Tag Archives: SERAP

EndSARs: SERAP, others sues NBC, Lai Mohammed for imposing N9M fine on Channels, AIT, others.

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The radio station was fined after an interview where a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, said he got information that a Northern governor sponsored Boko Haram.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, 261 concerned Nigerians, civil society and media groups have filed a lawsuit against the National Broadcasting Commission and Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed.

The litigants are asking the court to declare as arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional the N3m fine imposed on each of Channels, AIT and Arise TV for their coverage of the #EndSARS protests.

They are also asking the court to stop NBC from collecting the money.

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Acting Director-General of the NBC, Armstrong Idachaba, is joined in the suit as defendant.

The co-plaintiffs in the suit are 255 concerned Nigerians; Premium Times Services Limited; Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development; HEDA Resource Centre; International Centre for Investigative Reporting; African Centre for Media and Information Literacy; and Media Rights Agenda.

Idachaba, had last week announced fines of N9m on Channels, AIT, and Arise TV for purported “unprofessional coverage” of the #EndSARS protests across the country.

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1436/2020 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, the plaintiffs are seeking an order setting aside the arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional fines of N9m and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Channels, AIT and Arise TV, and on any other radio/television stations simply for carrying out their professional and constitutional duties.

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They argued that Section (2)(n) of the NBC Act and the Broadcasting Code are oppressive, and clearly inconsistent with the Nigerian constitution and the country’s international obligations.

The suit reads, “If the NBC and Lai Mohammed are allowed to continue to use these oppressive provisions against independent media in the guise of performing their statutory duties, the end result will be authoritarianism and denial of freedom and liberty.

“The NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed have consistently used broadcasting codes to suppress the watchdog roles of independent media, and to violate Nigerians’ human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, to disseminate and receive information, and hold their government and public officials to account.

“The action by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional, as it is contrary to section 39 of the Nigerian constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nigeria has ratified. Their action is apparently aimed to clampdown on media freedom and Nigerians’ human rights.”

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The plaintiffs are also seeking an order setting aside the fine of N5m and any other penal sanction unilaterally imposed by the NBC and Mr Lai Mohammed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM Lagos, simply for carrying out its professional and constitutional duties.

The suit filed on behalf of the plaintiffs by their lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Adelanke Aremo and Opeyemi Owolabi, reads in part, “A fine is a criminal sanction and only the court is empowered by the constitution to impose it. Fine imposed by regulatory agencies like the NBC without recourse to the courts is illegal, unconstitutional and offends the sacred principles of natural justice and fairness.

“It is the duty of the government to allow the legal and judicial powers of the state to function properly. Imposing any fine whatsoever without due process of law is arbitrary, as it contravenes the principles of ‘nemo judex in causa sua’ which literally means ‘one cannot be a judge in his own cause’ and ‘audi alteram partem’ which literally means ‘no one should be condemned unheard’.

“The NBC, being a regulatory body, is not empowered by law to act as the prosecutor and the judge; all at the same time. We humbly urge the court to set aside the unlawful and unconstitutional fines imposed on independent media houses, and to uphold the sanctity of the Nigerian constitution, Nigerians’ human rights, media freedom, and the rule of law.”


#Newsworthy…

N800BN Loot: SERAP sues Buhari. [Nigeria]

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

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

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

But in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP sought for “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion in looted funds have been recovered, the details of spending of the money, and the specific dates of the recovery.”

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

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

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

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

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

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In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is seeking: “an order for leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and/or compel President Buhari to publish a comprehensive list of names of people from whom N800 billion in looted funds have been recovered, the details of spending of the money, and the specific dates of the recovery.”

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

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

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

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

SERAP is also arguing that: “Granting the reliefs sought will ensure transparency and accountability, as the information sought to be published will reveal the truth of where money is going and why it is there, and allow Nigerians an opportunity to assess the impacts of any projects carried out with the recovered loot and the alleged payments into individual private accounts.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “As a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria has committed to ensure transparent management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”

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

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

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

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

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

Kolawole Oluwadare

SERAP Deputy Director

30/08/2020

Lagos, Nigeria


#Newsworthy…

SERAP writes Buhari, seeks reversal of N5M hate speech fine.

