EFCC investigates alleged missing N500m Chibok safe school funds

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has confirmed that it is looking into the petition requesting the anti-corruption body to “urgently begin a thorough, transparent and effective investigation into allegation that N500 million Safe School funds for Chibok girls, commissioned by former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to rebuild the Government Girls School in Chibok, is missing and cannot be accounted for.”

The petition dated 27 December 2016, was sent to the EFCC Chair Ibrahim Mustafa Magu by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
This development was disclosed today by SERAP senior staff attorney Timothy Adewale.
Adewale said: “We have received confirmation from the EFCC that the body is looking into our petition. The EFCC has also expressed its determination to diligently investigate the allegation of the missing N500 million Safe School funds for Chibok girls, and sought additional information from SERAP.”
“SERAP appreciates the prompt attention the EFCC has given to the matter, and our organization is committed to sending to the EFCC additional information including any available documentary evidence in our possession in order to enable the anticorruption body to get to the root of the matter, identify suspected perpetrators and bring them to justice, as well as recover any missing funds.”
It would be recalled that SERAP had in its petition 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.”

The petition reads in part: “The allegation that N500m 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.”

“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 contribute 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.”

“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 N500m 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.”

“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 N500 million set aside by the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan, is missing and cannot be accounted for. 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.”

UN investigates Southern Kaduna killings

Dr Agnes CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions , has confirmed that she is probing “recent allegations of killings of over 800 citizens mostly women, children and the elderly in Southern Kaduna by suspected herdsmen, and to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to victims.
This followed a petition dated 30 December 2016 and sent by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP). The development on Dr CALLAMARD’s investigation of the killings was disclosed today by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni.
 
In the communication sent to SERAP today Dr CALLAMARD said: “Many thanks to SERAP for your petition. I am writing to confirm that I have well received it and will review it with great attention. I will update you on follow-up interventions.”
 
SERAP said: “We welcome the attention by the Special Rapporteur to the matter and her commitment to pursue justice and accountability with respect to the killings in Southern Kaduna.”
 
It would be recalled that SERAP had in its petition to Dr CALLAMARD expressed “concern that the killings of citizens in Southern Kaduna of Nigeria amount to serious violations of the rights to life; to security of the human person; to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being; and right to property guaranteed not only by the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) but also the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
 
The petition reads in part: SERAP contends that Nigerian authorities have failed and/or neglected to respect these human rights and to exercise due diligence to ensure that these rights are not violated by private individuals such as herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators. Nigerian government should therefore be held to account for failing or neglecting to guarantee and protect the rights of the people in Southern Kaduna, regardless of whether such violations are directly or indirectly attributable to the state or its officials.
“SERAP is concerned that the Nigerian government has failed and/or neglected to create an environment in Southern Kaduna to end the unlawful killings by failing to move their legal and institutional machinery towards the actual realisation of these rights.  It is in fact the failure by the government to take adequate measures to prevent the violence which has contributed to the increasing number of victims.”
“SERAP believes that the killings would not have taken place if the Nigerian authorities have taken measures to prevent their happening and to address persistent impunity of those responsible for the violations and abuses. The lack of accountability for the attacks by herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators across the country has continued to create a culture of impunity which clearly is not compatible with the rule of law in a democratic society.”
 
According to the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan in Kaduna State, a total of 808 people were killed in 53 villages across the four local governments areas in the state ridden by crisis. The church leaders also said that 57 people were injured; farm produce estimated at N5.5 billion were also destroyed, and a total of 1,422 houses and 16 churches were burnt during the attacks. The affected communities are spread across Kaura, Sanga, Jama’a and Kauru Local Government Areas where there had been persistent attacks on communities by gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen.”
 
