President Muhammadu Buhari has been sued by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) over his perceived failure to probe allegations about N106 billion public funds reportedly missing from 149 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and to ensure that those responsible for the missing funds are prosecuted, and the missing funds recovered.
Recall that the Office of the Auditor-General of the Federation said in its 2018 annual audited report that about N105,662,350,077.46 of public funds were missing, misappropriated or unaccounted for across 149 MDAs.
Based on that report, SERAP in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/903/2021 and filed last week at the Federal High Court in Abuja, is praying for “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Buhari to promptly investigate the alleged missing N106 billion of public funds, and ensure the prosecution of anyone suspected to be responsible, and the full recovery of any missing public money.”
According to SERAP, recovering the alleged missing public funds will help reduce the pressure on the Federal Government to borrow more money to fund the budget, enable the authorities to meet the country’s constitutional and international obligations as well as reduce the growing level of public debts.
The organisation further argued that the alleged missing public funds had hampered the ability of the indicted MDAs to meet the needs of average citizens, saying that the missing funds could have helped the government to invest in key public goods and services, and improve the access of Nigerians to these goods and services.
This was contained in a statement by SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, August 22 and made available to newsmen.
SERAP maintained that directing and compelling President Buhari to ensure the investigation and prosecution of the alleged grand corruption would be consistent with the government’s commitment to fight corruption, improve the integrity of MDAs and serve the public interest.
Joined in the suit as respondents were the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.
“It is in the interest of justice to grant this application, as it would improve respect for the rights of Nigerians, and improve their access to essential public goods and services. The suit is in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; anti-corruption legislation, and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption; and the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party,” the statement read.
SERAP, the statement also stated, is seeking an order to compel the President to publish the full details of the yearly budgets of all MDAs, and issue regular updates that detail their expenditures, and make such information easily accessible in a form that can be understood by the public.
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Ms Joke Fekumo and Oluwadare.
The suit read in part, “The failure to investigate the allegations of grand corruption in the 2018 annual audited report constitutes a grave violation of the duty placed on the Nigerian government to take appropriate measures to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public finances.
“President Buhari’s constitutional responsibility to ensure the investigation and prosecution of allegations of corruption, as well as recovery of any missing public funds is contained in Section 15 of the Nigerian Constitution, which provides that ‘the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’, and in the Oath of Office in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
“The Oath of Office of the President is considered of such importance that section 140 of the 1999 Constitution provides that the President cannot perform his or her respective official functions as President without taking the oath of office.”
Date for the hearing of the suit is yet to be fixed.