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SERAP in court: Tinubu must tell Nigerians how he spent N400billion saved from subsidy

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“Nigerians have the right to know how the savings are spent. Disclosing the spending details of the savings would reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds,”

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said in a suit seeking to compel President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to publish spending details of about N400billion so far saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol.

In a the group filed in Lagos, against the backdrop of reports that the Federal Government has saved the said amount within the four weeks following the implementation of the removal of subsidy on petrol policy, it prayed for an order of mandamus to compel the government to come clean of how the amount was spent.

Marked FHC/L/CS/1514/2023, SERAP specifically sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to publish details of spending of about N400 billion saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on petrol on 29 May, 2023.”

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It also sought “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to provide details of the plans on how the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol, including specific projects on which the funds would be spent and “an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu to provide details of the mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are not diverted into private pockets.”

Arguing that “The Tinubu government has a legal obligation to ensure that the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are spent solely for the benefit of the 137 million poor Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the removal,” the group, maintained that “opacity in the spending of the savings from subsidy removal would have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.”

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It said: “The savings from subsidy removal may be embezzled, misappropriated or diverted into private pockets,” adding that the only way Nigerians could trust the process was to have the true picture of the spending.

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Ms Adelanke Aremo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, read in part: “Transparency would increase public trust and confidence that these savings would be used to benefit Nigerians. The Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.

“Prevention of corruption in the spending of savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol and preventing and addressing the challenges caused by the removal are serious and legitimate public interests. The Tinubu government has a legal obligation to protect individuals against the threat posed to human rights by the removal of subsidy on petrol, and to effectively address the aftermath of subsidy removal.

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“Unless the government is compelled and directed to publish the spending details of the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol, the removal will continue to undermine the rights of Nigerians, and increase their vulnerability to poverty.

“The implementation of the National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP) and spending on the programme have been mostly shrouded in secrecy. Publishing the details of the spending of the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties.

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“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of the N400bn saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on petrol, and on the spending of subsequent savings from the removal would mean that the savings can help poor Nigerians to overcome the effects of such removal.

“It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of double jeopardy on poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians. The lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol and the resulting human costs would directly threaten fundamental human rights that the government has an obligation to protect.

“The Tinubu government has the legal obligations to address the effects of subsidy removal on the human rights of 137 million poor Nigerians, and to prevent and address some of the direst consequences that the removal may reap on human rights, especially given the disproportionate impact on these Nigerians.

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“The removal of subsidy on petrol continues to negatively and disproportionately affect poor Nigerians, undermining their right to adequate standard of living. Many years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of public funds and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined public trust and confidence in governments at all levels.”

“The Freedom of Information Act, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee to everyone the right to information, including the details of how the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol would be spent.

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“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there are transparency obligations imposed on the government to widely publish the details of how the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are spent.

“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on the government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on the government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, the government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’

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“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’ Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on the government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”

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Soyinka, terror to dictators, face of democracy – Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, spared no nice words in showering accolades on Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate on Literature, extolling his democratic credentials, ending it all with the renaming of the National Theatre as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts, in honour 90th birthday of the celebrated playwright, novelist and activist.

The President’s sentiments, on Soyinka, a professor of literature, globally celebrated essayist, actor, singer, composer, and documentarian, who brought great honour to Africa and Nigeria when he won the coveted prize in 1986, was conveyed by Ajuri Ngelale, his spokesman in a statement, ahead of the birthday on Saturday, July 13.

Describing him as one of the finest minds of his generation; conforming to the highest standards of human enlightenment, but unyielding to injustice, oppression, and base impulses, Tinubu hailed his long-time friend, with whom he was in the trenches some three decades ago, during the June 12, 1993 struggle.

The statement, which stressed that Tinubu also hailed Soyinka as one of Nigeria’s living repositories of history, knowledge, and courage, and commended him for his valiant efforts in the trenches for the nation’s future both as a pro-democracy champion and as a trenchant voice against corruption and maladministration over several decades, recalled the days of the struggle.

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His words: “Our paths crossed during our just struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. When faced with a trial in absentia and death sentence by the military regime at home, he galvanized opposition in exile through NALICON and NADECO. His global stature made him the face of our struggle to validate June 12 and restore democracy in Nigeria.”

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Wishing him many more years in good health and creative fulfilment as a global force for change, he added: “Today, I join the world to celebrate his profound influence on generations of writers, scholars, and activists who have been inspired by his work. I celebrate him for giving us the spark to fight and confront military dictators in our country.

“I am, accordingly, delighted to have the honour to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.”