SERAP therefore urged Ms. CALLAMARD to prevail on the Nigerian authorities to: 
  1. Take measures to urgently secure the right to life, right to security and dignity of the human person and right to property of citizens in Southern Kaduna, and to prevent further attacks and killings by herdsmen and other unknown perpetrators
  2. Carry out an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killings and to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice, and to provide reparations to victims
  3. Provide a framework of security for the protection of life, and to protect the lives of those individuals at risk from unlawful attacks in Southern Kaduna
  4. Provide for an effective remedy and reparation for the victims
 

Magu: SERAP drags Senate to UN, says allegations against him politically motivated

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned Mr Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders over alleged “intimidation, harassment and unfair treatment of Mr Ibrahim Magu, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria apparently working with other agencies of government to use a purported security report the Senate knew or ought to know is baseless and politically motivated to reject Mr Magu’s confirmation as substantive chairman of the EFCC.”
SERAP said that “by relying on a report they knew or ought to know is baseless and politically motivated to reject Mr Magu’s appointment as chairman of the EFCC, the Senate of Nigeria has flagrantly violated his right to a fair hearing, and is implicitly working to weaken, intimidate, harass and ultimately undermine the independence and freedom of action of the EFCC in its efforts to combat high-profile official corruption.”

The organization urged Mr Forst to “urgently intervene in this matter to stop further intimidation and harassment of a prominent anti-corruption campaigner and human rights defender.”

In the petition dated 16 December 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “SERAP believes that the action by the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government apparently working with them undermines and violates Nigeria’s international obligation to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of the citizens, which inevitably creates a duty for the government to establish efficient and independent anti-corruption mechanisms.”

The petition reads in part: “apart from the fact that the allegations against Mr Magu are baseless and politically motivated, the Senate of Nigeria flagrantly denied him constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to a fair hearing by not providing him an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him. The Senate confirmation hearing therefore amounts to a nullification, or destruction of the very essence of the fundamental principles of fair hearing.”

“The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria relying on a baseless and politically motivated report declined to confirm the appointment of Ibrahim Magu as substantive chairman of the country’s leading anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The Senate claimed that its action was based on a purported security report forwarded to it by the State Security Service.”

“But SERAP has reviewed the security report, which primarily alleged that sensitive and unauthorised EFCC official documents were found in Mr. Magu’s home. However, SERAP is aware that this allegation was part of the conspiracy to harass Mr Magu and frustrate his anti corruption work, as he was unjustly detained for three weeks. Following investigation by the police authorities in 2008, Mr Magu was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing, and in fact promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police.”

“The report also incorrectly stated Mr Magu currently occupies a residence rented for N40 million at N20 million per annum and paid for by allegedly corrupt person. But SERAP’s finding shows that the property was in fact paid for by the Federal Capital Development Administration.”

“SERAP thus believes that the purported rejection by the Senate of Nigeria of Magu’s appointment as the chairman of EFCC is politically motivated and in bad faith and part of a persistent move by the National Assembly of Nigeria including the Senate and the House of Representatives and other agencies of government apparently working with them to undermine the ongoing fight against corruption which Mr Magu is leading, and invariably, the independence and freedom of action of anti corruption agencies including the EFCC.”

“SERAP is deeply concerned by intimidation, harassment and politically motivated allegations against one of the most efficient, focused, consistent and hardworking anti-corruption campaigners in our country. These politically motivated allegations are not only to victimize him as the head of EFCC but also to harass, intimidate and frustrate the work of other anti-corruption and human rights campaigners and institutions in the country.”

“SERAP considers Mr Magu to be a human rights defender within the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1998 (UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders).”

“SERAP therefore urges you to urgently assert your mandates to put pressure on the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government apparently working with them to end continuing harassment and intimidation of Mr Magu by immediately withdrawing any politically motivated allegations against him. We also urge you to send a strong message to the Senate of Nigeria and other agencies of government that the campaign of intimidation and harassment against human rights and anti-corruption campaigners is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated.”

