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SERAP Gives Buhari Seven Days To Publish Spending On Security Vote

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent Freedom of Information requests to President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 state governors in Nigeria requesting them to use their “good offices and leadership positions to urgently provide information on specific details of spending of appropriated public funds as security votes between 2011 and 2019.”
In the separate requests sent to Buhari and the governors, SERAP said: “Given the current security realities in the country, we need the information to determine if public funds meant to provide security and ensure respect and protection of the rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty of Nigerians have been spent for this purpose. Our request is limited to details of visible, specific security measures and projects executed, and does not include spending on intelligence operations.”
In the FOI requests dated April 12, 2019, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “’Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution (as amended) provides that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’ It is the security of the citizens that is intended and not the security of select individuals in public office. SERAP believes that transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes are critically important to fully implement this responsibility imposed on both the federal and state governments.”
SERAP said: “We are concerned that rather than serving the citizens, the appropriation of public funds as security votes over the years would seem to serve high-ranking government officials at all levels—federal and states. We are also concerned that the practice of security votes entrusts discretionary powers to spend huge public funds on certain elected public officials who may not have any idea of operational issues on security matters.”
The requests read in part: “SERAP urges you to open-up on the matter and provide information and documents as requested. This will be one step in the right direction. Unless the information is urgently provided, Nigerians would continue to see the appropriation of public funds as security votes and the institutionalization of this cash in ‘Ghana Must Go Bags’ practice as a tool for self-enrichment.
“We would be grateful if the requested information is provided to us within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, the Registered Trustees of SERAP shall take all appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.
“The most general purpose of state power is to provide security for citizens and other residents and to enable them lead a life that is meaningful to them. However, the growing level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in Zamfara State and other parts of Nigeria suggest that successive governments—at both federal and state levels—have been unwilling or unable to satisfactorily implement this fundamental constitutional commitment.
“SERAP believes that there is a strong link between corruption and insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in several parts of the country. Available evidence would seem to suggest that many of the tiers of government in Nigeria have used security votes as a conduit for grand corruption rather than spending the funds to improve and enhance national security and ensure full protection of Nigerians’ rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty. In fact, former governor of Kano State, Senator Musa Kwankwaso once described security votes as ‘another way of stealing public funds’.
“The huge financial resources budgeted for ‘security votes’ by successive governments—at both federal and state levels–have not matched the security realities, especially given the level of insecurity, violence, kidnappings and killings in many parts of the country. The current security realities in the country would seem to suggest massive political use, mismanagement or stealing of security votes by many governments.
“SERAP believes that the federal and state governments ought to push for transparency and accountability in the spending of security votes both at the federal and state levels, if any such funds are to be properly spent to promote and ensure sustainable peace and security for the people of Nigeria.
“SERAP believes that by providing the information, your government would help put an end to any insinuation that security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or stolen. This would in turn contribute to better opportunities for citizens to assess the level of spending and commitment of successive governments to ensuring the security of lives and property of the people.
“Democratic societies function best with a high level of trust. Corruption, opacity and lack of accountability undermine that trust, and thus undermine the very foundation of democracies.
“We note that the obligation to provide security and protect people’s rights to life, physical integrity, and liberty ought to be a shared responsibility of the federal and state governments, and not just for the Federal Government, as state governors also appropriate huge public funds each year as security votes. Many governors reportedly hide the security votes in their budgets as the funds are not expressly stated in their appropriation acts.
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FOI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that details of spending on specific security measures and projects are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means, including on a dedicated website. The information being requested does not come within the purview of the types of information exempted from disclosure by the provisions of the FOI Act.
“As revealed by a 2018 report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or simply stolen. It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.
“According to TI, security vote spending exceeds 70 per cent of the annual budget of the Nigeria Police Force, more than the Nigerian Army’s annual budget, and more than the Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force’s annual budget combined.”
SERAP, therefore, urged Buhari and the governors to: “Disclose, including by publishing on a dedicated website, details of spending of public funds appropriated as security votes between 2011 to date, and specific security measures and projects on which such funds have been spent.
“Urgently put in place concrete measures to end the patently unconstitutional, illegal and widespread appropriation of public funds as security votes,” it added.
SERAP further asked for the establishment of, “Joint Security Trust Funds between the Federal Government and the 36 state governments with strong legal framework, oversight and auditing mechanisms, as a permanent replacement for the illegal and unconstitutional appropriation of public funds as security votes.”

