Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sued President Muhammadu Buhari over failure of his administration to probe the spending of trillions of ecological funds at all levels —federal, state and local governments from 2001 to date, and to ensure the prosecution of suspected perpetrators.
Joined in the suit as Respondents were the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently said that no fewer than 600 persons died and 1.3million rendered homeless as a result of the floods that ravaged most states across the country, with destruction of properties worth billions.
In the suit, filed last Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, on behalf of the organisation by its lawyer, Kolawole Oluwadare, asked the court to direct and compel Buhari to promptly and thoroughly investigate the spending of Ecological Fund by governments at the federal, state and local government levels from 2001 to date.
SERAP also asked the court to “direct and compel President Buhari to ensure that suspected perpetrators of corruption and mismanagement of trillions of ecological funds are promptly brought to justice, and any missing public funds fully recovered.”
In the suit, SERAP stressed that, “the failure to probe the alleged missing trillions, prosecute suspected perpetrators and recover any missing public funds is a fundamental breach of constitutional and international legal obligations.”
SERAP also argued that, “impunity for corruption in the management of Ecological Fund will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes.”
According to SERAP, “It is in the public interest to direct and compel President Buhari to probe these allegations so that evidence can be taken before the court and the truth about the spending of ecological funds revealed, and justice served.
“The Federal Government has violated the obligations to protect and uphold the human rights of those affected, and to provide them with access to justice and effective remedies”.
The suit read in part: “The Federal Government has the legal obligations to address the calamitous consequences of flooding for the human rights of millions of people, and to prevent and address the consequences that climate change may reap on human rights.
“According to the audit of the Ecological Fund Office carried out by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), the total amount received by the fund from December 2011 to November 2016 alone was N277billion.
“The operations of the Fund from 2012 to 2016 reportedly showed that some of the disbursements were not utilised for the purpose for which it was established. During these periods, N74,170,932,645.20 was released to State Governments to solve ecological problems in their states.
“Although ecological funds are shared across the three tiers of government, and emergency management agencies, the funds are managed and supervised by the Federal Government.
“The Federal Government has the legal obligations to prevent and address the threats to human rights that result from climate change, and to provide access to justice and effective remedies for victims when these rights are violated.
“Allegations of corruption and mismanagement have undermined the ability of authorities at all levels to invest in drainage systems, and to tackle soil erosion and climate change challenges across several parts of the country.
“There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the management of the Ecological Fund.
“Nigerians have the right to know how the public funds budgeted to address ecological challenges are spent. Publishing the details of allocations of the Ecological Fund since 2001 would promote transparency, accountability, and reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds.”
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
Emefiele Fears Reps’ Arrest Threat, Appears Before House ….Says Banks ‘ll Accept Old Notes After Deadline
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has finally appeared before the House of Representatives which summoned him over the crisis caused by the redesign of some naira notes and the exchange of old naira notes with new ones.
Emefiele yesterday appeared before the ad hoc committee set up by the House to investigate the crisis, which is chaired by Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
He told the House of Representatives that commercial banks in the country would still accept old naira notes from customers after the February 10 deadline.
He did not, however, state how long the expired notes would be admitted by the banks.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, had accused the CBN governor of breaching Section 20 of the CBN Act which, according to him, mandates commercial banks to accept old notes even after the deadline.
Emefiele, while addressing the ad hoc committee, said he agreed with the lawmakers on Section 20 of the CBN Act.
“Section 20 says even after the old currency has lost its legal tender status that we are mandated to collect that money. And I stand with the House of Reps on this,” he stated.
The CBN governor added that, “if you have your money that you have not been able to send to the bank, we will certainly give you the opportunity to bring them back into the CBN to redeem it. Either you pay it to your bank account or you want to do an exchange — we give you. You will not lose your money. This is the assurance I give to Nigerians”.
Emefiele apologised to the lawmakers for failing to answer the previous summons, which the chairman said was accepted.
He stated that the policy should have been introduced several years ago and that the CBN had only used the opportunity to make the economy more cashless. According to him, Nigerians would soon realise the benefits of the policy.
