Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Lagos to compel the Nigerian government to disclose details of the proposed payment of N729 billion to poor Nigerians.
The group is also seeking the “mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, and how they have been selected, and whether the payments will be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers or other means”.
This was disclosed in a statement by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare and made available to SaharaReporters on Sunday.
According to the statement, SERAP is also seeking “an order directing and compelling the Federal Government to explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months, which translates to five-percent of the country’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021”.
The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, stating that: “Disclosing the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan would promote transparency and accountability, and remove the risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds.”
In the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/853/2021 and filed at the Federal High Court, Lagos, SERAP is also seeking: “an order directing and compelling the Federal Government to clarify whether the proposed payment to poor Nigerians is part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit”.
In the suit filed against Umar-Farouk, SERAP is arguing that “Providing support and assistance to poor Nigerians is a human rights obligation but the programme to spend five percent of the 2021 budget, which is mostly based on deficit and borrowing, requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries, and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted”.
It said: “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], UN Convention against Corruption, and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party require the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees.
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored, and that the payments are justified in light of the huge budget deficit and borrowing, and whether there are better ways to spend N729bn to support poor Nigerians.
“The Federal Government has repeatedly failed to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public wealth and resources.”
The suit filed last week on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi, read in part: “Transparency and accountability in the programme would improve public trust, and allow Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation, and to assess if the programme is justified, as well as to hold authorities to account in cases of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.