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has written to President Muhammadu Buhari asking him to instruct the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to withdraw the 5million naira fine on hate speech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SERAP, therefore, urges President Buhari to urgently:

  1. Instruct Lai Mohammed and the NBC to immediately withdraw the code and memo to journalists and broadcasters threatening to sanction and punish them on the basis of cultural codes prohibiting them from denigrating, disrespecting, insulting and abusing president, governors, lawmakers, and other elders and leaders in authority;
  2. Instruct Lai Mohammed and the NBC to immediately rescind the apparently illegal fine of N5m imposed on Nigeria Info 99.3 FM radio station;
  3. Propose and promote rules and codes that would ensure a culture of public accountability, prevent grand corruption, curtail abuse of power by public officials and politicians, as well as improve a democratic relationship and engagement between citizens and the government;
  4. Publicly commit to enforcing constitutional and international human rights of journalists and the media and all Nigerians, and to faithfully fulfill your constitutional oath of office;
  5. Publicly commit to restoring public trust in government, and to respect and protect the constitutional rights of journalists and the media to report on allegations of corruption and other socio-economic challenges confronting the country

#Newsworthy…

$114.28BN World Bank’s credit to Nigeria: Make thorough scrutiny – SERAP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#Newsworthy…

#RevolutionNow: SERAP fault attacks on protesters

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has “strongly condemned reported violent attacks on #RevolutionNow protesters in Abuja, Osogbo, and other parts of the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#Newsworthy…

Order Buhari to publish loan details since 2015 – SERAP tells Court

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court in Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to publish the details of loans that have been obtained by his administration since May 29, 2015.

In a statement on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP also sought the details of the interest rate on such loans, the total amount of debts that have so far been incurred by the government, and details of the projects on which the loans have been spent.

It made the request in a suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 filed before the court in the nation’s capital.

Also joined as respondents include the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and Director-General of the Debt Management Office, Patience Oniha.

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However, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

The National Assembly had approved a loan of N850 billion and another $22.79 billion loan requested by the President for government projects and others.

Stolen Loans?
In its reaction, SERAP sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”

It also asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians if he would instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.”

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The group believes the opacity in the spending of loans will continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.

It, however, stressed that transparency would ensure that the loans were not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that such loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.

“This suit is permitted under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.

“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name, but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape, or form,” the group said.

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It explained that the suit followed its FoI request dated May 30, 2020 and addressed to the President in which it raised concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay such loans.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read,

The massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.

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Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by the government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, and reduce the possibility of mismanagement and corruption.

SERAP is seeking an order to direct and compel President Buhari to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999, list of countries and bodies that have given the loans, and specific conditions of repayment of the loans.

Obedience to the rule of law by all citizens but more particularly those who publicly took the oath of office to protect and preserve the constitution is a desideratum to good governance and respect for the rule of law.

The Nigeria Government has signed on to the Open Government Partnership [OGP], and the country is a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.


#Newsworthy…

SERAP seeks bill – asks Lawan, Gbajabiamila to publish corruption probes report

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; and Speaker of House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, urging them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently publish all reports of completed public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since the return of democracy in 1999.”

The organization also urged them to “disclose the number and details of public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly that have resulted in any indictment of suspects, and to name such suspects. The reports should be sent to appropriate anti-corruption agencies to consider if there is sufficient admissible evidence to pursue prosecution.”

In the FoI requests dated 25 July, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Publishing the reports of hearings and probes would bolster public trust and confidence in the oversight functions, and dispel the perception that many of these hearings and probes are politically motivated and serve personal interest, rather than the general public interests.”

SERAP said: “The most effective way to deter corruption is to make the cost of engaging in these types of acts higher than the rewards. This end can only be accomplished by making public the reports and pursuing public accountability for corrupt acts. Doing so would also give Nigerians greater confidence that their lawmakers can use their constitutional oversight functions to address corruption in Nigeria.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “We urge you to sponsor a resolution to stop lawmakers from directly getting involved in the execution of projects by ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to ensure the proper and effective exercise of oversight functions, including investigations of corruption allegations, such as those involving the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF).”

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“We also urge you to urgently use the opportunity of the ongoing public hearings and corruption probes to influence Nigeria’s anti-corruption agenda, including by immediately amending section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act on independent counsel for corruption.”

