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Probe payment of N585.2m grant into private account or face legal action, SERAP tells Tinubu

SERAP Sues Buhari Over $23m Abacha Loot, Seeks Copy Of Agreement With US

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly probe the alleged payment by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu of N585.2 million meant for disbursement to vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, and Ogun states into a private account.”

 

SERAP also urged him “to direct Mr Fagbemi and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly investigate whether the N585.2 million has been paid into any private account, and to identify and publish the names of anyone who may have received the money.”

SERAP said, “Anyone suspected to be involved in any improper payment or diversion of public funds should be brought to justice and any diverted public funds returned to the public treasury and paid directly to the rightful beneficiaries.”

In the letter dated 6 January 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Paying public funds into private accounts may create the perception or appearance of impropriety and give cover to any potential wrongdoing or diversion.”

According to SERAP, “Investigating these allegations and ensuring that the public funds meant to take care of the poor are transparently and accountably spent and recovering any diverted public funds are serious and legitimate public interests.”

The letter, read in part: “The public interests in safeguarding against the perception or appearance of impropriety or corruption also require your government to remove the opportunity for abuse inherent in the payment of public funds into private accounts.”

“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s financial regulations and international obligations impose a fundamental obligation on your government to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant for socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”

“Your government has a legal responsibility to ensure full compliance with the Financial Regulations 2009, prohibiting the payment of public funds into private accounts, to reduce vulnerability to corruption or risks of the funds being diverted for personal ends or other unlawful purposes.”

“Government officials hold positions of public trust. Public officials are expected to ensure compliance with Nigerian laws and international standards in the discharge of their public functions.”

“The persistent lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to take care of the poor raises issues of public trust, makes the funds vulnerable to corruption or mismanagement, and undermines the integrity of poverty intervention programmes.”

“Your government has a legal obligation to probe and prosecute allegations of abuse of office and corruption in the spending of public funds meant to improve the conditions of vulnerable Nigerians.”

“SERAP is concerned that successive governments have failed to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds budgeted for social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes and projects.”

“Any risks of corruption in the spending of public funds meant to take care of the poor would erode the effectiveness of the government’s oft-repeated commitment to address the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on vulnerable Nigerians.”

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.

“Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any diverted public funds would undermine the integrity of the government’s poverty intervention programmes”

“It would also create cynicism, and eventually citizens’ distrust about the ability of your government to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption in the programmes.”

“Nigerians have the right to be free from poverty. Any risks of diversion of public funds budgeted to lift vulnerable Nigerians out of poverty would pose both direct and indirect threats to human rights, and exacerbate extreme poverty in the country.”

“It would also undermine your government’s legal obligations to effectively and progressively address and combat extreme poverty as a matter of human rights.”

“SERAP also urges you to direct Betta Edu to publish details of spending of public funds drawn from the account of the National Social Investment Program (NSIPA), an agency under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Allegation, including the names of beneficiaries and details of the amounts received by them since 29 May 2023.”

“SERAP urges you to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of any public funds drawn from the account(s) of the National Social Investment Program (NSIPA).”

“According to our information, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu, in a memo dated 20 December 2023 reportedly requested the Accountant General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer public fund – N585.2 million – into a private account of an official in her ministry.”

“According to the memo, the money was transferred from the National Social Investment Program office account and is meant for disbursement to vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, and Ogun states, under the federal government poverty intervention project called Grants for Vulnerable Groups. N219.4 million is to be transferred to the vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom State, N73.8 million to Cross River State, N219.4 million to Lagos State, and N72.4 million to Ogun State.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of public funds meant to support and assist vulnerable Nigerians and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined the ability of successive governments to support those most in need.”

“Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.”

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your 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.’”

“Chapter 7, Section 713 of the Federal Government’s Financial Regulations 2009,  provides: ‘Personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private account.’”

“Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”

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Politics

Presidency solidly behind Ganduje – Kano APC

The leadership of All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kano, on Friday, declared that the Presidency is fully backing the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in the current political war being waged by his detractors to unseat him.

The party said that the Presidency has been giving Ganduje every support and encouragement he deserves to retain his seat and continue his assignment as the helmsman of the APC at the national level.

The spokesperson of APC in Kano, Alhaji Ahmad Aruwa, denied accusing the Presidency of fueling the crisis against Ganduje.

Aruwa who was quoted in a short video that went viral on social media pointing accusing fingers at some element in the presidency igniting the confusion that led to the purported suspension of Ganduje insisted he was quoted out of contest.

He said he has firm loyalty to President Bola Tinubu led Federal Government which accounted to the overwhelming support the president received in Kano during the last general election.

He made the clarification on Friday while reacting to media report that quoted him accusing the presidency of sabotaging Dr. Ganduje on the purported suspension of his membership from APC.

Aruwa maintained that those trying to reconstruct his comment on the persecution of Dr. Ganduje were the enemies of the party who have invested resources to destroy the mutual relationship between the president and the former Governor of Kano.