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Imo: PDP Seeks S’Court’s Reversal Of Verdict

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has knocked the panel of Supreme Court justices that delivered judgment in the Imo State governorship election.
The party asked for a review and reversal of the judgment and called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad to step down.
At a media conference, yesterday, addressed by the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, the party asked the six other justices that delivered judgment on the Imo case to recuse themselves from the remaining election petition cases pending before the apex court.
Other governorship election petition cases pending before the apex court and in which the PDP is involved, are those of Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau and Kano states.
Describing the verdict in the Imo case as recipe for crisis, Secondus said the judgement was a miscarriage of justice and a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo State.
The party chairman said, “That the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Mohammed Tanko, has become heavily compromised; lost its credibility and is now annexed to execute ignoble agenda of the APC-led Federal Government against the Nigerian people.
“That the judgment of the Supreme Court voiding the lawful election of Hon. Emeka Ihedioha (who scored 276,404 votes) and awarding fictitious votes to declare Hope Uzodimma of the APC, who scored 96, 458 votes as governor of Imo State, is highly irrational, unfounded, a provocative product of executive manipulation and a recipe for crisis, which should not be allowed to stand.
“With the verdict, the Supreme Court executed a coup against the PDP and the people of Imo State as well as other Nigerians, and such must not be allowed to have a place in our democracy”.
Querying the validity of the judgment, the party pointed out that the 127,209 votes added to the votes of the APC candidate, Hope Uzodinma by the apex court could not be justified.
Secondus said the added votes to the APC candidate shot the total votes cast at the election above the number of accredited voters, as contained in the record of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
According to him, while the INEC figure of accredited voters stood at 823,743, the apex court, through its judgment, shot the number to 950,952, which the party said was in excess of accredited voters in the election.
The party also queried the allotment of the entire votes in the disputed 388 polling units, saying that going by INEC records, election did not take place in those polling units as a result of violence and other disruptive activities on Election Day.
“The so-called results from the 388 polling units were rightfully rejected, in line with several decisions of the Supreme Court, by the Tribunal and Court of Appeal as it was merely dumped on the tribunal in a Ghana Must Go bag, by a policeman who had no mandate of the police to testify at the tribunal.
“The tribunal did not even open the Ghana Must Go bags as there was no basis to do so. It is one of the great wonders of the world how the Supreme Court opened the bag, counted the results and added them to only the APC candidate.
“What is more perplexing is the fact that INEC produced a schedule of reasons why results were not produced from the 388 units.
“Indeed, election did not even take place in most of the units for one reason or another, like violence, etc, and so, no result could possibly be obtained from those units. The results were not merely rejected or cancelled by INEC.
“None of the candidates or their counsel, except perhaps APC, as we speak, are aware of the number of votes scored by each party from the 388 polling units. The Tribunal or Court of Appeal did not mention or ascribe any figure from the units to any party in their decisions.
“In fact, in the cross examination of the APC candidate, Sen. Hope Uzodinma, he could not read any figure from the ‘Oluwole’ results. He said that the figures were not clear. And so it beats our imagination where the Supreme Court conjured and manufactured the figures it used in declaring Uzodinma/APC as duly elected”, Secondus added.
The party raised questions as to the propriety of the apex court to formulate and allocate votes as election results where such votes were not certified by INEC as required by law.
Knocking the apex court further, Secondus said, “The fact is that, the Supreme Court, as presently constituted under Justice Tanko, has lost its credibility and no longer commands the respect and confidence of Nigerians.
“If the people no longer repose confidence in the Supreme Court, then our democracy, national cohesion and stability are at great risk.
“The constitution of the panel that heard the appeal itself was a product of drama. The panel was changed three times and any judge that showed signs of not agreeing to murder democracy, in this case, was promptly removed by the CJN.
The result had to be unanimous to satisfy the script of rationality.
“But can any judge who sat on that panel go home and sleep well? Can any judge who sat on that panel face his Creator and swear that impartial justice was done? We think not.
“We had intelligence before the verdict on the Imo governorship that the hierarchy of APC had decided that they must use the Supreme Court to capture the states won and controlled by the PDP such as Imo, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Benue.
“Can the PDP rightly trust the impartiality and independence of the panel headed by Justice Tanko Mohammed, the CJN, to adjudicate on the remaining cases involving the PDP like Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Adamawa, Plateau and others?
“Is the same fate awaiting the governors of these states that are controlled by the PDP and other states like Kano where the PDP clearly won and was robbed?
“Should Justice Tanko Mohammed and his colleagues on the Imo Governorship Panel not recuse themselves from the remaining cases involving PDP?
“The PDP firmly holds that if the flawed judgment of the Supreme Court on Imo governorship election is allowed to stand, it would be a recipe for anarchy, chaos and constitutional crisis not only in Imo state but in the entire country.
“Our party has it in good authority that Justice Tanko and his panel are working on instruction from certain forces in the Presidency to use the Supreme Court to take over states lawfully won by the PDP and award them to the APC.
“The PDP, therefore, advises Justice Tanko not to allow himself to be used to push our nation to the path of anarchy and constitutional crisis as any further attempt to subvert justice in the pending petitions on Sokoto, Bauchi, Benue, Adamawa as well as Kano and Plateau states will be firmly and vehemently resisted.
“In other to avoid an imminent breakdown of law and order, the PDP demands that Justice Tanko Mohammed immediately steps down as CJN and chairman of the National Judicial Council as Nigerians have lost confidence in him and a Supreme Court under his leadership.
“Justice Tanko must not head the panel to determine the remaining election petitions before the Supreme Court”, the PDP added.