FOI: SERAP sues Saraki, Dogara ‘over failure to give account of N500bn running cost’

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued the Senate President Dr Bukola Sakari and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Dogara Yakubu “over failure to give account of the spending of N500 billion 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 25 November 2016 to both Dr Saraki and Mr Dogara asking them to “urgently provide information about alleged spending of N500 billion as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.”

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 have pocketed N500 billion as ‘running cost’ out of the N1 trillion 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 N15m monthly while each member receives nothing less than N10m 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 in part: “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 7 days after the application is received.”

“The information requested for by SERAP relates to information about spending of N500 billion 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 respectively seeking the following reliefs:

 

  1. A DECLARATIONthat the failure and/or refusal of the Respondents to disclose the spending of N500 billion 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.
  2. A DECLARATIONthat 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.
  3. AN ORDER OF MANDAMUSdirecting and or compelling the Defendants/Respondents to provide the Plaintiff/Applicant with up to date information on the spending of N500 billion 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 N500 billion running cost between 2006 and 2016 were spent.

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

 

 

AWCON: SERAP drags FG, NFF to UN over alleged discriminatory and unfair treatment of Falcons

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has petitioned the UN Working Group on the issues of discrimination against women in law and in practice requesting the body to “use your mandates and position to urgently request the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Football Federation to end the discriminatory and unfair treatment of the players of the Super Falcons of Nigeria who recently won the African Women Cup of Nations.”

The organization urged the Working Group to “request the authorities to immediately pay each player of the Super Falcons of Nigeria the sum of $30,000 USD for winning the African Women Cup of Nations. This is the equivalent of what the government paid their male counterparts for winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.”

The organization also asked the UN body to urge the Nigerian authorities to “End pay inequalities across the national teams and demonstrate commitment to fairness and equality in the treatment of both male and female players.”

In the petition dated 7 December 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “It is unlawful to discriminate in pay arrangements in relation to sex or gender. SERAP believes that the Nigerian government and the Nigerian Football Federation are required by law to have due regard to gender equality in all their functions, including within the national teams, and to take concrete measures to address the gender pay gap.”

The petition reads in part: “SERAP is seriously concerned about the large and stubborn gender pay gap between the Super Eagles’ players and the Super Falcons’ players. The discriminatory treatment of the Super Falcons’ players by the authorities is indicative of the systemic discrimination against women and girls in Nigeria, and the undervaluation of work commonly done by women.”

“While a State’s compliance with the obligations under these treaties is assessed in the light of financial and other resources, a lack of resources cannot justify inaction or indefinite postponement of implementation. This is particularly so when discrimination exists, as we believe it is the case with respect to the unfavourable treatment of the Super Falcons’ players.”

“SERAP also argues that the Nigerian government cannot use recession and the current economic situation in the country to objectively justify a difference in treatment of the players of the Super Eagles and the Super Falcons on grounds of sex. To hold otherwise is to undermine the integrity of the international human rights treaties and ILO conventions which Nigeria has ratified.”

“In fact, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (2009) has said that the failure to remove differential treatment on the basis of a lack of available funds is not an objective and reasonable justification unless every effort has been made to use all resources that are at a State party’s disposal to eliminate the discrimination, as a matter of priority.”

“SERAP argues that the failure by the Nigerian authorities to pay the players of the Super Falcons as promised violates the players’ right to equal pay, which is a fundamental tenet of gender equality.”

“SERAP believes that the male and female national teams deserve equal pay systems that are transparent and value the efforts put in by these players. Fair and non-discriminatory systems represent best practices, consistent with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and commitments.”

“The Nigerian government and the Nigerian Football Federation have continued to refuse and/or neglect to pay the Nigerian champions their bonuses and allowances.”

“According to reports, following the success of the female national team the Super Falcons of Nigeria in the African Women Cup of Nations each player was to receive N11 Million Naira ($25,000 worth in bonuses and allowances over the tournament’s stretch). However, instead of fulfilling their commitment to the players, the Nigerian government and Nigerian Football Federation offered the players 2 bags of Rice and 5 litres of groundnut oil and 50,000 Naira, which the players rightly rejected.”

