SERAP drags Governors, Wike To Court, Over N5.9trn, $4.6bn Loans

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SERAP
SERAP drags Governors, Wike To Court, Over N5.9trn, $4.6bn Loans

SERAP drags Governors, Wike To Court, Over N5.9trn, $4.6bn Loans—-The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged all state governors, as well as the minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nyesom Wike, before the Federal High Court in Lagos, for failing to account for loans totaling N5.9 trillion and $4.6 billion.

SERAP, in the litigation yet to be assigned to a judge, is asking the court to compel the governors and Wike to account for and disclose copies of the loan agreements, including details and locations of projects done with the loans.

The organisation is also asking the court to direct the defendants to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission [ICPC] to investigate the spending of all the loans obtained to date by their states and the FCT.

In an affidavit attached to the suit, the plaintiff is arguing that it is in the public interest to grant the reliefs sought because Nigerians have the right to see and scrutinise the loan agreements and know the details of how the domestic and external loans obtained by the governors and FCT minister are spent.

SERAP also averred that opacity in the spending of the loans obtained by the defendants would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens.

The civil society organisation further argues that many states and the FCT are reportedly spending public funds, which may include the loans obtained to fund unnecessary travel, buy exotic and bulletproof cars and generally invest in the lavish lifestyles of politicians.

SERAP is also arguing that many states and the FCT are also allegedly mismanaging public funds, which may include domestic and external loans obtained from bilateral and multilateral institutions and agencies.

The plaintiff claimed that many states and the FCT reportedly owe civil servants’ salaries and pensions and are borrowing to pay salaries. At the same time, millions of Nigerian residents continue to be denied access to essential public goods and services such as quality education and healthcare.

SERAP further insisted that transparency in the spending of the loans obtained by the states and FCT is fundamental to increase accountability, prevent corruption, and build trust in democratic institutions to strengthen the rule of law.

The plaintiff also stated, “Widely publishing copies of the loan agreements and spending details of the loans obtained would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for performing their duties in the management of public funds.

“State governors and Mr Wike cannot hide under the excuse that the Freedom of Information Act does not apply to their states and the FCT. The legal obligations to publish the information sought are also imposed by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory is N5.9 trillion. The total public external debt portfolio is $4.6 billion.

“The domestic and external loans obtained by the states and the FCT are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. The states and FCT have a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by the states and FCT are spent to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.

“Directing and compelling the states and FCT to publish copies of the loan agreements would allow Nigerians to scrutinise them and promote transparency and accountability on the spending of public funds, including the loans obtained,” SERAP stated.

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