Suing Buhari, a group seeks reimbursement for 'Missing N881Billion in 367 Ministries, Departments, and Agencies'.

 

Photo credit: vanguard news

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has launched a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari, accusing him of failing to investigate the alleged disappearance of N881 billion from various ministries, departments, and agencies.

A probe into "allegations that over 880 billion in public funds have gone missing from 367 ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs), to ensure the prosecution of those suspected of being responsible, as well as the recovery of any missing or diverted public funds," according to the group, is sought.

According to charges contained in Part 2 of the 2018 annual audited report published by the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation, 367 Ministries and Departments (MDAs) spent N880,894,733,084.811 without any authorization from the federal government.

In a suit filed last week at the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP is seeking "an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to promptly investigate the alleged missing N881 billion in public funds and to ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible, as well as the full recovery of any missing, mismanaged, or diverted public funds." The suit is number FHC/ABJ/CS/1281/2021 ".....

"Compliance with constitutional obligations and international norms on the expenditure of public monies would ensure effective and efficient management of public resources, and would put the country's riches and resources to work for the common interest of all Nigerians," according to the claim.

This is stated in a statement issued on Sunday by the organization's Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare.

In its statement, the SERAP stated that "granting this application is in the interest of justice since it would increase respect for the rights of Nigerians and improve their access to important public goods and services, which should be delivered by the indicted Ministries and Departments."

According to the Constitution, President Buhari is responsible for ensuring the investigation and prosecution of corruption claims as well as the recovery of any misappropriated public funds. This is in accordance with Section 15[5] of the Nigerian Constitution [as amended] of 1999, which compels the Buhari administration to "abolish all corrupt practices and misuse of power," according to the report.

"The alleged missing public funds have hampered the ability of the indicted MDAs to meet the needs of average citizens, as the missing funds could have assisted the government in investing in key public goods and services, as well as improving access of Nigerians to these goods and services," the SERAP claims further.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN); and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, have both joined the suit as Respondents.

"The failure to investigate the allegations of grand corruption contained in part 2 of the 2018 annual audited report constitutes a grave violation of the duty placed on the Nigerian government to take appropriate measures to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public finances," according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare.

"Mandamus is a high prerogative writ that is used to ensure that public duties are carried out properly. After being properly demanded, it orders the performance of a public obligation that is ordinarily (but not necessarily) prescribed by statute but is neglected or refused to be performed after being properly demanded.

"If there is a discretion to refuse to execute the responsibility, the court has the authority to determine whether the choice to refuse to perform the duty has been used appropriately."

"Recovering the alleged missing public funds would alleviate the pressure on the Federal Government to borrow additional funds to fund the budget, allow the authorities to meet the country's constitutional and international obligations, and help to reduce the country's growing level of public debt," the report states. 

It appears that there has been a serious breach of the public trust, as well as of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999, and international human rights and anti-corruption standards. The expenditure of public monies without prior authorization will provide opportunities for corruption."

In environments where there are possibilities to engage in criminal conduct, broad motivations to take advantage of such opportunities, and lax regulatory oversight, corruption flourishes "It was also mentioned.

"Section 80(2) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation except to meet expenditure that has been charged to the fund by the Constitution or where the issue of the money has been authorized by an Appropriation Act, Supplementary Appropriation Act, or an Act passed in pursuance of Section 81 of the Constitution," the statement continued.

The Buhari administration is also subject to legal obligations under articles 5 and 9 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, to which Nigeria is a state party, to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs and public property.

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