 

“This discriminatory and unfair treatment is further buttressed by the fact that each Super Falcons’ player receives a paltry sum of $50 while each Super Eagles’ player is paid $4000 for a draw and $5000 for a win. Yet, the Super Eagles has not over the years been as successful as their female counterparts.”

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone, without any discrimination or distinction of any kind, has the right to equal pay for equal work”. This right to gender equality and equal pay for equal work is also contained in major human rights treaties such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women both of which Nigeria has ratified.”

“SERAP notes that article 11 of the CEDAW convention in particular guarantees the right to equal remuneration, including benefits, and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value, as well as equality of treatment in the evaluation of the quality of work. Similarly, various International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions such as ILO C100, Equal Remuneration Convention and ILO C111, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention also specify equal pay and pay equity obligations. Nigeria has ratified the two conventions.”

Mr Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was copied in the petition.

 

SERAP to FG: reinstate 23 senior university staff sacked simply for reporting alleged corruption

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent an urgent appeal to Mallam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education requesting him to “order an immediate, unconditional and full reinstatement of all the twenty-three Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) sacked by the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) simply because they reported cases of corruption on campus to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).”
 
SERAP said that unless Mr Adama is able to “prevail on the University Council to recall the victimised 23 staff members within seven days after the receipt and/or publication of this letter, our organization will be compelled to pursue appropriate legal action to challenge these unjust acts against whistle-blowers.”
In the letter dated 6 December 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni the organization said that, “SERAP has been fully briefed by the twenty-three SSANU members of staff of the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta who were sacked whistle-blowers because of their public interest disclosures on alleged corruption and unlawful enrichment of the Vice Chancellor and Pro Chancellor.”
 
According to the organization, “Allegations of corruption, unlawful enrichment and the misuse of power or any position of authority by university personnel for personal gain threaten and harm the public interest. SERAP is seriously concerned about the alleged systemic and widespread nature of the crimes in an ivory tower which is supposed to be bedrock of learning and good culture.”
 
The letter reads in part: “We are seriously concerned that these dismissed SSANU staff members were not being appropriately treated or protected by the University authorities or Council to remedy the exposed threats or harm to them. No whistle-blower should ever be penalised simply for making a public interest disclosure.”
 
“SERAP strongly believes that every individual should feel safe to freely raise public interest concerns, just as the SSANU staff members have done in disclosing information on alleged corruption, fraud and unlawful enrichment in the University of Agriculture Abeokuta. Unless 23 staff members are granted the appropriate protection deserving of whistle-blowers and unconditionally reinstated, a significant opportunity to protect the University and public interest would be missed.”
“By terminating the appointment of these staff members, SERAP believes that the University Council has acted improperly or attempted to cover up the alleged corruption and fraud rather than promptly addressing it by referring the allegations to appropriate anti corruption agencies and institutions such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).”
 
“Victimisation of whistle-blowers will not under any circumstances or anywhere be tolerated especially under the watch of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, which builds its reputation on the fight against grand corruption. As a matter of law, the Council has a responsibility to promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations of corruption and fraud disclosed by whistle-blowers such as the 23 SSANU members, and where appropriate bring those suspected to be responsible to justice.”
 
“Encouraging whistle-blowers to speak up improves public services and strengthens transparency and public accountability. Therefore, it is in the interest of the University community and all Nigerians that allegations of corruption in the University system are promptly revealed, investigated by an independent body and suspected perpetrators brought to justice.”
 
“The termination of the appointment of these staff members amounts to retaliation. Their status as a whistle-blower is not diminished even if the perceived threat to the public interest has not materialised, since they would seem to have reasonable grounds to believe in the accuracy of the disclosures on alleged corruption and fraud in the University.”
 
