
  2. “Pending the referral to the EFCC and ICPC, suspend Mr Lawal from his position as Secretary to the Government of the Federation, pending the outcome of any investigation by the EFCC and ICPC.
  3. “Promptly and widely publish the outcome of investigation carried out by Mr Malami and instruct that any files relating to that investigation be handed over to the EFCC and ICPC to assist in their follow-up investigation.”

According to SERAP,  the President had instructed Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the alleged breach of Nigeria’s law in handling contracts awarded by the Presidential Initiative for the North East, (PINE).

“Among other allegations contained in the Senate’s report is that Mr Lawal’s company, Global Vision Ltd, benefited from inflated contracts of over 200 million Naira to clear ‘Invasive Plant Specie’ in Yobe State.

“According to the report, Mr Lawal was still the Director of Global Vision as of the time the contract was awarded in March 2016, and remains the signatory to the company’s account.”

“SERAP further notes your instruction to Mr Malami to carry out further investigation into the allegations, as well as your recent letter to the Senate effectively raising some technical and procedural concerns about the report which indicted Mr Lawal.”

Probe Missing Chibok Safe School Funds, SERAP Tells EFCC

SERAP Drags Senate To UN Over Magu's RejectionThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Nigeria’s anti-graft body to investigate allegations that the  Safe School funds for Chibok girls is missing and cannot be accounted for.

The group’s request was contained in a petition SERAP sent to the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, requesting him to urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into the issue.

The said fund of 500 million Naira was commissioned by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to rebuild the Government Girls School in Chibok community in Borno State, northeast Nigeria.

SERAP, in a statement on Wednesday, urged the EFCC to “invite for questioning, and name and shame anyone suspected to be involved in the alleged diversion, including the contractors allegedly handling the project”.

In the petition dated December 27, 2016 and signed by SERAP’s senior staff attorney, Timothy Adewale, the organisation said: “The allegation that 500 million Naira has been lost to corruption has resulted in denying the girls access to education, and shows the failure of the former President Goodluck Jonathan government to live up to Nigeria’s commitments under the global Safe School Declaration”.

Chibok Community Celebrates Homecoming For 21 Rescued Girls
Some of the rescued Chibok girls

Monitor Government’s Spending

It further read: “SERAP believes that the diversion of the funds will expose the school to attacks in the future. This is a fundamental breach of the country’s obligations including guarantees of non-repetition, which contributes to prevention and deterrence of future attacks.

“SERAP urges the EFCC to work with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to set up a mechanism to monitor government’s spending of the safe school funds in order to ensure that the funds are spent exactly to prevent and deter future attacks, and to allow the girls to go back to school as soon as possible.

EFCC
Some EFCC officials

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the school has remained in a state of disrepair since the abduction of the girls, and students have remained at home.

“SERAP is concerned that the alleged diversion of 500 million naira meant for reconstruction of Government Girls School in Chibok has directly violated the right to education of the girls, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

Breach Of Anti-corruption Legislation

“The diversion has undermined the obligation of the government to take step to the maximum of its available resources to achieve the right to education. The alleged diversion also shows a serious breach of anti-corruption legislation including the EFCC Act, and Nigeria’s international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption, and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption both of which the country has ratified.

“The EFCC should ensure full accountability and bring to justice anyone found to be responsible for corruption and diversion of safe school funds. The EFCC should also ensure that all proceeds of corruption are recovered and returned back to the treasury.

“This request is based on allegation by Governor Kashim Shettima that 500 million Naira set aside by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is missing and cannot be accounted for.

Kashim Shettima, Sambisa, Borno, Military
Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima

“The funds were released for rebuilding of the Government Girls School in Chibok under the Safe School Initiative programme, which was commissioned former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala”.

SERAP Sues Saraki, Dogara ‘Over Failure To Account For 500bn Naira Running Cost’

Bukola-Saraki-and-Yakubu-DogaraThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara, “over failure to give account of the spending of 500 billion Naira as running cost between 2006 and 2016 and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member”.

