SERAP sues Buhari govt, demands publication of N729bn payments to 24m Nigerians

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High Court in Lagos to compel President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to publicize details N729 billion payments to 24.3 million Nigerians.

In January, the authorities said more than 7 million poor citizens had benefitted from the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

The CCT, which restarted in August, is a scheme under the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP).

Now, SERAP wants details of the mechanisms and logistics, a list of beneficiaries, how they were selected, and whether the payments were/will be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs).

The organisation is also seeking an order directing the government to explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five percent of the N13.6 trillion 2021 budget.

The action followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs.

SERAP said disclosing the details of beneficiaries, selection criteria and payment would promote accountability and remove the risks of diversion of funds.

The suit numbered FHC/L/CS/853/2021 seeks clarification on whether the CCT payments are part of the N5.6 trillion budget deficit.

SERAP argues that to spend five percent of a budget mostly based on deficit and borrowing requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the monies go directly to the intended beneficiaries.

The suit filed by Kolawole Oluwadare and Opeyemi Owolabi regretted how the government repeatedly failed to ensure transparency in the spending of public wealth and resources.

They stressed that the right to truth allows Nigerians to gain access to information essential to the fight against corruption.

“Democracy cannot flourish in the absence of citizen’s access to information. Public officers are mere custodians of public records.

“The citizenry is entitled to know how their common wealth is being utilized, managed and administered”, the lawyers said.

The court is expected to fix a date for a hearing of the suit.

In reaction to allegations of fraud and opaque disbursements, Minister Farouq accused critics of rubbishing the government’s efforts.

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