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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
SERAP Deputy Director
For more information or to request an interview, please contact Kolawole Oluwadare on: +2348160537202
MASS METERING ORDERED BY BUHARI IS A RUSE AND DOES NOT FUNDAMENTALLY ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ESTIMATED BILLING
CARE DEMANDS REVERSAL OF POWER SECTOR PRIVATISATION
It was widely reported that President Buhari had ordered the mass metering of Nigerians to end estimated billing. It was also reported that there will not be tariff increment except through ‘service-based principles’. The positions were made public through a tweet by James Momoh, the Chairman of Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC). It is worthy to note and state with emphasis that the statement does not remove the clause that consumers are to pay for the metres as it is widely insinuated by many.
Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE) see these public pronouncements as mischievous, a ruse and lacking any concrete plan to resolve the very extortionist and exploitative estimated billing policy. The only thing government stated in response to estimated billing was the President’s approved waiver of import levy on meters, which is incapable of metering 5 million consumers. We want to remind Nigerians that the Meter Asset Providers (MAP) have been licensed by NERC and the federal government to sell meters to Nigerians at exorbitant prices and this policy is still in place. For instance, Ikeja Electric has hiked the price of meter from N39,765.86 and N72,085.68 for single-phase and three-phase metres respectively to N48,263.37 and N89,063.33. Going by these exorbitant and unwarranted charges, it is clear that the vast majority who are suffering under the weight of the rising cost of living engendered by anti-poor and neo-liberal policies will not be able to procure these meters.
We maintain our earlier position that the provision of meters is the sole responsibility of the Distribution Companies because it is a means of measuring supply and should not be the responsibility of the consumers who pay for electricity consumed. Besides, the cost of metering had been embedded in the tariff hike of MYTO 2012 that came into effect on June 1, 2012. How on earth the government and NERC turned 180 degrees and came out with a policy that unjustly forces the consumers to pay for meters is mindboggling? This shows the level of travesty and crude exploitation; President Buhari or NERC has not reversed the MAP policy and has not stated clearly how it wants to meter 5 million households either. This pronouncement is one of the many wishful thinking meant to play to the gallery and deceive Nigerians.
On tariff reviews, President Buhari and NERC have not reversed or canceled the new tariff but only suspended it till January 2021 on the persuasion of the National Assembly in June 2020. The service-based tariff principles being espoused by President Buhari and NERC is already being implemented by the Distribution Companies across the federation. For instance, Ikeja Electric runs a policy called Premium Power that gives much more regular electricity supply of 20 hours on the average and customers are made to pay as high as N55 per kilowatt. Premium Power targets rich neighbourhoods like Magodo, Hiltop Estate etc., while the poorer communities are condemned to darkness. Service-based principles negate the principles of fairness and equality, it is apartheid, it is discriminatory and it violates section 14, 15, 17 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as well as Section 76 (2e) of Electric Power Sector Reform Act, 2005 which outlaws any form of undue discrimination between electricity consumers and other electricity consumer categories including discrimination of any kind.
The electricity sector had gulped over $25 billion public funds since 2005 without any meaningful improvement, most of these public funds have only fattened the bank accounts of the rich few, particularly the private electricity companies and the cronies in government. Should these huge funds be utilized efficiently, the power sector would have been improved considerably with its attendant drastic improvement in electricity supply and affordability in the tariff.
Coalition for Affordable and Regular Electricity (CARE) demands the reversal of the power sector privatization, because as usual, it serves the interest of a few at the expense of the vast majority; we demand affordable tariff; we demand mass public investment in the power sector and ISSUANCE OF PREPAID METERS TO ALL AT NO COST TO CONSUMERS.
To bring about transparency and efficiency, we demand the RENATIONALIZATION of the power sector under democratic control and management of workers and consumers.
Chinedu Bosah ShoyomboMonsuru
National Coordinator National Secretary