Sunday, September 20, 2020

N800bn loot recovered: SERAP drags Buhari to court

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By Olasunkanmi Akoni

The SERAP Socioeconomic Rights and Responsibility Project has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to reveal information and documents related to the names of the people from whom N 800 billion in looted public funds were recovered.

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

The lawsuit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated June 13, 2020 to President Buhari, stating that: “The public has a right to know how the loot recovered from N800bn has been spent, and the details and the purpose of the alleged N51billion payments on individual private accounts. Transparency on transactions by the government is essential to guarantee public confidence in the integrity of the management of public resources and wealth ”.

Lawsuit number FHC / ABJ / CS / 1064/2020 filed last Friday in the Federal High Court, Abuja, and made available to the media on Sunday, SERAP requested a permission order to request judicial review and a mandamus order to direct and / or compel President Buhari to publish a complete list of the names of the people from whom N 800 billion in looted funds have been recovered, details of the expenditure of the money and the specific dates of the recovery.

In the lawsuit filed on behalf of SERAP by their attorneys, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, the organizations also sought “a mandamus order to direct and compel President Buhari to instruct the appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly, fully, and transparent the alleged payment of N51 billion of public funds in individual private accounts in 2019 “.

Joining the lawsuit as Defendants were Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and Ms. Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

SERAP held that: “The court should compel the Defendants to reveal the details and the whereabouts of public funds. There is no legally justifiable reason why the information should not be widely available to Nigerians, especially since the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) requires the government in section 15 (5) to eliminate all forms of corruption. That means guaranteeing transparency and accountability in the management of public resources and wealth ”.

SERAP also argues that: “Granting the requested exemptions will ensure transparency and accountability, as the information sought to be released will reveal the truth about where the money is going and why it is there, and will allow Nigerians to opportunity to evaluate the impacts of any projects carried out with the recovered loot and the supposed payments to individual private accounts ”.

Part of the lawsuit read: “As a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the African Union Convention to Prevent and Combat Corruption, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria is committed to ensuring transparent management of public resources and unimpeded access to public information. These commitments must be fulfilled and fully respected. “

SERAP emphasized that disclosing the details of the projects on which the N800bn recovered from the loot has been spent and would be fully consistent with the anti-corruption commitments often expressed by the federal government.

The organization recalled that BudgIT, a civic technology organization, recently reported that “the federal government’s open treasury portal allegedly showed that payments totaling N51 billion were made to individual accounts in 2019.

However, no date has been set for the hearing of the lawsuit.

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