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SERAP Sues Tinubu For Not Publishing Spending Details Of N400bn Fuel Subsidy

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Bola Ahmed Tinubu over “the failure to publish spending details of about N400bn so far saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called petrol.”

In the suit number FHC/L/CS/1514/2023 filed last week at the Federal High Court in Lagos, SERAP 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.”

“Prevention of corruption in the spending of savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol and preventing and addressing the challenges caused by the removal are serious and legitimate public interests.”

“The Tinubu government has a legal obligation to protect individuals against the threat posed to human rights by the removal of subsidy on petrol, and to effectively address the aftermath of subsidy removal.”

“Unless the government is compelled and directed to publish the spending details of the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol, the removal will continue to undermine the rights of Nigerians, and increase their vulnerability to poverty.”

“The implementation of the National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP) and spending on the programme have been mostly shrouded in secrecy.”

“Publishing the details of the spending of the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties.”

“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of the N400bn saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on petrol, and on the spending of subsequent savings from the removal would mean that the savings can help poor Nigerians to overcome the effects of such removal.”

“It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of double jeopardy on poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”

“The lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol and the resulting human costs would directly threaten fundamental human rights that the government has an obligation to protect.”

“The Tinubu government has the legal obligations to address the effects of subsidy removal on the human rights of 137 million poor Nigerians, and to prevent and address some of the direst consequences that the removal may reap on human rights, especially given the disproportionate impact on these Nigerians.”

“The removal of subsidy on petrol continues to negatively and disproportionately affect poor Nigerians, undermining their right to adequate standard of living.”

“Many years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of public funds and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined public trust and confidence in governments at all levels.”

“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 the details of how the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol would be spent.”

“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.”

No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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