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SERAP sues governors, Wike over N40 trillion local government funds

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Nigerian governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mr Nyesom Wike over their failure to account for the alleged missing N40 trillion federal allocations meant for local governments in the states and the FCT”.

The suit followed the revelations by former president Muhammadu Buhari who in December 2022 stated, “If the money from the Federation Account to the state is about N100m, N50m will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The chairman will pocket the balance and share it.”

The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare, Kehinde Oyewumi and Andrew Nwankwo.

SERAP in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/231/2024 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is asking the court to

“direct and compel the governors to publish details of LGA allocations and actual disbursement of the allocations to local governments in their respective states from 1999 to date.”

“compel and direct Mr Wike to publish details of federal allocations meant for the Area Councils in the FCT and the actual disbursement of the allocations to the Area Councils in the FCT from 1999 to date.”

In the suit, SERAP is arguing that, “The Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights impose transparency obligations on the governors and Mr Wike to publish the details of LGA allocations and actual disbursement in their states and the FCT.”

READ ALSO: SERAP gives NNPCL 7-day ultimatum to account for missing $2.04 billion, N164 billion oil revenues 

“State governors and Mr Wike cannot hide under the excuse that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable to their states and the FCT. The legal obligations to publish the information sought are also imposed by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.”

“It is in the public interest and the interest of justice to grant this application. Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognized human right to information.”

“Transparency in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local governments is fundamental to increase accountability, prevent corruption, and build trust in democratic institutions, and strengthen the rule of law.”

 “Many years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of federal allocations meant for local governments have contributed to widespread poverty, underdevelopment and lack of access to public goods and services in several states.

“Granting the reliefs sought would ensure transparency and accountability in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations in the states and FCT would also improve the enjoyment by Nigerians of their right to natural wealth and resources.

“The governors and Mr Wike have a legal responsibility to promote transparency and accountability in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local government areas in the states and FCT and to ensure that the allocations are dully and fully disbursed to the local governments.

“According to our information, the 36 states in Nigeria and the federal capital territory, Abuja, have collected over N40 trillion federal allocations meant for the 774 local governments areas in the country and FCT.

“The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) disbursed to states N225.21 billion federal allocations meant for local governments in November 2023 alone. States also collected N258,810,449,711.47 federal allocations meant for local government areas in December 2023.

“However, there is opacity in the actual disbursement of federal allocations to the local government areas in the states and FCT. States and the FCT have over the years failed and/or refused to disclose the portion of federal allocations that are disbursed to local governments.

“Former president Muhammadu Buhari recently alleged that state governors routinely pocket or divert federal allocations meant for local governments areas in their states.

“According to Buhari, ‘If the money from the Federation Account to the State is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The chairman will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.’

“Section 162(6) of Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) provides that each state shall maintain a ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ into which all allocations to local government councils from the Federation Account and from the Government of the State shall be paid.

“Section 162(5) makes it mandatory that amounts standing to the credit of the councils will be allocated to the States for the benefit of their local government councils.

“Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution requires public institutions to abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power. Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”

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