SERAP Ask Court To Order Buhari To Publish Loan Profile Since 2015

SERAP Ask Court To Order Buhari To Publish Loan Profile Since 2015

SERAP Ask Court To Order Buhari To Publish Loan Profile Since 2015

By Augustine Akhilomen

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Federal High Court to order President Muhammadu Buhari to “publish details of loans his administration has received since May 29, 2015″.

SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.

It would be recalled that Buhari recently sought the National Assembly’s approval for a fresh loan of $5.513bn, reportedly to fund the 2020 budget deficit, critical projects, and support some states. The National Assembly also recently approved a N850 billion loan. Another loan of $22.79bn, had previously been approved by the National Assembly.

Joined as Respondents in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 are Mr Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Ms Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning; and Ms Patience Oniha Director-General of the Debt Management Office.

SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption.”

SERAP is also asking the court to: “direct and compel President Buhari to tell Nigerians if he would instruct the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.”

“Opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens. Transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that these loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.”

“This suit is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party.”

“While access to loans can provide indispensable resources, the mismanagement and squandering of any such resources would be counter-productive. Nigerians should no longer be made to repay debts incurred in their name but which have not benefited them in any manner, shape or form.”

The suit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request dated 30 May, 2020 to President Buhari, expressing “concerns that while governments since 1999 have borrowed money in the name of Nigeria and its citizens, much of the funds have reportedly been mismanaged, stolen or squandered, leaving the citizens with the burden of having to repay these loans.”

The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “the massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.

“SERAP is praying the court to hold that the interest of the public in publishing the information sought is far greater than any other interest President Buhari may be trying to preserve.

“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of all the loans that have so far been obtained by the government, and those obtained by previous administrations would mean that the loans can help Nigeria to overcome its acute development challenges, and reduce the possibility of mismanagem…

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