133 million poor Nigerians: SERAP urges Buhari to probe spending on social intervention programmes
Socio-economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to set up a panel of enquiry to investigate spending on all social safety nets, poverty alleviation programmes, and projects executed between 2015 and 2022.
SERAP also urged him to ensure the findings of any such investigation are widely published, and that suspected perpetrators of corruption and mismanagement of public funds face prosecution, if there is sufficient evidence, while any stolen public funds should be recovered.
The call followed a recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), which reveals that some 133 million Nigerians are poor, despite the government reportedly spending N500 billion yearly on social investment programmes. Half of all poor people in the country are children.
In a letter dated November 19, 2022 and signed by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The report suggests a grave violation of the public trust and lack of political will to genuinely address poverty and uphold your government’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.
“The report that 133 million Nigerians are poor suggests corruption and mismanagement in the spending of trillions of naira on social safety nets and poverty alleviation programmes, including the reported disbursement of over $700 million from the repatriated Abacha looted funds to these programmes.
“The failure to address extreme poverty has resulted in high levels of inequality and serious violations of economic and social rights of Nigerians, particularly the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population.”
SERAP, in the letter copied to Mr. Olivier De Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said: “These grim revelations by the NBS show the failure to fulfill your oft-repeated promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, and that no one will be left behind.
“The report also shows that the purported social safety nets and poverty alleviation programmes are clearly not working. It also shows a failure by your government to uphold the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed human rights of the Nigerian people.”
The body urged Buhari to prioritise investment in quality education and healthcare and redirect some of the unnecessary spending in the 2023 budget, such as spending by the presidency on feeding and travels and money allocated to the National Assembly in the budget, to address poverty as a human rights issue.