Politics

Okowa, Wike, Udom Others Issued 7 Days Ultimatum To Disclose Spending Of N625bn Refunds

Okowa, Wike, Udom Others Issued 7 Days Ultimatum To Disclose Spending Of N625bn Refunds

Okowa, Wike, Udom Others Issued 7 Days Ultimatum To Disclose Spending Of N625bn Refunds

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the nine oil-producing states in Nigeria to “provide and widely publish details of spending of the oil derivation refunds of N625bn recently paid to them by the Federal Government, including details and locations of projects executed with the money.”

The Federal Government recently paid N625.43 billion oil derivation refunds to the governors of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Ondo, Imo and Cross River states. The payments covered 13 per cent oil derivation, subsidy and SURE-P refunds. The refunds date from 1999 to 2021.

N625bn Refunds
Wike and Okowa

In the open letter dated 10 December 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “It is in the public interest to publish the details of spending of the refunds. Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the refunds. It is part of their legally enforceable human rights”

SERAP said, “Disclosing the information would enable Nigerians to scrutinise the spending of the refunds. Publishing the details of the oil derivation refunds would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.”

The letter, read in part: “Widely publishing details of the spending of the oil derivation refunds would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties in the management of public funds.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken 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 to compel you and your state to comply with our request in the public interest.

“The public interest in obtaining the information about expenditures relating to the oil derivation refunds outweighs any privacy or other interests. The oversight afforded by public access to such details would serve as an important check on the activities of your state and help to prevent abuses of the public trust.

“SERAP also urges you to disclose details of spending of the refunds to local government councils through the state accounts and to explain the role played by your government in the spending of public funds meant for the councils.

“The constitutional principle of democracy also provides a foundation for Nigerians’ right to know details of spending of the oil derivation refunds. Citizens’ right to know promotes openness, transparency, and accountability that is in turn crucial for the country’s democratic order.

“The effective operation of representative democracy depends on the people being able to scrutinise, discuss and contribute to government decision making, including on the spending of the oil derivation refunds.

“To do this, they need information to enable them to participate more effectively in the management of public funds by their state governments.

“The Freedom of Information Act, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee to everyone the right to information, including about how the oil derivation refunds are spent.

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your state to publish details of spending of the oil derivation refunds.

“The Nigerian Constitution, 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.

 

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