The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal Supreme 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 looking into the “mechanisms and logistics for the payments, the list of beneficiaries and how they are selected, and whether the payments will be made in cash or via bank verification numbers or other means”.
This was disclosed in a statement from SERAP’s deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare and made available to SaharaReporters on Sunday.
According to the statement, SERAP is also seeking “an order that will direct and compel the federal government to explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians over six months, which translates to five percent of the country’s budget of N13.6 trillion for 2021”.
The lawsuit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, stating that: “Releasing 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 misuse of public funds.”
In the lawsuit numbered FHC/L/CS/853/2021 and filed in the Federal Supreme Court, Lagos, SERAP also asks: “An order instructing and forcing the Federal Government to clarify whether the proposed payment to poor Nigerians is part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit”.
In the lawsuit filed against Umar-Farouk, SERAP states that “providing support and aid to poor Nigerians is a human rights obligation, but the program to spend five percent of the 2021 budget, which is largely based on deficits and loans, requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure that payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted.”
It read: “The Nigerian Constitution of 1999” [as amended], the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, to which Nigeria is a party, require the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and fairness in programs it oversees .
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored, that payments are justified in light of the massive budget deficit and loans, and whether there are better ways to spend N729 billion to support poor Nigerians.
“The federal government has repeatedly failed to ensure transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public wealth and resources.”
The lawsuit filed last week on behalf of SERAP by its attorneys Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi read in part: “Transparency and accountability in the program would increase public confidence and enable Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation, and to assess whether the program is justified, as well as to hold authorities accountable in cases of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.”
No date has been set for the hearing of the lawsuit.