The suits filed last Friday at the Federal High Court Ikoyi followed two Freedom of Information requests dated November 25, 2016 sent to both Dr Saraki and Mr Dogara.

The group in that request asked the leaders of the National Assembly to “urgently provide information about alleged spending of 500 billion Naira as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member of the House of Representatives”.

The originating summons, with suit numbers FHC/L/CS/1711/16 and FHC/L/CS/1710/16 respectively, were brought pursuant to section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni.

SERAP’s suits against Dr Saraki and Mr Dogara followed disclosure by Abdulmumin Jibrin that Nigerian Senators and House of Representatives members had pocketed N500 billion as ‘running cost’ out of the one trillion Naira provided for in the National Assembly budgets between 2006 and 2016 and by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that each Senator goes home with nothing less than 15 million Naira monthly while each member receives nothing less than 10 million Naira monthly.

SERAP is asking the court to determine the question “Whether by virtue of the provision of section 4(a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants are under an obligation to provide the Plaintiff with the information requested for”.

The suits read: “By virtue of Section 1(1) of the FOI Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution. Under the FOI, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.

“The information requested for by SERAP relates to information about spending of 500 billion Naira as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member. The information requested by SERAP does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act. The information requested for, apart from not being exempted from disclosure under the FOI Act, bothers on an issue of National interest, public concern, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.

“The Defendants will not suffer any injury or prejudice if the information is released to the members of the public. It is in the interest of justice that the information be released. Unless the reliefs sought herein are granted, the Defendants will continue to be in breach of the Freedom of Information Act, and other statutory responsibilities.

“Up till the time of filing this action the Defendants/Respondents have failed, neglected and/or refused to make available the information requested by SERAP. The particulars of facts of the failure, negligence and refusal are contained in the verifying affidavit in support of the application and shall be relied upon at the hearing of this application. The Defendants/Respondents have no reason whatsoever to deny SERAP access to the information sought for.

“It is submitted that Section 4(a) of the FOI Act 2011 is a mandatory and absolute provision which imposes a binding legal duty or obligation on a public official, agency or institution to comply with a request for access to public information or records except where the FOI Act expressly permits an exemption or derogation from the duty to disclose. Nigerian courts have consistently held that the use of mandatory words such as “must” and “shall” in a statute is naturally prima facie imperative and admits of no discretion.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a democratic society, this is meant to be a norm. It is an apostasy for government to ignore the provisions of the law and the necessary rules made to regulate matters”.

The suits are seeking a declaration that the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose the spending of 500 billion Naira as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member amounts to a breach of the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability and violates Articles 9, 21 and 22 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

They are also seeking a declaration that by virtue of the provisions of Section 1 (1) and Section 4 (a) of the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the Defendants/Respondents are under a binding legal obligation to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending allowances of each Senator and member including: Details of projects on which the N500 billion running cost between 2006 and 2016 were spent.

SERAP wants an order of mandamus directing and or compelling the Defendants/Respondents to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending of 500 billion Naira as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member including: Details of projects on which the 500 billion Naira running cost between 2006 and 2016 were spent.

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

Recovered Loot: SERAP Starts Committal To Prison Hearings Against Malami, Idris

Criminal CasesSocio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has commenced committal to prison hearings against the Federal Government, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Accountant-General of the Federation, Mr Ahmed Idris.

They are being tried “for having neglected to obey the order of the court made on Friday February, 26, requiring them to provide SERAP with up to date information on the spending of recovered stolen funds since the return of democracy in 1999”.

A statement by SERAP said  that the information ordered to be released by Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court Lagos include specific details on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets by governments since 1999; the amount that has been spent from the recovered stolen public assets and the objects of such spending; as well as details and location of specific projects on which recovered stolen public assets were spent.

The Form 49 “notice to show cause why order of committal should not be made” was filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos last week by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni “following the service on Mr Malami and Mr Idris of Form 48 contempt suit, and the certified true copy of the judgment.”