He insisted he has no intention to and would not constitute any act that would, damage the loyalty and mutual respect that exit between the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Ganduje and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

The Kano APC spokesman further asserted that Dr. Ganduje remains the only strong pillar and dependable defender who can guarantee the future political success of president Tinubu’s political in Kano.

According to him: “We have high respect for our president and leader of our party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and he remains our choice of leader in Kano. We have demonstrated our commitment to the political ambition of president Tinubu in the last general election and we are ready to do more in subsequent election.

” We equally want to declare that our leader and national Chairman of our great party Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is committed and remains loyal to the president regardless of whatever anybody may want to ochestrate. No amount of plot will divide the mutual relationship between the president and Ganduje.” ( PM)

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Damagum remains PDP acting national chairman

Alhaji Umar Damagum, will continue as the Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic party, pending the election of a new chairman in August, the National Executive Committee (NEC) has said.

This, the party said was to ensure reconciliation and to take care of other issues within the party.

“We will look at the issue of leadership and look at the issue of our constitution where it will be and we will do it without rancour,” chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Gov. Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State told journalists at the end of the 98th NEC meeting of the party on Thursday in Abuja.

“In the next two months we will see a lot of activities, leadership is a responsibility. We said in September that we would have come out from our congresses.

Bala added that the successful conduct of the party’s NEC meeting was an indication that there was no dissension and rancour within the leadership.

“It was planned that the party will have an explosion. PDP is more than that, we have gone beyond all these ideocracies. This party is a united party that is guided by experience and constitutionality.

“There were a lot of permutations and mischievous thinking outside there. But we looked at all the issues and we worked along our guidelines and constitution. There is no problem or dissension and problem among members,” he said.

Also speaking, Damagum said that the leadership of the party was not a do or die affair.

“This is not a matter of life and death. I am still an elected member of this NEC. Even if I revert to deputy national chairman I’m still a member of NWC. The issue of surviving or not does not emerge,” he said.

Also, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Debo Ologunagba said that issue of the party leadership would be considered in August.

“Our party emphasizes the need for reconciliation and stability within the party at this time. Therefore, the issue of the National Chairman, Damagum, has been deferred to the next NEC meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 15,” he said.

Ologunagba later read the communique at the end of the meeting, saying that the NEC tasked all organs, leaders, stakeholders and members of the PDP to close ranks and put aside their differences and work together to reposition and return the PDP to power.

He said that the NEC also received and approved the timetable for the party’s congresses across the country.

“NEC also approved the Reconstitution of the Party Disciplinary and Reconciliation Committees to further ensure the stability of the Party.

“Similarly, NEC approved the extension of the life of the Party Constitution Amendment Committee to allow it to receive new amendment proposals for inclusion in its deliberation and final report for consideration by NEC.

“NEC commended the efforts of the National Working Committee in its effort towards rebranding the Party including the new look PDP Logo which is widely accepted by Party members and Nigerians in general.

“NEC charges all Party members to continue to work together for the success of the PDP for the benefit of Nigerians and sustenance of Democracy in our country,” he said.

Ologunagba said that the NEC advised President Bola Tinubu to convene a special National Security Council meeting to proffer a holistic solution to the current security challenge facing the country.

He said that the NEC also urged Tinubu to rejig his economic team to include individuals with proven integrity and competence to assist in repositioning the economy.

“NEC further demands that the Federal Government should review all policies and programmes which are stifling the economy with suffocating effect on the lives of citizens; including the increase in price of fuel without cushioning measures, hike in electricity tariff, increased taxation and implementation of adverse fiscal policies,” he said.

The meeting was attend by former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Nyesom Wike, NWC members, BOT members, serving governors and members of the National Assembly.(NAN)

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Kano court reverses Ganduje’s suspension

A Federal High Court in Kano has halted the suspension of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.

The ruling came on Wednesday after Ganduje filed an ex parte motion seeking to enforce his fundamental right to fair hearing.

The respondents in the application are the Police, Department of State Services, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, and nine others.

On April 16, APC executives in Dawakin Ward, Tofa LGA of Kano State, suspended Ganduje over alleged corruption.

However, the State Working Committee, SWC, of the APC in Kano nullified the suspension and punished the ward executives.

But a Kano High Court presided by Justice Usman Na’Abba upheld the suspension.

In the ex parte order delivered on Wednesday by the Federal High Court and made available to newsmen on Thursday, a Kano High Court presided by Justice A. M Liman ruled that the suspension should not be implemented until the case filed by Ganduje is heard and determined.

“All the respondents, their servants, agents or privies are hereby restrained from implementing and/or giving effect to the purported decision reached during the purported emergency meeting of the alleged executive members of APC Ganduje Ward, held at Ganduje Ward of Dawakin Tofa Local.

“All the parties are hereby mandated to maintain status quo before the purported emergency meeting of the alleged executive members of APC Ganduje Ward, and to stay action in respect of this matter pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application,” Justice Liman said.

The judge subsequently fixed April 30 to hear Ganduje’s suit

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