SERAP Asks Tinubu To Publish Loan Agreements by Obasanjo, Others

SERAP Asks Tinubu To Publish Loan Agreements by Obasanjo, Others

SERAP Asks Tinubu To Publish Loan Agreements by Obasanjo, Others

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Tinubu to instruct the relevant ministries, departments, and agencies (MDAs) to furnish the organisation with copies of loan agreements obtained by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Muhammadu Buhari.

SERAP, which made the demand in a Freedom of Information request signed by its Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, is also asking President Tinubu to disclose the spending details of the loans and the interests and other payments so far made on them.

The civil society organisation further urged the President to establish an independent audit on the spending of the loans obtained by the governments of the former presidents and to make public the findings of any such audit.

SERAP, while urging the government to make copies of the agreements public, said it believes that it would prevent waste, corruption, mismanagement, and abuse of public funds.

It stated that no one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions on the spending of public funds, which it noted can be revealed without injury to the public interest since democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.

SERAP also insisted that Nigerians are entitled to information about what their government is doing in their name, saying this is part of their right to information.

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

It also added that if the president publishes the agreements, it would demonstrate his often expressed commitment to government openness and promote accountability and that it would also improve public accountability in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

SERAP further stated that 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 essential public goods and services.

The organisation insisted that the if the requested copies of the loan agreements signed by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari are widely published, it would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it and to demand accountability for the spending of the loans.

SERAP said, “we would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and 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.

“Our requests are brought in the public interest and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country is N97.3 trillion ($108 billion). The Federal Government’s debt is N87.3 trillion ($97 billion).

“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 on loans in 2017, while the government spent $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 their duties, including managing the loans obtained between May 1999 and May 2023.

“Your government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how 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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