“SERAP believes that whistle blowing is very important in deterring and preventing corruption, and in strengthening democratic accountability and transparency in the country in general. Whistle blowing is indeed a fundamental aspect of freedom of expression and freedom of conscience and is important in tackling gross mismanagement of our commonwealth. Whistle blowing can act as an early warning to prevent damage as well as detect wrongdoing that may otherwise remain hidden.”
 
“Whistle blowing can also help ensure the effective compliance with Nigeria’s international anti corruption obligations by allowing those legally responsible for the alleged misconduct the opportunity to address the problem and to account for themselves, and by more readily identifying those who may be liable for any damage caused.”
 
“Dismissal of the 23 SSANU members breaches the letter and spirit of international anti corruption treaties such as the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”
 
The names of the dismissed SSANU staff members are: Mr Bankole E. A; Mr Salaam A. O; Mr Somoye O. P; Mr Fasunwon O. W; Mr Ojoye A. B; Dr Anjorin O S A; and Mr Adeleke H A. Others are: Mr Obiriwonsi B; Mr Alayode O. T; Mr Iyeh R. O; Mrs Adebesin B. M; Mrs Eyiowuawi C. A; Mr Olafimihan A. O; Mrs Dasaolu C. A; Mr Sonde J. O; Mrs Ogunromila O. O; Mrs Adeyemi O. R; Mr Alabi K. O; Dr Olaniran I. O; Dr salami O. O; Dr Ajayi A. O; Mr Oyero E. A and Miss Adeyemi K. O.

SERAP to Saraki, Dogara: Publish details of alleged spending of N500bn as ‘running cost’

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information Act requests to both the Senate President Dr Bukola Sakari and Speaker of the House of Representatives Mr Dogara Yakubu requesting them to “urgently provide information about alleged spending of N500 billion as running cost between 2006 and 2016, and the monthly income and allowances of each Senator and member.”

SERAP’s request followed disclosure by Abdulmumin Jibrin that Nigerian Senators and House of Representatives members have pocketed N500 billion as ‘running cost’ out of the N1 trillion 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 N15m monthly while each member receives nothing less than N10m monthly.

The organization threatened to “take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives to comply with the request if “the information is not provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter.”

In the letter of request dated 25 November 2016 and signed by SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organization, said that, “We are seriously concerned that details of the National Assembly budgets and income and allowances receive by its members over the years remain shrouded in secrecy, and hidden from Nigerians. Alleged stealing or mismanagement of N500 billions of public funds may be responsible for the economic crisis and attendant hardships being faced by millions of Nigerians.”

The identical FOI requests read in part: “Representative democracy requires more than the simple casting of ballots in periodic elections. Only when Nigerians in general have access to concrete information about the running cost and other critical spending and financial details by the National Assembly can citizens make well-informed choices and can politicians be held accountable.”

“In the face of these overwhelming allegations of corruption, the leadership cannot continue to claim that public perception that many law-makers are in the National Assembly in pursuit of self-interest is off the mark.”

“SERAP believes that secrecy in parliamentary spending has resulted in lapse of accountability for Senators and members of the House of Representatives, and this could ultimately endanger the healthy development of the rule of law and good governance in the country.”

“SERAP believes that secrecy in the spending by the National Assembly and the monthly income and allowances of its members contributes to and enables poor governance. It undermines the ability of the government to spend wisely on behalf of Nigerians, and erodes the integrity and authority of the National Assembly to make laws for the peace, order and good government in the country.”

“Transparency in the spending by the National Assembly and income of its members is a key element of justice, which is essential for an open legislative process, and can serve as a confidence building measure by the lawmakers to regain the trust of Nigerians.”

“SERAP argues that the level of transparency in spending by the National Assembly—be it the Senate or the House of Representatives—and the monthly income and allowances of its members is an important measure of the democratic nature of our government, and is especially important for the National Assembly.”

