Udora Orizu in Abuja
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and 36 state governors, urging them to disclose details of proposed ‘security votes’ spending in the 2021 appropriation bills to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians.
SERAP also urged the president to explain measures the government is putting in place to prevent the misuse and embezzlement of public funds in the name of security votes.
In the FoI requests dated December 26, 2020 and signed by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said disclosing details of spending would serve to engage the Nigerian people in an honest conversation about the security challenges confronting the country, and what the federal and state governments are doing to respond to them.
The FoI requests, read in part: “Nigerians have the right to know what the government is doing in their name. The framers of the Nigerian Constitution never contemplated opaque spending of public funds as security votes. Transparency and accountability would ensure that the policies and action that the government will pursue to guarantee the security of Nigerians are truly relevant and effective in keeping them safe.”
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within 7 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 action under the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to compel you to comply with our request.”
“Successive governments have failed to effectively discharge their primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. This is patently contrary to Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution, the country’s international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Nigeria has ratified both human rights treaties.”