The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for failing to publish spending details of approximately N400bn saved from the removal of subsidy on petrol. SERAP argues that without accountability, the funds may not be used as intended and may be diverted into private pockets. The lawsuit seeks an order to compel Tinubu to publish the spending details and plans for the savings, as well as to provide mechanisms to prevent diversion. SERAP believes that transparency in spending would reduce corruption risks and benefit the 137 million poor Nigerians affected by the subsidy removal.
While the judgement of the Presidential Elections Petition Tribunal (PEPT) pends and his fate undecided, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu over “the failure to publish spending details of about N400bn which according to reports, has been saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol.”
This is as the Federal Government reportedly said it has saved N400bn within four weeks following the implementation of the removal of subsidy on petrol policy.
SERAP is arguing that if the government is not held accountable, the funds may not be used for the intended purpose.
SERAP’s case with suit nunber FHC/L/CS/1514/2023 filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos State, is seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to publish details of spending of about N400 billion saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on petrol on 29 May, 2023.”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Tinubu to provide details of the plans on how the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol, including specific projects on which the funds would be spent.”
SERAP is also seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Tinubu to provide details of the mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are not diverted into private pockets.”
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that: “Nigerians have the right to know how the savings are spent. Disclosing the spending details of the savings would reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds.”
SERAP is arguing that, “The Tinubu government has a legal obligation to ensure that the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are spent solely for the benefit of the 137 million poor Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the removal.”
SERAP is also arguing that, “Opacity in the spending of the savings from subsidy removal would have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.”
According to SERAP, “the savings from subsidy removal may be embezzled, misappropriated or diverted into private pockets.”
The suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare, Ms Adelanke Aremo, and Ms Valentina Adegoke, read in part: “Transparency would increase public trust and confidence that these savings would be used to benefit Nigerians.”
“The Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended], Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”
“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, the Freedom of Information Act, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there are transparency obligations imposed on the government to widely publish the details of how the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are spent.”
“Section 13 of the Nigerian Constitution imposes clear responsibility on the government to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter 2 of the constitution. Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on the government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.”
“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, the government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’”
“Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”
“Similarly, articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on the government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”
Meanwhile, no date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.