SERAP Sues Buhari over Systemic Mismanagement of Security Votes by State Governors

The rights group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari “over the failure to promptly and thoroughly probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999, and to ensure the prosecution of those suspected to be responsible”.

The suit follows the president’s  2022 New Year Message. He lamented “the persistent insecurity in certain parts of the country” and his promise in his 2015 inaugural speech to “check gross corruption and ensure that there is accountability at all levels of government in the country”.

Their request was contained in suit number FHC/L/CS/189/2022, which the Federal High Court in Lagos filed last week. The group is seeking: “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to probe allegations of systemic mismanagement of security votes by state governors since 1999”.

SERAP also want “an order of mandamus to compel President Buhari to direct Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to prosecute anyone suspected to be responsible, as appropriate; if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and to recover any mismanaged public funds”.

The rights group has in the suit argued that “Compelling the Federal Government to probe the spending of security votes since 1999 would ensure accountability, and improve the ability of the government to deliver on the promises to ensure the security of Nigerians, and to keep them safe”.

“It is in the interest of justice to grant this application. Ending impunity for allegations of corruption in the spending of security votes and recovering any mismanaged public funds are matters of public interest”.

It maintained that “the responsibility to guarantee and ensure the security and welfare of the Nigerian people is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office.’ This imposes a fundamental obligation to ensure accountability for the spending of security votes by state governors”.

Meanwhile, SERAP noted further, “The government has the primary and constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and property of the Nigerian people. Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution provides that ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government’”.

“Pervasive tendency by public officers since 1999 to regard or treat security votes given to them for [the] security of the state as their entitlement or funds is antithetical to the Nigerian Constitution and international standards”.

“Security votes should be used for improving the security situation in the states or returned to the public treasury,” it added.

Parts of the suit filed by the group’s lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Joke Fekumo reads: “Longstanding allegations of mismanagement of security votes have hugely contributed to the growing insecurity in the country, and the failure to ensure the security and welfare of Nigerians.

“As revealed by a recent report by Transparency International (TI), most of the funds appropriated as security votes are spent on political activities, mismanaged or stolen. It is estimated that security votes add up to over N241.2 billion every year. On top of appropriated security votes, state governments also receive millions of dollars yearly as international security assistance.

“Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption 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.

“While sitting state governors may enjoy immunity from arrest and prosecution, they do not enjoy immunity from investigation. Any allegations of mismanagement of security votes against sitting governors can and should be investigated pending the time they leave office and lose immunity.”

Meanwhile, Abubakar Malami is a respondent in the suit, but no date has yet been fixed for the hearing of the suit.

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