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Bandits Kill 29 In Zamfara

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No fewer than 29 people were feared killed by bandits in Babban Rafi village of Gummi Local Government Area of Zamfara State.
An eye witness and an indigene of the village, Malam Musa Ibrahim, who escaped being killed, told our reporter on the telephone that the bandits arrived at the village on the early hours of Tuesday on motorbikes, carrying AK-47 rifles.
According to him, immediately they arrived at the village, they began to shoot sporadically and killed many people, while others scampered for safety.
Musa explained that the bandits later pursued those who ran away and killed some of them.
He said, “I was one of those who ran into the bush. I managed to escape because I was able to climb a tree where I could not be seen.”
He maintained that the bandits also carted away with many animals and foodstuffs when they discovered that there was nobody left in the village.
Musa explained that the villagers buried 21 bodies after the attack, while eight bodies were left on the ground as they were strangers.
“We buried 21 bodies because they were natives of the village but we left the other eight corpses because they were strangers who came from Niger State.”
Musa further told our reporter that the figure of those killed could be more than 29 as “many people were still missing and have not returned to the village two days after the incidence.”
Musa stated that the villagers informed the police and the Emir of Gummi of the unfortunate incident.
However, the state Police Public Relations Officer, SP Mohammed Shehu, said only 14 people were killed in the village.
In a signed statement the PPRO said, “Zamfara State Police Command has confirmed the killing of fourteen (14) people following an attack on the remote village of Babban Rafi in Gummi LGA near Danko in Kebbi State.
“The attack occurred on the 15th of January, 2020 where a large number of armed bandits suspected to have come from neighbouring Kebbi State stormed the village in the night and started shooting sporadically, a situation that resulted to the death of 14 people.
“Combined teams of PMF/CTU/FSARS attached to “Operation Puff Adder” in conjunction with men from “Operation Hadarin Daji” mobilized to the area with a view to trailing the perpetrators for arrest and to also avoid further attack on neighbouring villages,” the statement read.

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Buhari Vows To End Girl-Child Marriage, Reduce Out-Of-School Children

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President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, disclosed that the Federal Government would sustain the on-going efforts to end child marriage and improve girl-child education in the country.
Buhari also said it was the collective duty of all to ensure that mothers of today and tomorrow are educated, encouraged and empowered.
He made the remarks during the commissioning of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs Headquarters in Abuja, and was contained in a statement signed by his spokesman, Femi Adesina.
According to Buhari, ‘‘Our quest is to ensure that concerns of women, children, and other vulnerable citizens are given prominence and ultimately addressed.
“A key priority of our government is the development and implementation of social inclusion and economic sustenance policies. Our determination is to ensure that economic growth and prosperity are felt by as wide a circle as possible.
‘‘In particular, we are laying great emphasis on the education of the girl– child. The high level of young girls who are out of school or unable to complete school due to socio-economic pressures is disturbing and must be addressed.
‘‘The launch of the National Strategy to End Child Marriage, 2016 – 2021 has been the first critical step towards increasing children’s access to quality all-round education and enhancing the retention of the girl-child in our schools.’’
Buhari enjoined the ministry to continue to champion and coordinate all matters relating to the plight of Nigerian women and the most vulnerable citizens.
He assured Nigerian women of his continued support and determination to see that the ministry delivers on this mandate.
The president commended the ministry and other relevant government agencies for positive contributions in reducing human trafficking incidents and maternal mortality.
‘‘I expect this ministry to maintain its lead coordinating role on these, and other women’s related matters working with state governments as well as our regional and international partners,’’ he said.
He said that the quest for the administration was to make sure that women and children were given prominence, adding that he was determined to ensure that they feel economic growth and prosperity of his government.

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