The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit in the Federal High Court, Abuja “seeking leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate president Ahmed Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to disclose details of allocations, 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 and 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.”
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.”
SERAP also argued that: “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 right to know allows Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption, which is entirely consistent with the government’s own anti-corruption strategy to encourage citizens’ involvement in the fight against corruption. Access to information on details of security votes will ultimately foster security, sustainable peace, and development of democratic institutions across the country.”
“Public officers are mere custodians of public records. The citizens are entitled to know how their commonwealth is being utilized, managed and administered in a democratic setting, as this positively influences the feeling of belonging in the society.”
“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.”
SERAP is therefore seeking the following reliefs:
A declaration that the failure of the Respondents to provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) allocated and disbursed to the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019 is illegal and constitutes a breach of the Applicant’s rights under the Freedom of Information Act, 2011.
An Order of Mandamus directing and/or compelling the Respondents to urgently compile and provide the Applicant with specific information on details of the expenditure, non-planned extra-budgetary spending on “Security” (otherwise referred to as ‘Security Votes’) by the Federal Government of Nigeria, 36 States of the Federation and 774 local governments in Nigeria for the periods covering between 1999 and 2019.
And for such further order(s) this Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Ben Bruce Hails Buhari’s ‘No Visa Policy’
A former lawmaker representing Bayelsa East in the National Assembly, Senator Ben Murray-Bruce has commended President Muhammadu Buhari for allowing all Africans to come to Nigeria without Visa from January 2020.
President Buhari while attending a peace and development summit in Egypt, announced the country will begin issuing visas on arrival for all African nationals.
If this policy comes into effect it would be a major boon for the continent-wide push to ensure freer movement of Africans.
Reacting to the No Visa Policy on Thursday, Murray-Bruce urged Buhari to extend ‘no visa policy’ to all people of Black African origin in the Diaspora.
In a tweet on his official Twitter page on Monday, Ben Bruce wrote: “I commend President
@MBuhari for his visa free policy to all citizens of African Union member nations. I first suggested this in my Right of Return Bill. I urge the President to go the whole hog and extend this to all people of Black African origin in the Diaspora.”
I commend President @MBuhari for his visa free policy to all citizens of African Union member nations. I first suggested this in my Right of Return Bill. I urge the President to go the whole hog and extend this to all people of Black African origin in the Diaspora.
— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) December 12, 2019
BREAKING: Senate Probes DSS Invasion Of Court, Rearrest Of Sowore
The Senate has begun probe into the action of the operatives of the Department of State Services, DSS following the rearrest of pro-democracy campaigner and journalist, Omoyele Sowore, at the premises of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Consequently, the Senate on Thursday mandated its Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters chaired by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, All Progressives Congress, APC, Ekiti Central to carry out a holistic investigation into the matter and report back in one week.
Resolution of the Senate was sequel to a point of Order on the issue raised by Senator Bamidele on the invasion.
Bamidele came under Order 43 of the Senate Standing Orders as Amended that did not allow for contributions from other Senators.
Sowore: Nigeria Is Not Answerable To US, UK, EU — Femi Adesina
The Special Adviser on Media Affairs and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Femi Adesina has stated that Nigeria is a sovereign nation therefore not answerable to the US, UK or EU regarding cases of human rights abuses.
This statement was uttered by Femi Adesina when he appeared on Channels TV on Wednesday night, December 11th as a guest.
The statement he made was in reference to comments from the EU, UK and the US on the invasion of the Federal High Court Abuja by men of the Department of State Services to re-arrest the Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
Adesina said: “We are not answerable to the US, the UK or the EU. We are Nigeria, a sovereign country. Those countries and entities have issues of their own. Let them deal with their issues. Let Nigeria also deal with her internal issues. We are not answerable to them.”
He went on to speak about Wole Soyinka’s criticisms against the regime of the President, stating that the Nobel laureate was free to express his opinion.
“We respect Prof. Soyinka. You don’t have too many of them in the country or even on the continent. He is an avatar and he is well respected but his opinion will remain his opinion. It will be considered and if there are things to act on, we will act on them,” he said.
When asked to comment on the recent attack on his senior colleague, Garba Shehu by the first lady, Aisha Buhari, Adesina said he will not be able to comment as he is not the person that was attacked by the first lady. He went on to add that the President’s family is off limits except the President directs him speak on the issue.