The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, to publish details of proposed payments of N729billion to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.
This, according to SERAP, is including the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, and how they have been selected, projected payments per state, and whether the payments will be made in cash or through Bank Verification Numbers or other means.
SERAP also urged her to “explain the rationale for paying N5,000 to 24.3 million poor Nigerians, which translates to five-percent of the country’s budget of N13.6trillion for 2021, and to clarify if this proposed spending is part of the N5.6trillion budget deficit.”
Umar-Farouk had, last week, disclosed that the Federal Government would pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5,000 each for a period of six months to “provide help to those impoverished by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
In the Freedom of Information request dated January 23, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said, “Publishing the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan for six months would promote transparency and accountability, and remove the risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds.
“Transparency and accountability in the programme would improve public trust, and allow Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation, and to assess if the programme is justified, as well as to hold authorities to account in cases of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.”
SERAP also urged Ms Umar-Farouk to, “invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the payments.”
The FoI request, read in part, “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, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request.
“Providing support and assistance to socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians is a human rights obligation but the programme to spend five-percent of the 2021 budget, which is mostly based on deficit and borrowing, requires anti-corruption safeguards to ensure the payments go directly to the intended beneficiaries, and that public funds are not mismanaged or diverted.
“SERAP notes that the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), UN Convention against Corruption, and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party require the government to set the highest standards of transparency, accountability and probity in programmes that it oversees.
“The government has a responsibility to ensure that these requirements and other anti-corruption controls are fully implemented and monitored, and that the payments are justified in light of the huge budget deficit and borrowing, and whether there are better ways to spend N729billion to support poor Nigerians.
“Several questions remain as to the implementation and monitoring mechanisms for the payments, and whether this is the best and most effective way to spend N729billion to support socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act, and UN Convention against Corruption, African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.
“By Section 1 (1) of the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act 2011, and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, SERAP is entitled as of right to request for or gain access to information, including information on details of beneficiaries of the direct payments of N729billion.
“By Section 4 (a) of the FoI Act, when a person makes a request for information from a public official, institution or agency, the public official, institution or urgency to whom the application is directed is under a binding legal obligation to provide the applicant with the information requested for, except as otherwise provided by the Act, within seven days after the application is received.
“By Sections 2(3)(d)(V) & (4) of the FoI Act, there is a binding legal duty to ensure that documents containing information including information on details of payments of N729billion to N24.3million poor and vulnerable Nigerians are widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public through various means.
“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.”
GoG: Nigerian, Ghanaian Navies Meet On Joint Operations
Against the backdrop of renewed piracy and hostage-taking incidents in the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria’s Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo and his Ghanaian counterpart, Rear Admiral Issah Adam Yakubu, have commenced a security engagement aimed at joint security initiatives to tackle the situation.
Speaking during the meeting held at Naval headquarters, Abuja, Vice Admiral Gambo said, “The Gulf of Guinea is currently bedevilled by the activities of criminal elements who take advantage of limited capability of the navies in the region to adequately secure the area.
“The threat posed by the activities of these criminal elements constitute a major challenge not only to the littoral states but equally undermines regional development and global trade.
“Notably, the trans-boundary and trans-national nature of maritime crime makes the security of the maritime domain a task beyond the capacity of any country acting alone.
“It is against this backdrop that this bilateral engagement was convened at the instance of the Heads of Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Republic of Ghana towards addressing the maritime security challenges within the region”.
Vice Admiral Gambo expressed belief that “the engagement would foster greater collaboration and burden sharing that is hinged on cooperative maritime security framework as envisioned in the 2013 Yaoundé Protocol to arrive at strategies that would help address the maritime insecurity for enhanced economic prosperity in the region”.
Declaring the technical session open, the CNS said, “In deliberations, please consider amongst others: maritime area of interest covering Zone E and integration of the capabilities of the countries in Zone E, emplacing a robust intelligence sharing mechanism and collaboration with international partners”.
On relations between both countries, Gambo said, “This good relation is equally manifest in the several interactions between the Nigerian Navy and Ghana Navy. I must not fail to mention the remarkable contributions of the Ghana Navy-CNS to manpower development during his tour of duty at the prestigious AFCSC, Jaji as a member of the Directing Staff. I have no doubt that this engagement would further strengthen the existing cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and Ghana navies.
