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Rights group sues president, National Assembly, states, local councils over security votes

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[FILES] National Assembly (NASS)

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Abuja seeking a leave to apply for judicial review and an order of mandamus to compel President Muhammadu Buhari and others to disclose details of disbursements and spending of security votes by the Federal Government, 36 state governors and 774 local councils between 1999 and 2019.

Joined in the suit as respondents are Senate President Ahmed Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila. Others are Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele; Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris; and Auditor General of the Federation, Anthony Ayine,

The suit, marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1369/2019 and filed at the weekend, followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information requests and “the respondents’ failure to account for some N241.2 billion of public funds allocated, disbursed and spent yearly as security votes, and the corresponding lack of effective protection of the rights to security and welfare, life and physical integrity of millions of Nigerians.”

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The rights group added: “Nigerians have the constitutional and international human right to know the details of the exact amounts that have been spent as security votes and specific areas and projects covered by the allocations, disbursements and spendings. There is an overriding public interest in Nigerians having access to these details, and the respondents have legal obligations to facilitate public access to such information.”

SERAP argued that constitutional provisions requiring governments to ensure the security and welfare of the people were intended to protect the security and safety of citizens and not the security of a few individuals in government.

“Without transparency and accountability, mismanagement and corruption in the allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes will continue with devastating consequences,” it stated.

The suit, filed by the group’s counsel, Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, reads in part: “The respondents have a legal duty to proactively record, keep and disclose information in respect of allocation, disbursement and spending of security votes without waiting for SERAP to request for such information. They are also required to maintain and publish documents containing information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public funds.

“Public officials receiving and spending security votes ought to come clean with Nigerians on how exactly these public funds are spent. Unless the reliefs sought are granted, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes as a tool for self-enrichment.”

The plaintiff therefore prayed the court to declare that the failure of the respondents to provide it with the demanded information was a violation of its right.

No date has, however, been fixed for the hearing of the suit.


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