Mumuni said, “Despite the service of both form 48 and the certified true copy of the judgment on both the Attorney General of the Federation and the Accountant-General of the Federation they have failed and/or neglected to acknowledge the judgment let alone obey it”.

“It has become painfully clear since the judgment was delivered that this government has no plan to enforce it. It’s dismaying that a government, which builds its reputation on combating grand corruption has not embraced the enormous opportunities the judgment provides to open the book on what exactly happened to recovered loot.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to take the court, which is the guardian of justice in this country, for a ride. A democratic state based on the rule of law cannot exist or function, if the government ignores and/or fails to abide by Court orders,” Mumuni said.

The 69-page judgment in suit no: FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011 signed by Honourable Justice Mohammed Idris reads in part: “Transparency in the decision-making process and access to information upon which decisions have been made can enhance accountability.

“Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took oath of office to protect and preserve the Constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law. In a constitutional democracy like ours, this is meant to be the norm.”

The group further pointed out that in respect of its reliefs on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999, the government had kept mute, insisting that the government had no such power under the law.

“There is public interest in public authorities and high-profile individuals being accountable for the quality of their decision making. Ensuring that decisions have been made on the basis of quality legal advice is part of accountability.

“I am of the view and do hold that the action should and does succeed in whole. Documents relating to the receipt or expenditure on recovered stolen funds since return of democracy in 1999 constitute part of the information which a public institution and authority is obligated to publish, disseminate and make available to members of the public.

“The government has no legally justifiable reason for refusing to provide SERAP with the information requested, and therefore, this Court ought to compel the government to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, as the government is not above the law,” SERAP pointed out.

Corrupt Judges: Blame FG, Governors, CJN Tells SERAP

CJN, Recession, Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed, judiciaryThe Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Mahmud Mohammed, has said that the “the failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon recommendations by the National Judicial Council (NJC) cannot be blamed upon the NJC”.

Justice Mohammed made the statement in a letter dated 26 October 2016 and sent to Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).

The letter by a spokesman for the CJN, H. S. Sa’eed was in response to SERAP’s request to Justice Mohammed that he should, as the Chairman of the NJC to “take over from the Department of State Service (DSS) the cases of all the seven judges released by the DSS and refer the cases of those judges to anticorruption agencies for conclusion of investigation and prompt prosecution”.

But the CJN in reaction told SERAP that, “certainly, you will agree with me that where there are clear constitutional provisions relating to the power of any individual, institution or Arm of Government, then it cannot deviate nor exceed such powers as this will be unlawful”.

The letter by the CJN read: “While restating the willingness of the NJC to act upon any petition as well as commitment of the Nigerian judiciary to the fight against corruption, his Lordship opines that any significant involvement in the fight against corruption will be upon a similar commitment of the Prosecutorial Agencies to actively prosecute their cases expeditiously when information about same is received.

“It is necessary to restate that the NJC is a creation of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) being established under Section 153 with its mandate clearly set out in Para 21, Part One of the Third Schedule to the Constitution. This provision clearly stipulates at Para 21(b) and (d) that the Council may only ‘recommend’ to the President and the Governors, the removal from office of Judicial Officers and to exercise disciplinary control over such Judicial Officers, which in effect is the extent of its power to discipline. Hence, the Council cannot, suo moto dismiss any Judicial Officer.

“The NJC can also neither ‘hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption, as you have suggested. It can merely recommend to act upon its findings, as it has always done.

“However, in exercise of its constitutional mandate, the NJC has enacted the Judicial Discipline Regulations, 2014 in order to ensure that petitions are received, investigated and addressed as appropriate. As SERAP’s own Report attests, 64 Judicial Officers have been disciplined within five years even preceding the institution of the new guidelines. Any failure on the part of the Executive Arm of Government to act upon such recommendations cannot therefore be blamed upon the NJC.

