N800bn Recovered Loot: SERAP Sue Buhari

SERAP Buhari Buhariii 300x162 - N800bn Recovered Loot: SERAP Sue Buhari

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged President Muhammadu Buhari to court over the N800 billion recovered loot.

The human rights group filed the case with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/1064/2020 at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday.

This was disclosed in a statement signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

Giving reasons for suing Buhari, SERAP stated that the president has failed to give information and release 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.

In the suit, 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.”

“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.”

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 argued 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 totaling N51bn were made into individual 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.

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