“Section 52 requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials, and to report his/her findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

“The proposed amendment should include additional requirements beyond merely reporting to lawmakers, that would allow the independent counsel to use the findings of any investigation as a basis to pursue effective prosecution of corruption cases without any authorisation by the executive or the National Assembly.”

“SERAP notes that both the Senate and House of Representatives have over the years conducted several public hearings and corruption probes to expose pervasive problem of corruption in MDAs.”

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“SERAP is concerned about the systemic and widespread corruption allegations in MDAs and among high-ranking public officials, and the negative impacts on socio-economic development, as well as access of Nigerians to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water and regular electricity supply.”

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of the FoI requests. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our requests.”

“The exercise of oversight functions and powers by the National Assembly to conduct public hearings and corruption probes in MDAs should be regarded as a public trust.”

“The National Assembly has a unique opportunity to enhance transparency and accountability, as well as the integrity of its oversight functions on corruption matters in particular, and other constitutional roles, in general, including by publishing widely the reports of all corruption-related public hearings since 1999.”

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“There is legitimate public interest in the publication of the reports of these public hearings and probes. The public hearings and probes can only serve as effective mechanisms to prevent and combat corruption if their reports are widely published.”

“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on reports of all public hearings and corruption probes by the National Assembly since 1999.”

“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within 7 days after the application is received.”


#Newsworthy…

SERAP praise TI for naming Nigeria 2nd most corrupt country in W/A


The Federal Government has berated Transparency International for naming Nigeria as the second most corrupt country in West Africa.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said there was no evidence to back the report by TI which placed Nigeria at 146 out of the 180 countries on the 2019 corruption perception index.


Nigeria was named the second most corrupt country in West Africa only ahead of Guinea Bissau.

Groups, including the Peoples Democratic Party and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, said the rating was an indication that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) anti-corruption war had failed.


Rating has no bearing with reality — Malami

In an interview on Thursday, Malami said the TI’s report had no bearing on reality.

He said, “In terms of the fight against corruption, we have been doing more, we have done more and we will continue to do more out of inherent conviction and desire on our part to fight against corruption devoid of any extraneous considerations relating to the rating by Transparency International.


“Our resolve to fight corruption is inherent and indeed devoid of any extraneous considerations, we will continue to do more and we will redouble our efforts.”

Malami said there was nothing that had not been done as a nation in the fight against corruption.


Nigeria has slipped on the TI’s Corruption Perception Index 2019, scoring 26 per cent.

Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 in TI’s 2018 report but dropped by a point in 2019, making Africa’s most populous country take the 146th position.


The TI’s latest report states that Africa’s most populous country, like most other countries in Sub-Saharan nations, has continued to witness a high rate of corruption which had worsened due to vote buying.

The report shows that despite the corruption war being championed by Buhari in the last four and a half years, Nigeria has failed to score higher than 28 per cent.


Nigeria scored 28 out of 100 in 2016 and 2017 but fell in 2018 to 27 and fell further to 26 in 2019.

In the latest report, Nigeria scored the same as Iran, Honduras, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Mozambique and Angola.

Out of 180 countries surveyed, Nigeria scored better than only 28.


They include Comoros, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Chad, Iraq, Burundi, Congo, Turkmenistan, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Guinea-Bissau, North Korea, Venezuela, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, South Sudan and Somalia.

The TI survey measures public sector corruption in 180 countries.


The countries with the highest scores were New Zealand and Denmark which both scored 87 out of 100.

Others that were highly placed include Finland (86), Switzerland (85), Singapore (85), Sweden (85), Norway (84), Netherlands (82), Luxembourg (80) and Germany (80).


TI report validates our stand — PDP

The PDP, in a statement on Thursday by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the rating validated its position that corruption had worsened under Buhari.

The PDP described as a national embarrassment that under an administration by the same leader who wore the medal as “African Union Anti-Corruption Champion” and whose government boasted of zero tolerance for corruption, Nigeria ranked the second most corrupt country in West Africa.


He said the PDP had since been challenging the Buhari Presidency and the APC to come clean, account for the over N14tn allegedly stolen by the APC leaders from government coffers in the last four years.

Buhari’s anti-graft war backsliding, says SERAP

On its part, SERAP said Nigeria’s downward slip on the TI’s corruption perception Index should not come as a surprise to anyone.


SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said the 2019 TI Corruption Perceptions Index, which showed that Nigeria’s corruption rating had worsened from 2018, confirmed the belief that Buhari’s anti-graft war was backsliding.