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S’Court: No more allocations to 37 Development centres in Lagos, others  

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The 37 Local Government Development Centres (LGDC), created in Lagos in 2003, during the tenure of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of the state, may have been dealt a hard blow, as they will no longer be captured in the funding bracket of the state, going by the interpretation of Thursday’s ruling of the Supreme Court, by some legal minds.

One of those who believe that by the judgement, the councils have lost their source of funding, following the pronouncement of the courts that allocations from the Federation Account be paid directly into the accounts of recognised entities is, Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Lagos has 20 local governments originally created by the Federal Government, while the 37 LGDCs, were created by the Tinubu administration, in a bid to further take governance to the grassroots, a development, which led to a bitter feud between the government and the Federal Government under the President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In fact, throughout the period Obasanjo was in power after the creation of the LGDCs, the state was denied its council allocations, as a punishment to the state, following the former President’s aversion to the move.

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It was only the government of Umaru Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, who released the entire entitlements to the state, when he assumed power in 2007, after the state had funded the councils from its own resources for four years.

Ozekhome, a renowned constitutional lawyer,  who was a guest of The Morning Brief, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, on Friday, told his host that Thursday’s apex court judgement on the autonomy of the councils, made it clear that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) would not send funds to local government areas headed by caretaker committee chairmen, or development centres.

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Hear him: “The judgement of the government is clear. If you want to receive funds from the federation account, then conduct an election. If what you have in place is a caretaker committee as local government chairman, be sure that it will not have money from the federation account.

“What this law is saying is that if you are not a democratically elected local government council, you cannot have this money under section 162 subsection 5 and 6 of the 199 Constitution. So, what it means is that money should now be ploughed to those local governments that are in existence democratically.”

The only remedy, he stated was for the state to find ways of funding the development centres from the allocations of the councils, adding: “They can do that internally to share. That is their internal business. Nobody can control that one. But for now, the money can only go to those local government areas named in the constitution. Don’t forget they are even named in the constitution, 774 local governments. If you want money from the federation account, such councils must be democratically elected.”

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The apex court not only endorsed full local government autonomy and ordering that funds from the FAAC be paid directly to their accounts, but also barred governors from henceforth dissolving democratically elected officials for local governments adding that doing so would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution.

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Tinubu completely caged, now surrounded by thieves, Ndume insists

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Ali Ndume, Senator representing Borno South at the National Assembly, on Thursday dug deeper in his earlier revelations putting Nigerians on notice that President Bola Tinubu is currently under a cocoon thrown around him by his aides, who have used the opportunity to mindlessly fleece the national till.

A guest of Prime Time, a current affairs programme on Arise News Network, Ndume, Chief Whip of the Senate, told his host that the seat of power has now been captured by “kakistocrats” – a government run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens and kleptocrats – one run by thieves.

Absolving Tinubu of complicity in the alleged massive thievery he alleged that the Presidential Villa and top government bodies have become, he said: “The government is also populated by kleptocrats, but unfortunately that is not what the President is up to. He really meant renewed hope, but you can only do that when you have people around you that are on the same type of thinking.”

Ndume one of the longest serving members of NASS, explained that much as Tinubu, whom he described as a close political associate and a democrat, would always be quick to act on any act of malfeasance that came to his attention, such as his recent repudiation of the Cyber-crime bill, the said unscrupulous aides, had been doing much to keep him away from some critical information.

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Hear him: “When the president realised that he had not heard about it, he quickly suspended it.” He highlighted the significant challenge of hunger and food scarcity, mentioning that inflation has risen to 40%. In some places, even with your money, you won’t find the food items you want to buy, which is very dangerous..

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“Nigeria has never been included among countries facing severe food crises or food insecurity, but recent UN and World Food Programme figures rank Nigeria as a hotspot. For people like me, I have to be scared because I’m 64 years old with 10 children, 20 grandchildren, and I don’t have a passport or visa to anywhere.

“Some Ministers only meet the president during council meetings and that the President is often the first to leave. I’m the chief whip, and if the chief whip can’t have access to the president, the new senators won’t have access either. During the time of President (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s administration, any senator could see the president within 24 hours.

“President Tinubu is caged in. There are no visible efforts by the government to address pressing issues like climate change. The President has to harness Nigeria’s natural and human resources. He must get the right people into office and dominate his government with democrats. The president needs people who will realise his dream and tell him when something is wrong.”

Ndume who also bemoaned the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy, argued that much as it was a good move to eliminate corruption and allow savings to benefit the people, measures must be taken to cushion such effects, like the introduction of food stamps, adding that presently the anger of Nigerians over their parlous situation could snowball into uncontrollable conflagration.

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