By Olasunkanmi Akoni
In light of the security challenges in Nigeria, the Socioeconomic Rights and Responsibility Project, SERAP, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors to disclose the details of the proposed spending on “security votes” in the 2021 budget.
SERAP argued that in the wake of the kidnapping of more than 300 students from the Government High School of Sciences, Kankara, Katsina State, and the ongoing security challenges in various parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability. accounts in public spending. funds destined to insure the life and property of the people.
In Freedom of Information requests, FoI dated December 26, 2020 and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization emphasized that disclosing spending details as security votes for 2021 would serve to involve the Nigerian people in a honest conversation about safety. challenges facing the country and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them.
According to SERAP, “It will explain the measures that governments are implementing to prevent the misuse and misuse of public funds in the name of security votes.
“While SERAP understands that the authorities can keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis for hiding basic information about public spending from the people.”
SERAP expressed “concerns that intense secrecy and lack of meaningful oversight of government spending on security votes have contributed to mismanagement and large-scale corruption in the sector over many years, as well as limiting people’s ability to hold public officials accountable for their constitutional responsibility to guarantee the safety and well-being of the people ”.
According to SERAP: “Your government’s responsibility to ensure and guarantee the safety and well-being of the Nigerian people is closely related to its responsibility under Section 15 (5) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power. This imposes a fundamental obligation to promote transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes and eliminate opportunities for corruption. “
The FoI requests that it be read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing on their behalf. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never viewed the opaque spending of public funds as votes of security. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and actions that the government will take to ensure the safety of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.
“We would appreciate if you could provide us with the requested information within 7 days of receiving and / or posting this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP will take all appropriate legal action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to bind you. to fulfill our request.
Successive governments have not effectively fulfilled their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is clearly contrary to Section 14 (2) (b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which states that “the safety and well-being of the people shall be the primary purpose of the government.
Our requests are in the public interest and in accordance with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.
“The Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act and human rights treaties are based on the principle that citizens should have access to information about the activities of their government.”