The group advised the Federal Government to accept the report and implement the recommendations rather than dismiss it.


Oludare said, “Nigeria’s score on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2019 is hardly surprising but suggests that the fight against corruption in the country has not improved, and in fact remains at the level of the 2015 ranking in which Nigeria also scored 26.

“With an average of 32, sub-Saharan Africa’s performance paints a bleak picture of inaction against corruption.


“The authorities should not simply dismiss the ranking. Going forward, Nigerian authorities must embrace the recommendations by TI and set some benchmarks for anti-corruption improvements in the coming years.”

Rating rubbished Buhari’s fight against corruption — CISLAC

On its part, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre said the 2019 CPI had rubbished Buhari’s fight against corruption, which started in 2015.


In a statement on Thursday by its Director, Auwal Rafsanjani, CISLAC said with government’s selective respect for rule of law; clampdown on journalists and activists; institutional corruption, including votebuying within political parties; and lack of transparency in the management of recovered loots, Nigeria’s corruption rating under Buhari could not but get worse.

Rating jaundiced, illogical — EFCC

But the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission condemned the TI’s report.


It faulted the ranking and described as appalling, “the bogus and ambiguous criteria used by TI to arrive at what can best be described as a jaundiced and illogical rating.”

The acting EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade, said in a statement, “We insist that the rating is a far cry from the evident strides and achievements so far accomplished by the anti-graft agency in the fight against corruption, particularly under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”


The agency further argued that the TI index did not show real incidence of corruption, “yet it claims that the report is a reliable indication of the perception of the Nigerian public and the international community about the state of corruption in the country.”

The EFCC contended that 2019 — the year under review by TI — was particularly a remarkable one as it secured a record 1,268 convictions, including that of a former state governor and a serving senator who was convicted for defrauding his state to the tune of N7.65bn.


The agency said it was on record that three former state governors were serving different jail terms in prison for defrauding their states and stealing from the treasury to enrich themselves and their cronies.

It noted, “The commission has also not given up on its unrelenting efforts to ensure that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, is made to answer for the various malfeasance perpetrated under her, in spite of the obvious reluctance of the United Kingdom to repatriate her to Nigeria.”


The EFCC accused TI of failing to acknowledge its achievements, adding that the group has “its own hidden agenda.”

BMO faults TI corruption report

Also, the Buhari Media Organisation said the picture painted by TI was opaque and not a reflection of the reality on the ground.

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN)


In a statement by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju, and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, the BMO said it was uncharitable for TI to conclude that the anti-graft war in Nigeria was not delivering results.

“Here is a group that went to some length to acknowledge that President Muhammadu Buhari has since 2015 introduced what it described as important reforms that have saved billions of naira.”


#Newsworthy…

You will know – Senate tells SERAP, BudgIT, others


Senator Godiya Akwashiki, the acting Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Public Affairs, said the leadership of the red chamber was not bothered by the public outcry and lawsuit initiated against the N37bn allocated to the Federal Capital Development Authority for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, BudgIT, Enough is Enough, and 583 concerned Nigerians had filed a suit asking the Federal High Court in Abuja, to restrain President Muhammadu Buhari, the leadership of the National Assembly and others from releasing N37bn allocated to the Federal Capital Development Authority for the renovation of the National Assembly until an impact assessment of the spending was carried out.

When contacted to know if the red chamber had raised a legal team to respond to the lawsuit, the Senate spokesperson said, “They (SERAP and others) are wasting their time. We don’t have anything to tell them in court. National Assembly doesn’t know anything about what they are talking about.


“We don’t know how they (the FCDA) arrive at their figure. The money is also not in our budget; so, why are they taking us to court when the building does not even belong to us.

“Don’t worry, when we get there, you will know.”

Akwashiki had, in an interview with journalists on Monday, explained that the leadership of the National Assembly only informed the owners of the complex, when the building was giving signs of imminent collapse.

He noted that the leadership and the management of the federal parliament would neither be involved in the award of the contract nor fund it from their budget, The Punch reported.


#Newsworthy…

SERAP Sue FCT for unnecessary payment of life pension (Read..)

….heating date yet to be fixed


Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court to declare the life pension edict/law 2019, passed by the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) null, void, illegal and unconstitutional; and to restrain and stop AMAC, its chairman; deputy chairman; speaker; legislature and/or their agents from paying life pensions to former officials, and ultimately, to themselves under the edict/law.”