“These are serious allegations, which require your immediate and urgent clarifications and public disclosure. If true, such allegations will clearly amount to a fundamental breach of national anticorruption laws and the country’s international anti corruption obligations and commitments including under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“By virtue of 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 the alleged spending of N500 billion by the National Assembly and on the incomes and allowances receive by its members, if the said information is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.”

“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 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.”

“The information being requested 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 peace and concern, interest of human rights, social justice, good governance, transparency and accountability.”

“The disclosure of the information requested will give SERAP and the general public a true picture on how exactly the alleged N500 billion running cost has been spent as well as other critical financial details.”

SERAP to CJN: Appoint independent counsel to probe alleged spending of $16bn on electricity by Obasanjo Govt.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, (SERAP) has sent a letter to Justice Water Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen Chief Justice of Nigeria requesting him to urgently use his good offices and position “to appoint an independent counsel to investigate allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity by the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007.”

SERAP said the request was brought “pursuant to Section 52 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000, and the letter and spirit of the Act, and the object and purpose of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”

The letter dated 24 November 2016 and signed by SERAP senior staff counsel Timothy Adewale states that, “A Parliamentary Hearing by the House of Representatives in Abuja over the spending of $16 billion between 1999 and 2007 on the power project revealed through testimonies of witnesses appearing before the Committee that the $16 billion budgeted for the power project may have been stolen by some state officials and others, and cannot be accounted for.”

According to the organization, “Section 52 of the Corrupt Practices Act requires the Chief Justice of Nigeria to authorise an independent counsel to investigate any allegation of corruption against high level public officials—at the federal or state level–and to report his findings to the National Assembly or appropriate house of assembly.”

The letter reads in part: “We believe that the above highlighted findings by the Parliamentary Hearing have sufficiently demonstrated good cause invariably justifying your intervention in the matter. We therefore urge you to interpret this provision robustly and flexibly in the light of the unique role of the judiciary in the efforts to prevent and combat corruption and its destructive effects on the society.”

“We believe your urgent intervention will contribute to improving the integrity of government and public confidence and trust in their government. It would also serve as a vehicle to further the public’s perception of fairness and thoroughness, and to avert even the most subtle of influences that may appear in an investigation of highly-placed executive officials.”

“We also urge you to be guided not by technicalities of ICPC Act but by the overall public interest involved in the enjoyment of the right to regular and uninterrupted electricity supply by millions of Nigerians, and the spirit and letter of the constitution. In particular, Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution dealing with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, high-level public officials have a clear obligation to “eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”

“SERAP also notes that lack of access to uninterrupted energy/electricity services has forced many citizens to use and collect frequently contaminated surface water for drinking and household uses; and denied the citizens the ability and services for boiling, purifying, disinfecting, and storing water, as well as for irrigation to increase the productivity of lands, thereby decreasing the availability of food supplies and undermining employment opportunities.”

“Furthermore, the constitution also prohibits the exploitation of Nigeria’s human and natural resources for any reasons other than for the good of the community.” This position is well supported by the provisions of the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. In exercising your statutory and constitutional responsibilities, we urge you to work very closely with both the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).”

“SERAP notes that the failure by successive governments to tell Nigerians the truth about allegations of corruption in the spending of $16 billion on electricity supply amounts to a failure to ensure that energy services/electricity services are progressively made available, on the basis of equality and non-discrimination, to the whole population, including those most disadvantaged, such as the fringe dwellers and the rural poor.”

“SERAP also notes that allegations of corruption in the energy sector have resulted in the epileptic and interrupted supply of electricity and corresponding deprivation and denial of the citizens’ access to quality healthcare, adequate food, shelter, clothing, water, sanitation, medical care, schooling, and access to information.”

“The Parliamentary Hearing which took place in Abuja between Tuesday, March 11 and Wednesday, 12 March, 2008 also revealed that: Mr. Bernerd Mensen, the Chief Executive Officer of Lameyer, a German firm was paid N370 million (out of the total contract sum of N600m) just to do a feasibility study on a power station, but he confessed that he had never visited the site of the Mambilla Hydro-Electric Power Project in Taraba State.”

