SERAPS demands names of looters, drags Buhari to court

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has instituted a legal action against President Muhammadu Buhari, 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.

In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP explained that Buhari failed 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.”

SERAP in a statement signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, 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.

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.”

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.”

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 totaling N51bn were made into individual accounts in 2019.”

 

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