SERAP is also seeking: “an order to direct and compel AMAC, its chairman; deputy chairman; speaker; and legislature to recover all previous payments made under the AMAC life pension edict/law, from those who have already collected pensions, and to return same to the coffers of the council so that the public funds can be spent to provide public goods and services for residents.”

In the suit number CV/840/2020 filed last Friday, SERAP said: “The AMAC edict granting life pensions to ex-officials is a blatant usurpation of the constitutional powers of the National Assembly. Unless stopped, AMAC and its officials will spend millions and ultimately, billions of taxpayers’ money on life pensions, the council’s funds that should be spent to address the poor state of basic amenities and deficits in educational institutions, primary healthcare facilities, potable water, sanitation and infrastructural needs of the residents within the council’s area.”


The suit followed SERAP’s open letter dated 11 October, 2019 to Mr Abdullahi Adamu Candido, chairman of AMAC, urging him to: “urgently withdraw and revoke the edict for the unconstitutional and illegal payment of life pensions to former chairmen, vice-chairmen, speakers and other officials of AMAC.”

According to SERAP: “The court should exercise its inherent and statutory powers to defend the sanctity of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), and hold that the AMAC pension edict is unconstitutional and stop any payment of pensions under the said edict. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, AMAC and its officials will continue to use the pension edict for personal gain, in breach of constitutional provisions, and at the expense of the people and residents of council’s area. This is what the provisions of Section 1, Part 1, Fifth Schedule of the Constitution expressly forbids.”


SERAP is also seeking “a declaration that AMAC and its officials have no constitutional or statutory authority whatsoever to enact any pension edict/law for the benefit of former officials, and ultimately, for their own benefit.”

SERAP also said: “Under the pension edict, AMAC’s past council chairmen would receive an annual pension of N500,000; former vice chairmen are to receive N300,000 each while former speakers will be paid N200,000 each.”


The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “The edict is entirely inconsistent with the with the provisions of Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 Nigerian Constitution, and to that extent, the law is null, void, illegal and unconstitutional.”

“It is only the National Assembly that has power to make laws on pension under the Nigerian Constitution. AMAC and its officials went beyond the scope of their constitutional powers to make laws on payment of annual pensions for the council’s former chairmen, former vice-chairmen and former speakers.


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

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


“SERAP is asking the court for a declaration that the AMAC life pension edict was passed contrary to AMAC and its officials’ powers in Fourth Schedule, Part III of the Nigerian Constitution. The AMAC edict is inconsistent with the provisions of Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 of the Constitution, and it is therefore null and void to the extent of its inconsistency.

“The exclusive legislative list contains items/subject matters on which only the National Assembly can legislate. Specifically, Item 44, Second Schedule, Part 1 of the Nigerian Constitution makes clear that only the National Assembly can make law for payment of pension to the classes of public officers whose funds are payable out of the public funds of the Federation.


“The AMAC, being a local government, is established by Section 3[6] and 7 of the Nigerian Constitution and its functions are laid out in section 7[5] and Sections 1 and 2, Fourth Schedule of the Constitution. There is nothing in the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution that allows the AMAC and its officials to make laws on pension.

“The AMAC and its officials ought to exercise their public functions for the purposes of providing public goods and services to the people of Abuja and not to grant personal benefits for past officials. The AMAC and its officials are constitutionally and statutorily obliged to act in the public interest.

Minister Mohammed Musa Bello; Federal Capital Territory


“People have the right to honest and faithful performance by public officials, who are under a fiduciary duty to the public. And no public official should put himself/herself in a position in which his/her personal interest conflicts or is likely to conflict with the performance of the functions of his office.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit


#Newsworthy…

Buhari, Osinbajo, 36 state governors must declare assets publicly – Falana tackles


Nigeria’s rights activist, Femi Falana is backing agitation that President Muhmmadu Buhari, his vice, Yemi Osinbajo and the 36 state governors declare their assets publicly.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), capitalising on the Freedom of Information (FoI), requested Buhari, Osinbajo, 36 state governors and their deputies to publicly declare their assets within seven days or face redress.


The Presidency has claimed that there is no law in Nigeria mandating President Buhari to declare his assets publicly. With due respect, this cannot be the correct position of our law.