In his address, Chief of Naval Staff of Ghana, Rear Admiral Issah Yakubu, noted that he and his delegation were in Nigeria at the behest of President Nana Akufo Ado to engage the Nigerian Navy and come out with collective strategies to tackle insecurity which is in the ascendancy in recent times in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We hope our navies will buy into this engagement to improve security in the Gulf of Guinea. We know our big brother Nigeria has bigger capacity to chart the way forward”.
He disclosed that, “Since year 2020, the situation has bot been good in the Gulf of Guinea”, noting that “Last May, two Ghanian vessels were attacked and 10 persons were abducted with investigations still ongoing”.
Consequently, the Ghanian Navy Chief said, “We are proposing an ECOWAS naval task force and joint maritime security architecture to checkmate these threats, adding that this was done in the past successfully during ECOMOG operations without problems with inter-operability and doctrinal issues.
Furthermore, he proposed the setting up of a ‘transit corridors’ where ships from fellow West African countries can go to anchor for assistance and joint naval assets will conduct regular patrols especially for protection of commercial fishing vessels.
Wike Orders Destruction Of Criminal Hideouts In Rivers
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has ordered the destruction of all criminal hideouts in Ahoada, Elele, Eleme and Onne to prevent attempt to undermine security of the state.
The governor said criminals were already coming to terms with the reality that Rivers State was too hot for them to invade at will and detonate their foolish attacks on targeted security posts and personnel.
Wike, who made this assertion in a state broadcast, last Friday, disclosed that the state government has identified the hideouts, safe houses and secret places that provide both cover and comfort for the hoodlums to plan, execute and return to after operations.
“This was the reason we ordered the destruction of all the shanties and makeshift structures located along Elele to Ahoada expanse of the East–West Road to deny the criminals the opportunity to continue to undermine our security from these hideouts.
“We have equally decided to destroy all the shanties, illegal shops and mechanic sheds along the Eleme to Onne stretch of the East-West Road having discovered these places also as hideouts and operational bases for criminals and criminal activities in the state.
“Consequently, I hereby direct owners of such shanties and illegal structures along the Eleme – Onne axis of the East-West Road to vacate the area within two weeks from June 11, 2021, as the state government will go ahead to destroy these structures without any further notice.”
Wike said the government was not unmindful of the economic effect these measures would have or may have had on residents carrying out businesses in the affected areas.
He, however, stressed that government was merely discharging its constitutional responsibility to advance the collective security of all with no ethnic targets in mind or attachment to political sentiments.
He explained that the existing curfew in Rivers State will not last one day beyond necessary, and pleaded with all residents to endure the temporary inconveniences in the interest of the state and collective wellbeing of all.
“We will continue to take the war on criminality and insecurity to the den of the criminals and we will neither yield nor lower the tempo of our assault until they are comprehensively neutralized. As a matter of fact, they want us to prematurely terminate the state wide night time curfew in order for them to have the leeway to operate again and roll back the gains of the last few weeks.”
Wike said he has received reports about the excesses of the State Task Force on Illegal Trading and Parks, especially the alleged shooting of motorists, extortions and abuse of the human rights of citizens.
He assured that government would not hesitate to bring the full weight of the law on any member of the task force who crosses the boundaries of the law and rational behaviour.
The governor, who appealed to motorists and residents to be responsible road users by complying with the clear regulations against illegal trading, indiscriminate parking and irresponsible driving, noted that the situation where some motorists would have the effrontery to compete for traffic space with or even attempt to block his official vehicular convoy leaves much to be desired.
He has meanwhile, directed the management of the Rivers State Waste Management Authority to clear the state of filthiness within one week or be disbanded without any further notice.
Army Begins Shooting Exercises In Rivers
The Nigerian Army, 6 Division, has announced that it would commence its annual range classification exercise from yesterday to Sunday, June 27.
The division’s spokesman, Lt.-Col. Charles Ekeocha, said in a statement in Port Harcourt, that the exercise aimed at ascertaining the professional competence of troops on the use of firearms.
He said troops from the division and its affiliated formations and units would conduct the exercise at the Army Shooting Range in Igwuruta and Elele Barracks, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area of the state.
“The shooting exercise is a routine activity in the Nigerian Army which involves the firing of various calibre live ammunitions.
“Members of the public, especially residents of Igwuruta and Elele, as well as its environs, are advised to keep away from the general shooting area,” he stated.
The Army spokesman also advised the public not to panic over the movement of troops, military hardware and sound of gunshots.
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