 

“The information from the hearing also revealed that N200m of the N370m collected was spent to build a bungalow at Gembu, apparently to create the impression that work was in progress, but the project was later abandoned. One of the witnesses who gave evidence at the hearing said that the ground-breaking was done at Gembu, about 25kilometers from the Mambilla; and that they never got to the Mambilla at all. The witness also disclosed that the sample of oil Lameyer collected for test was dumped at somebody’s compound, and that Lameyer did nothing to implement the project.”

 

“The Mambilla power plant was envisaged to generate 2,600 megawatts of electricity. According to the hearing,the contracts awarded for the Kainji, Egbin, Afam and Ugehli power stations were never executed but the PHCN, in its report to the hearing on how it spent its budgetary allocations between 1999 and 2007, quoted the contracts as part of the work done.  The hearing also revealed that there were about nine of such contracts, totaling $142m.”

 

 

SERAP Asks Gov. Obaseki To Withdraw N300m Mansions Bill For Oshiomhole, Deputy

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has condemned the N300 million mansion retirement benefits for immediate past governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, and his former deputy, Dr. Pius Odubu, and called on governor Godwin Obaseki to “immediately withdraw the bill, and use the funds to clear the backlogof pension arrears spanning between seven and 45 months.”

This followed reports of amendment of Law for Pension Rights of the Governor and Deputy Governor by the Edo State House of Assembly, with the immediate past governor and deputy governor expected to be some of the beneficiaries. The new amendment contains provision of residential buildings worth N200m and N100m for the governor and his deputy at the expiration of their tenures. The bill also provides that the buildings could be sited in any location of their choice.

But in a statement dated 17 November 2016, SERAP executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni said: “Coming at a time the Edo State government can’t even pay its pensioners and salaries of workers, the amendment by the Edo State House of Assembly is immoral, unfair, unconstitutional, unreasonable, and a rip-off on a massive scale. Governor Obasaki must reject this grotesque bill if he’s to fulfil his election promises and lift millions of Edo State pensioners out of extreme poverty.”

“This so-called proposed legislation means that millions of Edo pensioners and workers will have to fund the massive and unjust pensions for former governor Oshiomhole and his deputy and others that will come after them.”

The statement reads in part: “Many of the retirees whose pensions have not been paid have been evicted from their apartments due to their inability to pay their rents‎. According to SERAP’s information, one of such retirees is Ihama Friday who at 60 is now squatting with friends. Another pensioner Osa-Aighobarueghia who retired as a headteacher continues to live a life of debts because the Edo State government has refused to pay her 30 months’ pension benefits.”

“SERAP is aware that the Edo State government is not the only state passing such obnoxious pension laws to provide outrageous retirement benefits to former governors and deputy governors and that many of them are already in the National Assembly receiving multiple benefits and putting their personal bank accounts ahead of the common good. SERAP is finalising a comprehensive legal strategy to challenge these unjust laws and to name and shame those who continue to benefit from such laws.”

“Nigerians should not be made to subsidise these bloated pensions and clearly undeserved perks. Governor Obaseki should not see disadvantaged Nigerians and poor pensioners according to Orwell’s Animal Farm dictum: ‘All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others’. Approving the amendment by the Edo State House of Assembly will amount to a fundamental breach of the governor’s constitutional oath declaration to serve the interest of justice, common good, transparency and accountability.”

“SERAP is appalled by this apparently unfair and discriminatory law. There is absolutely no justification for such law at a time the pensions systems across the country are in poor shape, and pensioners continue to be denied the fruit of their labour. Former governors and their deputies can’t lawfully give to themselves a steady stream of public funds for life at a time millions of pensioners including in Edo State face cut to their pension schemes and remain in poverty without any state support.”