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Publish Details Of Loans Taken By Past Govt Or Face Legal Action, SERAP Tells Tinubu

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has called on President Bola Tinubu to furnish the non-profit organization with information regarding loans secured by past administrations.

SERAP asked Tinubu “to direct appropriate ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to provide our organization with copies of the loan agreements obtained by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari”.

SERAP is also seeking “the spending details of any such loans as well as the interests and other payments so far made on the loans”.

SERAP also urges him “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”.

In the Freedom of Information request dated April 13, 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Publishing copies of the agreements would prevent and combat waste, corruption, mismanagement, and abuse in the spending of public funds.

“No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions on the spending of public funds which can be revealed without injury to the public interest. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency.”

According to SERAP, “Nigerians are entitled to information about what their government is doing in their name. This is part of their right to information.”

The FoI request read in part: “Nigerians’ right to a democratic governance allows them to appreciably influence the direction of government, and have an opportunity to assess progress and assign blame.

“The accountability of government to the general public is a hallmark of democratic governance, which Nigeria seeks to achieve.”

“Your government should make it possible for citizens to have access to the agreements and spending details to judge whether their government is working for them or not.

“Publishing the agreements would demonstrate your oft-expressed commitment to openness in government and to promote accountability. It would also improve public accountability in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“Publishing the agreements and spending details would allow the public to see how and on what these governments spent the loans and foster transparency and accountability.”

“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 basic public goods and services.

“Providing us with copies of the loan agreements signed by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, and widely publishing the agreements would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it and to demand accountability for the spending of the loans.

“We would therefore 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 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, and the UN Convention against Corruption, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to Nigeria is a state party.

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country’s 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 as interest on loans in 2017 while the country paid $4.4 billion as interest in 2016. For 2015, the interest paid on loans was $5.5 billion.”

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