The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over this government’s failure to probe allegations of mismanagement of security votes by governors.
Apart from the Buhari government’s “failure to promptly and thoroughly probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999, SERAP is also suing to “ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible”.
Joined in the suit as Respondent is Mr Abubakar Malami, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice.
The suit followed Buhari’s 2022 New Year Message in which he raised concerns about “the persistent insecurity in certain parts of the country,” and his promise in his 2015 inaugural speech to “check gross corruption and ensure that there is accountability at all levels of government in the country”.
A statement on Sunday by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP Deputy Director, disclosed that the suit numbered FHC/L/CS/189/2022 was filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos.
In the suit, SERAP is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999”.
SERAP is also seeking “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to prosecute anyone suspected to be responsible, as appropriate; if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to recover any mismanaged public funds.”
According to the organisation, compelling the Nigerian government to probe the spending of security votes since 1999 would ensure accountability, and improve the ability of the government to deliver on the promises secure the lives of Nigerians.
SERAP is also arguing that, “It is in the interest of justice to grant this application. Ending impunity for allegations of corruption in the spending of security votes and recovering any mismanaged public funds are matters of public interest.”
“The responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to ensure accountability for the spending of security votes by state governors,” the group also noted.
The statement further said, “The government has the primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of the Nigerian people. Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers — Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Joke Fekumo.
“As revealed by a recent 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 N241.2 billion every year,” the suit said in part.
“On top of appropriated security votes, state governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.
“Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption 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.
“While sitting state governors may enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution, they do not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any allegations of mismanagement of security votes against sitting governors can and should be investigated pending the time they leave office and lose immunity.”
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.
SaharaReporters, New York