“With due consideration to the contents of your letter, I am directed to acknowledge and address the concerns which SERAP have raised, which may reflect the wider opinion held by some Nigerians. While his Lordship doubtless appreciate SERAP’s concern for the incidence of corruption in the judiciary, it is indeed erroneous to conclude that the NJC has ‘felt satisfied with applying only civil sanctions and have not deemed it fit to hand over corrupt judges to law enforcement agencies for prosecution nor recover proceeds of corruption’, as insinuated in your letter under reference.

“To be sure, every citizen of Nigeria inclusive of Judicial Officers, are entitled to the protection of the law and a key provision of the Constitution is the presumption of innocence, as enshrined in Section 36(5) of the Constitution (as amended). I must also remind us that the Seven Judges like all other persons are entitled to a fair hearing as stipulated in Section 36 of the Constitution. As such, it would be presumptive and indeed preemptive to sanction the said judges without exhausting the proper procedure for their removal.”

“As a valuable member of the society, the Hon. CJN is certainly delighted with SERAP’s dedication to justice, fairness and justness. His Lordship also wishes to emphasize that it is indeed our collective responsibility to tackle any perceived challenges facing the Nigerian judiciary.”

“Indeed, with the support of well-meaning and eminent Nigerians such as members of SERAP, giant strides will be made towards reaching the goal of a transparent, fair and equitable system of justice. The Hon. CJN wishes you the best in your future endeavor as SERAP strives to support and entrench good governance in Nigeria”.

SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, had in a letter written to the NJC on October 11 expressed serious concern that “the NJC has for many years failed to appropriately deal with several cases of corrupt judges by failing to refer those cases to the EFCC and ICPC for prosecution. Many of these suspected corrupt judges are still alive and their cases should be promptly referred to the anti-corruption agencies. The NJC under your leadership should seize the opportunity of the just released 7 judges to comprehensively address corruption in the judiciary”.

SERAP said that it believed that “the NJC is in the best position to tackle corruption within the judiciary, and to ensure the application of appropriate disciplinary and legal measures in the cases of the released seven judges and other judges suspected of engaging in corruption”.

SERAP Seeks Dismissal Of Patience Jonathan’s Suit

SERAP, Buhari, Judges releaseThe Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has responded to the alleged ‘campaign of calumny against Patience Jonathan, wife of the former President, Goodluck Jonathan’ by asking the Federal High Court to “dismiss her suit with substantial cost”.

Mrs Jonathan and a group Union of Niger Delta Youth Organisation for Equity, Justice and Good Governance had accused SERAP in a suit for “using online, print and electronic media to publish to the public unfounded and malicious allegations that she stole $15 million and ought to be prosecuted”.

A statement by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, read: “Patience Jonathan’s claims cannot be maintained because they are brought on her behalf by a group that is unknown to law. This very point, SERAP calls into question the legal capacity to file this suit and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain it.

“Since the process of court has not been used properly, it is unnecessary to consider whether or not there is a genuine case on the merits. An abuse of court process is not the specie of sins called an irregularity. It is a much more fundamental vice which is deserving of the punishment of dismissal.”

“The suit as constituted discloses no reasonable cause of action against SERAP and is as such unmaintainable. Mrs Jonathan and her group cannot and has not articulated what legal wrong SERAP has done or what legal dispute they have with SERAP. They have not shown that the matter is justifiable and that a dispute exists between them and SERAP. Mrs Jonathan’s case against SERAP is therefore a flagrant abuse of court process and as such must be dismissed.

“The commencement of this suit through Originating Summons by Mrs. Jonathan and her group is also wrong and faulty. Originating Summons is absolutely inappropriate to commence an action where the facts are in dispute. It is evident from the processes filed by Mrs Jonathan and her group that this suit will definitely be disputed by SERAP.

“No stamp and/or seal of the solicitors to Mrs Jonathan and her group is fixed to the Originating Summons and as such is incompetent and not recognizable by the court. A document filed shall be deemed not properly signed or filed if it has no fixing of the seal and stamp, and the court cannot consider such document”.

One Union of Niger Delta Youth Organisation for Equity, Justice and Good Governance suing for themselves and on behalf of Mrs Jonathan had sued SERAP on October 6 at the Federal High Court in Lagos.

