Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to disclose the security votes for their states in 2021.
SERAP in a statement issued on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, called for measures to be put in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.
“Disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes,” the statement partly read.
“In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”
The group noted that while the authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.
According to Oluwadare, Nigerian leaders should be honest to the citizens amid the numerous security challenges in the country.
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Insecurity: Disclose security votes spending for 2021, SERAP tells Buhari, 36 governors
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors urging them to “disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in your 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians, and to explain the measures your governments are putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.”
SERAP said: “In the wake of the abduction of over 300 students from the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and ongoing security challenges in several parts of the country, the time has come to demonstrate transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to secure people’s lives and property.”
In the FoI requests dated 26 December, 2020 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Disclosing details of spending as security votes for 2021 would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them. This is a legitimate public interest matter.”
SERAP also said: “While SERAP understands that authorities may keep certain matters of operational secrets from the people in the name of national security, there is no constitutional or legal basis to hide basic information on public spending from the people.”
SERAP expressed “concerns that the intense secrecy and lack of meaningful oversight of the government’s spending of security votes have for many years contributed to mismanagement and large-scale corruption in the sector, as well as limited the ability of the people to hold high-ranking public officials to account for their constitutional responsibility to ensure the security and welfare of the people.”
According to SERAP: “Your government’s responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is closely interlinked with your responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office. This imposes a fundamental obligation to promote transparency and accountability in security votes spending, and to remove opportunities for corruption.”
The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall 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 compel you to comply with our request.”
“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”
“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act 2011, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to disclose information to the public concerning your proposed security votes spending for 2021.”
“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the human rights treaties rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”
SERAP Deputy Director
Govt Agency ‘Illegally Sold SUV Worth N18m To Top Official At N750k- Report
Mr. Yakubu Tsala, former chairman, Governing Board of The Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State, bought a Prado Jeep worth N18 million at the rate of N750,000, according to the agency.
According to an information on its website, the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) is responsible for conducting research into the improvement of millet and wheat.
In 2017, the office of the Auditor-General for the Federation had queried the institute over alleged disappearance of two SUVs.
Upon investigation, it said the Prado Jeeps were procured in 2013 and 2014 but were sold three years after.
The report is being considered by the Senate Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Senator Matthew Urhoghide (PDP, Edo).
The audit query reads, “Management of the Institute could not account for 2 Nos. Toyota Prado Jeeps which were purchased in 2013 & 2014 with registration No. 45KOIFG for one Jeep and none for the other.
“No reason was given for not registering the second Prado Jeep. In addition, a Toyota Hiace bus with registration No. 45KO3FG could not be accounted for during audit.
“This is a violation of Financial Regulation 2128 which states that “Every public officer is personally and pecuniary responsible for government property under his control or in his custody.
“Inability of the management of the Institute to account for government property under their custody suggests abuse and mismanagement, as government property may have been diverted to private use.
The Executive Director is required to account for the vehicles. The issue was communicated to the Executive Director through my Audit Inspection Report Ref. No. EIAD/WTR 16/CORP/4 dated 21st December 2017 but he failed to respond.”
The institute in a written response said, “The vehicle (Prado Jeep) was purchased on 21st March, 2014 at the Cost of N18.7 million and the former Executive Director, Dr.Oluwasina Olabanji, sought the approval of ARCN (Agricultural Research Council Of Nigeria) for boarding the vehicle to the former chairman Governing Board , Mr. Yakubu Tsala at the cost of N750,000 only.”
The second Prado Jeep, according to the institute, was purchased on 18th September, 2013 at the cost of N12.4 million and request for approval to board the vehicle was written to ARCN dated on June 7th , 2017.”
The Senate panel therefore ordered the institute’s Executive Director, Dr. Alhassan Bibinu to appear before it along with the former Executive Director, who gave order for selling of the two Prado Jeeps.
Again, workers drag Gov Ishaku to court over unpaid 77 months salaries
While the Taraba State Government under the leadership of Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku is yet to settle the ongoing impasse with the organized labour, another set of workers have again taken it up with the governor by dragging the government to the national industrial court.
This, is not in connection with the non-implementation of the new approved national minimum wage of N30.000 but in connection with the unpaid 77 months salaries of 18 non-indigenous workers of the defunct Nigeria Sunrise newspaper which has accumulated to over N73 billion.
The court, which is in Jos, the capital of Plateau State, was said to have been assigned with the responsibility of presiding over the case.
The said defunct newspapers which was established by the late governor of the state, Danbaba D. Suntai, in 2010, went out of existence shortly after the 2012 plane crash that rendered him incapacitated before he was eventually called to glory.
Narrating the ordeals they have been going through since the refusal of the state government to absorb them into the state civil service like their counterparts who have been absorbed due to their indigene status, the aggrieved workers believe that dragging the governor to court is the surest way out of their present predicaments.
The workers who spoke through their solicitors, M.Y Saleh (SAN), lamented the degrading conditions they have found themselves because of the inability of the state government to extend the same olive branch that was extended to the indigene workers of the defunct newspapers to those of them that are non-indigenes.
In their statement of claim which the eighteen workers who are non-indigenes made available to our correspondent through their counsel, they alleged they were denied salaries since the company stopped operation in 2014 and that they were discriminated against based on their States of origin.
Affirming that the “refusal of the defendants to pay the salaries and entitlements of the claimants is unlawful,” they pleaded with the court to as a matter of urgency call the defendants to order.
Sad that the defendants discriminated against them on the basis of “our states of origin in refusing to redeploy us in its service and this contravened our right to Freedom from Discrimination as protected by Section 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the court, as pleaded by them, should take their pleas into consideration.
Before resolving to drag the governor and the defendants to court, several attempts according to the plaintiffs were implored to ensure a round table dialogue to no avail.
According to them “we wrote a complaint letter to the Public Complaints Commission who in turns wrote to the 5th defendant on the matter and the 5th defendant, through its Managing Consultant/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), responded via a letter to the Commission dated the 23/5/2018 confirming our story and who also attached a list containing our names, dates of employment and salaries, among other information.”
Those dragged to the court alongside the state governor include the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Sam Adda, the commissioner of Information and Reorientation, Danjuma Adamu, the defunct publishing house, etc.
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