According to Falana, in a statement, SERAP’s case for the public announcement of any updates on the assets already declared by Buhari and Osinbajo was correctly based on the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which had not only been ratified by Nigeria but also domesticated as part of the domestic laws.


“As far as the law is concerned, the word “declaration” means “a formal statement, proclamation, or announcement, especially embodied in an instrument.” See page 467 of Black’s Laws Dictionary (Ninth Edition). The combined effect of the Constitution, FoI Act and the African Charter is that all public officials ought to voluntarily announce publicly their asset declarations even without prompting from civil society groups like SERAP.

“In the alternative, the Code of Conduct Bureau is bound by law to make them available to members of the public, pursuant to section 1 of the FoI Act. In fact, the law contemplated by the Constitution to make asset declarations of public officials public is the FoI Act. With the FoI Act, there is no longer secrecy in government, including in the asset declarations made by all public officials.


“Section 3 (c) of Paragraph A of Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution provides that the Code of Conduct Bureau shall have power to “retain custody of such declarations and make them available for inspection by any citizen of Nigeria on such terms and conditions as the National Assembly may prescribe”. The National Assembly has since 2011 prescribed such terms and conditions in the FoI Act.

“No more excuses by public officials, as the National Assembly has, by passing the FoI Act, prescribed the terms and conditions for pubic officials and the CCB to publicly make asset declarations available. In this instance, SERAP has correctly invoked the provisions of the Constitution, FoI and the African Charter. Similarly, Section 22 of the Constitution has imposed a duty on the mass media to promote public accountability and transparency,” Falana said.


He added that even private citizens could no longer insist on secrecy as they were now required by official policies to register their biometric data for the purpose of acquiring international passports, telephone lines and opening of bank accounts.

Falana stated that the Bank Verification Number commonly called BVN–a biometric identification system implemented by the Buhari administration–has ended secrecy of bank accounts, thereby curbing illegal banking transactions in Nigeria.

“All that SERAP is asking is for the Presidency, governors and their deputies to announce their asset declarations as submitted to the CCB. Such announcement will help to update the records of what the President and Vice President already made public and refresh the memory of the public who are keen to see transparency and accountability in the implementation of the asset declarations frameworks in Nigeria.

“I therefore urge President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo to show strong leadership by immediately acceding to the FoI requests by SERAP and publicly announce any updates on their asset declarations already made public in 2015. This will end the secrecy that continues to surround asset declarations in Nigeria. The secrecy has over the years been used to hide corruptly stolen assets, which has continued to cause untold misery for millions of Nigerians,” he said.


#Newsworthy…

SERAP asks PMB, VP, 36 govs to address their assets within 7 days


President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo have been asked to provide information on the summary of the assets, specifically property and income as contained in their asset declaration forms submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB).

In a Freedom of Information requests sent by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to the Presidency, also captured the 36 state governors and their deputies, urging them to use their good offices to clarify within 7 days of receiving the FoI request.


According to a statement by SERAP, the FoI requests dated 3 January 2020 and signed by its deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “The Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the FoI Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is part of our laws, read together, impose transparency obligations on all public officials to publicly disclose information concerning their asset declarations submitted to the CCB, and to clarify any updated review of such assets.”

SERAP said: “The summary of assets to be disclosed include, where applicable, the following: savings and other liquid assets, all immovable property and shares and actions in any private and public companies; property purchased by way of tender from any public-law entities and information about businesses owned.”


The organisation said the non-public disclosure by public officials of their summary of assets seriously undermines the effectiveness and integrity of the constitutional and statutory obligations to submit asset declarations.

Specifically FoI request to President Buhari, SERAP noted his “public promise to make specific details of your assets public, and urge you to consider this FoI request as a unique opportunity to fulfill the promise made to the Nigerian people.

President Muhammadu Buhari & Prof. Yemi Osinbajo


“We would also like you to clarify if you have encouraged members of your cabinet to also submit their asset declarations to the CCB and to make such declarations public. If so, we would like you to provide information on the details of those that have made submissions.

“We would also like you to clarify whether a declaration has been submitted as constitutionally and statutorily required, the date of any such submission and if you have received any confirmation of the verification of your asset declaration by the CCB.”


#Newsworthy…

OMG! SERAP, EiE, BudgIT dragged Moh’d Buhari to court over N37Bn.