Mrs Jonathan and her group had asked the court for “an order of interim injunction restraining SERAP from taking any further steps in vilification, condemnation and conviction of her, in all public media and in the use of the judicial process for that purpose by the extremely publicised pursuit of any application for the coercion of the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute the Plaintiff/Applicant for owning legitimate private property, pending the hearing and determination of the Originating Summons”.

The suit is also seeking “an order directing SERAP to stay all action and to desist forthwith from proceeding against Mrs Jonathan, with any process whatsoever, pending the hearing and determination of the originating summons”.

Mrs Jonathan and her group have also claimed that, “the campaign by SERAP is in breach of her right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty under Section 36(5) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended)”.

Gifts From Friends

Their suit document further read that “the action by SERAP seeks to coerce the Attorney General of the Federation to embark on a breach of the same right when the Attorney General, is in a better position than SERAP and the court to know whether or not there is any evidence of wrongdoing by Mrs. Jonathan”.

“SERAP’s action is blatant misuse of the processes of this Court. SERAP therefore no longer deserves to continue as an incorporated entity and ought to be dissolved. It is just and equitable to dissolve SERAP in the circumstances of this case. Damages will not be adequate compensation for the irreparable damage Mrs Jonathan will suffer if the application is not granted. The Plaintiff undertakes as to damages in favour of SERAP in the event, the instant application ought not to have been granted.

“There has been a running battle between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Mrs Jonathan, with respect to the release of her legitimately earned funds which were deposited in accounts opened in the names of certain companies by one of her husband’s aides without her authorisation.

“The funds in question were legitimate gifts from her friends and well-wishers over the last 15 years which she had been saving in order to utilize to upgrade family businesses and concerns which had been somewhat dormant by reason of the long period of her husband’s service as a public officer in Nigeria.

“In order to preserve the value of these funds which she did not require for any purpose at the time she changed them into foreign exchange and kept them as cash for a long period in her home safe in Port Harcourt and Abuja.”

“When the family home in Otuoke was burnt down by hoodlums under the instigation of political adversaries in 2010, she began to think about banking these gifts which had now grown to large sums in United States. She therefore summoned one of her husband’s domestic aids, Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa to assist her in opening bank accounts into which the funds could be deposited.”

“Unknown to her, the said Dudafa in a bid to be discreet about the owner of the funds decided to bank the funds in the names of companies owned by him. When she discovered this she was constrained to continue with the names of the companies when she was advised that it did not make any difference as to the ownership of the funds since the director of the company would appoint her as sole signatory to the accounts in question.

“When in 2016 Dudafa was arrested and detained she had no fear for the funds as she realized that the funds could not be attributable to him once it was discovered that she was the sole signatory to the said accounts. It was therefore a shock to her when she discovered that ‘a no transaction order’ had been placed on the accounts by the EFCC in the belief that the funds belonged to Dudafa.”

“She instructed her solicitors to further write to the EFCC to inform them that the funds belong to her and that they formed a part of her legitimate earnings over the last 15 years. It was this letter that was leaked by the EFCC to the media that became sensationalized and led to the plaintiff’s vilification and attack by ignorant persons who had no information about the matter.”

“SERAP is playing to the public gallery in order to gain the notoriety it has achieved over the past years. SERAP has done this mostly by intervening in high profile issues without regard to the rights of persons it claims to protect. SERAP jumped into the fray of ignorant accusations being made against Mrs Jonathan in the public media and has begun a campaign of calumny against her using online, print and electronic media to publish to the public unfounded and malicious allegations that she stole the funds in question and ought to be prosecuted.

“SERAP has maintained this position, notwithstanding the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever by which Mrs Jonathan could be prosecuted for obtaining the funds through unlawful means. In furtherance of this campaign, SERAP, being in breach of its own objects for which it was incorporated, has continued to proclaim the guilt of Mrs Jonathan in the media and recently was widely reported in the news media to have commenced a self-serving action to attempt to coerce the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute her”.