SERAP gives Wike, Sani others 7 days to publish loan agreements

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has called on the 36 state governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mr. Nyesom Wike to “widely publish copies of the loan agreements and spending details of some N5.9 trillion and $4.6 billion loans obtained by their states and the FCT, including details and locations of projects executed with the loans.”

SERAP’s request followed the disclosure last week by Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State that the immediate past administration of Nasir El-Rufai left $587m, N85bn debt and 115 contractual labilities, making it impossible for the state to pay salaries.

SERAP also called on them to “promptly invite the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the spending of the domestic and external loans obtained by your states and the FCT.”

Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State

SERAP in a Freedom of Information requests dated March 30, 2024, by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, said: “It is in the public interest to publish copies of the loan agreements and details of how the loans obtained are spent.”

According to SERAP, “Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the domestic and external loans obtained by the governors.”

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SERAP said: “Widely publishing copies of the loan agreements and spending details of the loans obtained would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties in the management of public funds.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “We would 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 you and your state to comply with our request in the public interest.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that many of the country’s 36 states and FCT are allegedly mismanaging public funds which may include domestic and external loans obtained from bilateral and multilateral institutions and agencies.

“Transparency in the spending of the loans obtained by your state is fundamental to increase accountability, prevent corruption, and build trust in democratic institutions with the ultimate aim of strengthening the rule of law.

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory is N5.9 trillion. The total public external debt portfolio is $4.6 billion.

“Many states and the FCT reportedly owe civil servants’ salaries and pensions. Several states are borrowing to pay salaries. Millions of Nigerians resident in your state and the FCT continue to be denied access to basic public goods and services such as quality education and healthcare.

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“Several states including your state are also reportedly spending public funds which may include the domestic and external loans to fund unnecessary travels, buy exotic and bulletproof cars and generally fund the lavish lifestyles of politicians.

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the domestic and external loans obtained by your state and the FCT are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. Your government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by your state are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

“Publishing copies of the loan agreements obtained by your state and the FCT would allow Nigerians to scrutinise them, and promote transparency and accountability on the spending of public funds including the loans obtained.

“Transparency would ensure that these loans are not diverted into private pockets, and increase public trust that these loans are used and any future loans would be used to benefit Nigerians resident in your state.

“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 about the loan agreements and how the loans obtained are spent.

“Your state cannot hide under the excuse that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable to your state to refuse to provide the details being sought, as your state also has clear legal obligations to provide the information as prescribed by provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and. Enforcement) Act,” SERAP added.

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