…stop Buhari and Zainab Ahmed


Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), BudgIT, Enough is Enough (EiE) and 583 concerned Nigerians have dragged President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed before the Federal High Court, Abuja over the proposed N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1633/2019 filed last week at the Federal High Court, Abuja by Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, they described the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly as “self-serving, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds,” which they said would translate to “less money for educating millions of out-of-school Nigerian children, providing access to clean water and healthcare to Nigerians including the elderly, or repairing the country’s roads and bridges.”


The groups said: “Spending N37 billion to renovate the National Assembly complex is self-serving, wrongful, illegal and unconstitutional expenditure of public funds, as it means less money for educating millions of out-of-school Nigerian children, providing access to clean water and healthcare to Nigerians including the elderly, or repairing the country’s roads and bridges.

“The National Assembly complex should be a safe and conducive environment for those who work there, but spending ₦37 billion to renovate the place is not commensurate with the constitutional commitments to public services and goods, decreasing public revenues and increasing level of debts as well as the poor economic and social realities in the country.”


They are therefore seeking an order of the court to “restrain and stop President Muhammadu Buhari and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly until an impact assessment of the spending is carried out.”

They also asked the court to “restrain, prevent and stop the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila and the Federal Capital Development Agency from demanding or collecting the N37 billion earmarked for the renovation of the National Assembly complex until an impact assessment of the spending on critical sectors and access to public goods and services, is carried out.”


The groups argued that “the defendants are public officers who have sworn the constitutional oaths of office to perform their respective duties in the interest of Nigerian citizens. The refusal of President Buhari to object to the Budget/Appropriation Bill containing a huge N37 billion on renovation of the National Assembly complex is a gross violation of the constitution and existing laws in Nigeria.”

The 583 plaintiffs include Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) co-convener Aisha Yesufu; a former Lagos State (Eti-Osa Federal Constituency) House of Reps aspirant, Bankole Wellington also known as Banky W, Mrs Ayo Obe, Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, and Fisayo Soyombo.

They are seeking from the court: “A declaration that the N37 billion proposed, prescribed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 is a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers [Fifth Schedule Part 1] of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] and Oath of a member of the National Assembly; a declaration that the N37 billion proposed, voted and allocated for renovation of National Assembly Complex in the 2020 Nigerian National Budget via Appropriation Bill/Act 2019 signed is a breach of the defendants’ solemn constitutional obligations to know and follow constitutional oaths governing their conduct, including their duties of care to Nigerians to faithfully protect and defend the constitution and improve the well-being and welfare of Nigerians; an order of the court restraining, preventing and stopping President Buhari and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning from releasing the N37 billion allocated for the renovation of the National Assembly complex to the Federal Capital Development Agency and the National Assembly leadership until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out; an order of the court restraining, preventing and stopping the National Assembly leadership from demanding or collecting the N37 billion proposed for the renovation of the National Assembly until an assessment of the impact of the spending on critical sectors like education, health, clean water and safe roads a revision to the allocation, is carried out; Any order(s) that the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstance of this suit.”

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


#Newsworthy…

SERAP – Disclose payment of pension to Governors in all 36 states within 7 days.

…says, they would be honoured if granted.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a Freedom of Information Act request to Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, chairman and deputy chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), respectively, and other 34 governors urging them to use their leadership position to urgently disclose details of payment of pensions to their predecessors and other ex-officials between 1999 and 2019 under their state’s pension law, and to provide a copy of the said pension law.

SERAP is also urging each of the 36 governors to provide information on whether any such pension law exists in their various states and if so, to provide names and number of ex-governors and other ex-officials receiving pensions and to publicly commit to repealing the law, and to pursue recovery of funds collected under the pension law.

In the letter dated October 9, and signed by deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Public officials should not encourage, sustain, or implement jumbo pension laws that show an appearance of conflict of interest, impropriety or create situation of personal enrichment. The pension law negates the duty to act honestly and to represent the needs and concerns of the people, and to refrain from activities, which interfere with the proper discharge of public functions.

“Any such pension law also represents the use of public office to advance private interests at the expense of some public interest, suggests the misuse of legitimate discretion for improper reasons, and has created a more cynical public view of politics and politicians.”