The chairman of the ad hoc committee, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, after the hearing that lasted over one hour, called for an executive (closed-door) session with members of the committee.
The Majority Leader and members later proceeded to the chamber where plenary was ongoing.
The report of the committee was laid, considered and adopted by the House.
Recall that the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, was to issue a warrant for Emefiele’s arrest over his repeated failures to answer at least four summons from the House.
The House had shelved its plan to go on break for the presidential and National Assembly elections, which was to commence on Thursday, over the CBN governor’s failure to answer the last summons issued to him by the committee.
Gbajabiamila had threatened to mandate the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, to arrest and force Emefiele’s appearance before the panel, insisting that the deadline breached the provision of Section 20(3) of the CBN Act.
The Speaker partly said, “I have no choice now. On Tuesday (yesterday) when we resume, we will invoke the provisions of Section 89 of the Constitution…The President has been very clear. The President gave the approval based on what he knows and what he has been told.
“We also know the President to be a man of the people. He gave his approval based on what he had been told. But we are saying – what the motion is saying – is that after the President gave his approval, how does the money get to the people? The money is not getting to the people. That is what we sought to clarify and that is exactly what we are going to do.
“So, on Tuesday, this House will follow its procedure – the normal procedure – and invoke the provisions of Section 89 to compel the governor of the CBN and the directors.”
The Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, had also urged the House to allow the leadership to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari and explain the controversial implementation of the policy to him, which the Speaker agreed to.
Though the CBN, on Sunday, extended the deadline on the expiration of the old N1,000, N500 and N200 notes by 10 days – from January 31 to February 10, with the Deposit Money Banks (commercial banks) allowed to accept the notes by seven days more, the House had insisted on Emefiele’s appearance.
Ado-Doguwa, in a statement titled ‘Old Naira Notes: House C’ttee Rejects CBN Extension, Says Position of Law Sacrosanct, Must Be Respected,’ insisted that the apex bank must comply with Sections 20(3), (4) and (5) of the CBN Act.
“Nigeria, as a developing economy and a nascent democracy, must respect the principles of the rule of law. And the House would go ahead to sign the arrest warrant to compel the CBN governor to appear before the ad hoc committee,” the Majority Leader stated.
Emefiele, however, led the leadership of the CBN to appear before the lawmakers yesterday.
Cumulatively, Emefiele has failed to answer summons from the House at least four times within two months.
The House had on December 22, 2022, grilled the Deputy Governor, Financial System Stability, Central Bank of Nigeria, Aisha Ahmad, over the latest policy by the apex bank which, among others, sets limits to cash withdrawals at the Deposit Money Banks and other financial institutions.
The House had summoned Emefiele but he failed to appear in the two previous appointments with the lawmakers. The CBN had informed the House that Emefiele would not appear before the House in person, rather Ahmad would lead the Committee of Governors before the lawmakers.
Emefiele had also failed to answer two summons from the House’ ad hoc committee to investigate the scarcity of the new naira at the Deposit Money Banks, also known as commercial banks, leading to tension over the January 31 deadline set by the CBN for the exchange of the old notes with the newly designed ones.
Wike Accuses PDP National Of Anti-Party Activities …Says He’ll Hit Back
Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says it is an act of anti-party on the part of the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to tell lawyers handling legal suits on behalf of the PDP in the State to dissociate themselves from the cases.
Governor Wike made the accusation against the national leadership of the party during the flag off of the Rivers State PDP campaign rally held at State School premises, Okehi 1, in Etche Local Government Area on Monday.
The PDP in Rivers State had taken some political parties in the State to court over non-compliance with the regulations and laws of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the conduct of their various primaries.
The governor said instead of the PDP national leadership to support the suits by the PDP in Rivers, it has asked lawyers handling the various legal matters to withdraw legal representations.
According to him, anti-party begets anti-party and since the PDP national has started the anti-party game, it will get anti-party in return.
“We have caught them. They are the ones engaged in anti-party. I told them anti-party begets anti party. You know we carried these small parties (APC, SDP) to court for failing to do what the law says.
