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SERAP Mounts Pressure On Tinubu To Publish Loan Agreements by Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, Buhari Regimes

2 months ago
3 mins read

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Bola Tinubu to direct appropriate MDAs to provide the organisation with details of loan agreements obtained by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.

The rights group said its request was based on public interest and right to know, adding that democracy requires transparency and accountability.

This is contained in a Freedom of Information (FOI) request dated 13 April 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

SERAP also said it is seeking “the spending details of any such loans as well as the interests and other payments so far made on the loans.”

The organisation emphasised that publishing copies of the loan agreements “would prevent and combat waste, corruption, mismanagement, and abuse in the spending of public funds.”

“No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions on the spending of public funds which can be revealed without injury to the public interest. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency,” SERAP advised.

It urged the Federal Government to establish an independent audit on the spending of the loans obtained by the governments of the former presidents, and make details of the audit public.

Part of the FOI request read: “Nigerians are entitled to information about what their government is doing in their name. This is part of their right to information.

“Nigerians’ right to a democratic governance allows them to appreciably influence the direction of government, and have an opportunity to assess progress and assign blame.

“The accountability of government to the general public is a hallmark of democratic governance, which Nigeria seeks to achieve.”

The rights group urged Tinubu’s government to make public the loan agreements and spending details to enable the citizens to judge whether their government is working for them or not, adding that such gesture would help the president demonstrate his commitment to openness in government and to promote accountability.

“It would also improve public accountability in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“Publishing the agreements and spending details would allow the public to see how and on what these governments spent the loans and foster transparency and accountability.

“The information may help to explain why, despite several billions of dollars in loans obtained by successive governments, millions of Nigerians continue to face extreme poverty and lack access to basic public goods and services.”

SERAP said it would take appropriate legal actions to compel the government to release the details if it fails to do so within seven days of receiving the notice.

“We would therefore 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 your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

It further explained that its request is in line with the provisions of the “Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, and the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Nigeria is a state party.”

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According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s total public debt portfolio as of December 31 2023 is N97.3 trillion (about $108 billion).

SERAP listed figures of what the Federal Government had spent from 2015 to 2019 in paying interests for loans and expressed concerns that a substantial part of the loans may have been mismanaged.

“Nigeria paid $6.2 billion in 2019 as interest on loans while the country paid $6.5 as interest in 2018. Nigeria also paid $5 billion as interest on loans in 2017 while the country paid $4.4 billion as interest in 2016. For 2015, the interest paid on loans was $5.5 billion.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that substantial parts of the loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 may have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen, and in any case remain unaccounted for.”

“Publishing copies of the agreements would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of the loans obtained between May 1999 and May 2023.”

“Your government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by the Federal Government are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

“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 to copies of the loan agreements obtained by successive governments since 1999.”

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to widely publish the agreements and details of the projects on which the loans were spent.

“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,” SERAP stated.

 

 


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