SERAP’s FoI request read in part: “Repealing any such pension law would demonstrate your commitment to public service and the requirements of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). It would show that you would not tolerate the use of public office in a manner which ignores the public interest in order to achieve personal advantage.

“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the FoI Act to compel you to comply with our request.

“Pension law for former governors and other senior ex-officials represents a conflict with the constitutional and legal conflict code of conduct for public officials, and would seem to prioritise private interest of former state officials over and above the public interest and public duties of state governors.The duties on public officials including governors flowing from their position as trustees to the public also include the duty to refrain from activities which interfere with the proper discharge of their functions, and the duty not to place themselves in a position where public duty conflicts with private interest.”

SERAP’s request is coming on the heels of the landmark judgment delivered last week by Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordering the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami, to challenge the legality of states’ pension laws permitting former governors and other ex-public officials to collect such pensions.

The judgment followed the invalidated pension law for former governors and other ex-public officers in Zamfara State, which provided for the upkeep of ex-governors to the tune of N700 million annually. The state has produced three former governors since 1999.

#Newsworthy…

Mockery of Justice as DSS re arrested sowore – SERAP

…textbook case of abuse to judicial process

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has condemned the rearrest of pro-democracy campaigner and journalist, Omoyele Sowore, by operatives of Department of Security Service on Friday.

SERAP frowned against the harassment and intimidation of Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, by armed DSS operatives, who stormed the courtroom in a bid to rearrest the activist and forced her close proceedings abruptly.

In a statement on Friday, the group said the action of the DSS was shameful.

The statement said, “The violent rearrest of Sowore right inside the courtroom, is a textbook case of a mockery of justice and abuse of judicial process.

“It drives home the failure of the Nigerian Government to fulfill its constitutional and international human rights obligations to respect citizens’ human rights and observe the rule of law.”

SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, added that the invasion of the courtroom and the ill-treatment of Sowore was a blatant attack on the rule of law and the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.

The organisation called United Nations Human Rights Council, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and members of the international community to prevail on the Nigerian authorities to end violations and abuses of human rights and threats to the rule of law.

The statement added, “An independent judiciary free from intimidation and harassment is a basic precondition to a functioning democracy under the rule of law.

“If Nigerian authorities are serious about human rights and the rule of law, they should hold those responsible to account.

“Only then will Nigerians have full confidence in this government’s ability to protect their human rights, obey the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.”

#Newsworthy…

SERAP: Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed Sued For Failed $460m Abuja CCTV project.

SERAP sues minister, seeks information on failed $460m Abuja CCTV project
A rights organisation, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, to a Federal High Court in Abuja, over her refusal to provide information on how the $460 million loan obtained in 2010 from China to fund the failed Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) project was expended.

In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1447/2019, SERAP contended that the minister has no legally justifiable reason not to heed its Freedom of Information (FOI) request of October 25, regarding the identities of contractors involved in the failed project as well as the reason behind Federal Government’s continuous repayment of the loan.

It noted that transparency in the spending of Chinese loans is good for everyone, as this would help to increase the effectiveness, legitimacy, and contribution of the loans to the development of public goods and services, and the general public interests.
The organisation further argued that the information being requested for does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

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

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

“By virtue of Section 4 (a) of the FOI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or agency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.

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

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

#Newsworthy…

Ghen Ghen!… SERAP Sues President Buhari’s for N241.2Bn. (Check..)

Noble Reporters


Human rights group Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) is seeking an answer and has sued President Buhari, Senate President Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, asking the Federal High court to order them to disclose details of allocations.

The group wants information on disbursement and spending of security votes by the Federal Government, 36 state governors and 774 local governments between 1999 and 2019.

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

🔻

Serap call on CJN, Remind to respect citizen following sowore’s call. (Details)

Others joined as parties in the suit are: Mr Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Ahmed Idris, Accountant General of the Federation and Mr Anthony Ayine, Auditor General for the Federation. According to SERAP: “Nigerians have the constitutional and international human right to know details of the exact amounts that have been spent as security votes and specific areas and projects covered by the allocations, disbursement and spending.

There is overriding public interest in Nigerians having access to these details, and the respondents have legal obligations to facilitate public access to such information.”

“Constitutional provisions requiring governments to ensure the security and welfare of the people are intended to protect the security and safety of citizens and not the security of a few individuals in government.

Without transparency and accountability, the mismanagement and corruption in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes will continue with devastating consequences.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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