“The people in Abuja that say they are national have gone to collude with them (opposition parties) to write our lawyers a letter that they should take their hands off, in order to kill the cases we filed. I have told our lawyers to withdraw from the matters. I will hit them back by tomorrow.
“Nobody hurts us without sustaining a scar. Anybody who dares to touch us in Rivers State, I will inflict many scars on him and we have started it. We are voting for our people here. Now you have told us you are doing anti-party. We will show you what anti party is. Already, we have caught them red-handed”, Wike said.
The governor emphasised that the forthcoming election is a battle that must be won, and urged Etche people to go home, get prepared by collecting remainder of their Permanent Voters Card with INEC and vote all PDP candidates in the State.
He described the PDP in the state as a formidable squad, fully prepared for the election, saying it has all that it takes to ensure that the election is peaceful, with winning votes secured for all its candidates.
Speaking further, Governor Wike thanked Etche people for their massive turn out at the rally, which demonstrates that they are fully in support of the PDP in the state.
He pointed out that by all ramifications, the PDP-controlled State government has kept every promise made to Etche people since 2015.
These, according to the governor, include delivery of over eight critical road infrastructure, establishment of a campus of Rivers State University in the area and appointment of their son as Vice Chancellor of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education.
Governor Wike urged Etche people to vote the governorship candidate of the PDP, Sir Siminialayi Fubara, as his successor to consolidate on the gains of his administration.
In his speech, Sir Fubara solicited bulk votes from Etche people to enable him and the entire consolidation team win the forthcoming general elections in the state.
He promised to sustain regular payment of workers’ salary as well as ensure that all assets owned by the State are never sold to cronies of those in power.
Fubara also assured that when elected, his adminisration would ensure that closure of courts in the State is never experienced again.
The PDP governorship candidate said he is sure of winning the March 11 election because of his competence and understanding of the new Rivers Vision of Governor Wike, which would serve as the foundation for his administration.
Rivers State Chairman of PDP, Ambassador Desmond Akawor, who presented party flags to the candidates contesting for the various positions, urged the people to vote for them.
Director General of the Rivers PDP Campaign Council, Brother Felix Obuah, said Etche people were better off under Governor Wike’s administration, and urged them to remain resolved to deliver votes in bulk for the PDP.
Former Etche council chairman, Nnamdi Okere, said the forthcoming election is about showing gratitude and love to ygovernor Wike, whose administration has benefited Etche land and people.
The PDP candidate for Rivers East Senatorial District, Chief Allwell Nyesoh, who spoke on behalf of the candidates, accepted the responsibility of flying the party’s flag and pledged that the candidates would provide quality representation, following in the foot steps of Governor Wike.
Earlier, Governor Wike had visited Ochie of Etche Land, Onye-Isi Etche, King Emmanuel N. B. Opurum, at his palace in Ndashi to acquaint the king of the flag off of PDP campaign in Etche Local Government Area.
FG Backs US Visa Ban On Election Riggers
The Minister of Information and Communication, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has described the decision of the United States (US) to place visa restrictions on those undermining Nigeria’s democracy, as “right and justified.”
The minister said this during the 20th session of the Presidential Scorecard series, held at the National Press Centre, Abuja on Monday.
Mohammed, who addressed guests before the presentation of the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Muhammed Bello, said no administration had shown fidelity to the democratic process like the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
He reiterated that the administration would go ahead with the planned general elections, as opposed to reports of a possible postponement.
He said, “Let me be clear: whatever action is taken against anyone who undermines this democracy that has been watered by the blood of many of our patriots is right and justified.
“For us as a government, we are proud to say that no administration since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999 has shown more fidelity to the democratic process than ours, and no president since 1999 has been as unambiguous as President Muhammadu Buhari, in word and indeed, with regards to leaving office after the constitutionally stipulated two terms.
“President Buhari has left no one in doubt of his dogged determination to ensure free, fair and credible elections; handover to a successor elected by Nigerians; and then return to Daura after the May 29, 2023 handover date.
“The President has also given unprecedented support to INEC while also signing into law the Electoral Bill 2022 that Nigerians have hailed as a reason to have confidence in the electoral process”.
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