Governors of the thirty-six states in Nigeria have been issued a 7-day ultimatum to give details of spending of the N2 billion palliative recently received from the Federal Government or they face legal actions.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday urged the 36 state governors in the country to “disclose details on spending of the N2 billion palliative recently disbursed to each state by the Federal Government, including the names of beneficiaries and details of the reliefs so far provided with the money.”
The Federal Government recently disbursed N2 billion out of the N5 billion palliative package for each state of the federation and the federal capital territory (FCT), to address the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy.
In the open letter dated 9 September 2023 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “It is in the public interest to publish the details on spending of the N2 billion palliative and any subsequent disbursement of funds to your government.”
SERAP said: “Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the fuel subsidy relief funds. It is part of their legally enforceable human rights.”
According to SERAP, “Transparency and accountability in the spending of the N2 billion and any subsequent disbursement to your state would help to reduce the risk of corruption, mismanagement, diversion, or opportunism.”
The letter, read in part: “We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and your state to comply with our request in the public interest.
“The oversight afforded by public access to the details of the spending of the N2 billion palliative and any subsequent disbursement would serve as an important check on the activities of your state and help to prevent abuses of the public trust.”
“The constitutional principle of democracy also provides a foundation for Nigerians’ right to know details on spending of the N2 billion fuel subsidy palliative. Citizens’ right to know promotes openness, transparency, and accountability that is in turn crucial for the country’s democratic order.
“The effective operation of representative democracy depends on the people being able to scrutinise, discuss and contribute to government decision making, including on the fuel subsidy relief funds.
“SERAP notes that the removal of subsidy on petrol continues to negatively and disproportionately affect the poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians in several states, undermining their right to an adequate standard of living.
“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 about how the N2 billion fuel subsidy relief funds are spent.
“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your state to publish details of spending of the N2 billion fuel subsidy palliative.
“The Nigerian Constitution, 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.
“Your state cannot hide under the excuse that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable to your state to refuse to provide the details being sought, as your state also has clear legal obligations to provide the information as prescribed by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and. Enforcement) Act.
“SERAP urges you to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of the N2 billion fuel subsidy palliative and any subsequent disbursement of public funds to your state.”