Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly investigate the spending of Ecological Fund by governments at all levels—federal, state and local governments from 2001 to date.”
SERAP said, “Suspected perpetrators of corruption and mismanagement should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient admissible evidence, and any missing public funds should be fully recovered.”
SERAP’s letter followed reports that the ravaging flooding in some parts of the country has resulted in the loss of over 600 lives, displacement of more than a million persons, and destruction of properties worth billions. The most affected states include Anambra, Delta, Kogi, Rivers, Benue, Yobe, Cross River and Bayelsa.
In the open letter dated 22 October 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “trillions of ecological funds have allegedly gone down the drain. The resulting human costs directly threaten human rights – rights to life and to a place to live – rights that your government has an obligation to protect.”
SERAP said, “Irrespective of the cause of a threat to human rights, your government still has positive obligations to use all the means within its disposal to uphold the human rights of those affected.”
SERAP also said, “Although ecological funds are shared across the three tiers of government, and emergency management agencies, the funds are managed and supervised by the Federal Government.”
The letter, read in part: “Your government has the legal obligations to hold all tiers of government and emergency management agencies to account, and to trace, find, and recover any missing ecological funds.”
“Your government has the legal obligations to address the calamitous consequences of flooding for the human rights of millions of people, and to prevent and address some of the direst consequences that climate change may reap on human rights, especially given the disproportionate impact on vulnerable people and communities.”
“Your government must use all means available to it to prevent and address the threats to human rights that result from climate change, and to provide access to effective remedies for victims when these rights are violated.”
“Your government has a positive obligation to protect individuals against the threat posed to human rights by climate change, regardless of the causes.”
“Your government also has legal obligations to effectively address the aftermath of the flooding such as deterioration in health, diminishing access to safe drinking water and susceptibility of the areas affected to disease.”
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“Climate change also has the potential to exacerbate existing threats to human rights in the country. Rising global temperatures will jeopardise many people’s livelihoods, increasing their vulnerability to poverty and social deprivation.”
“In order to uphold its constitutional and international human rights obligations, your government must respond to the impacts of the flooding, and of climate change generally.”
“According to the audit of the Ecological Fund Office carried out by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, (NEITI), the total amount allocated and received by the fund from December 2011 to November 2016 was N277 billion.”
“The operations of the Fund from 2012 to 2016 reportedly showed that some of the disbursements were not utilised for the purpose for which it was established. During these periods, N74,170,932,645.20 was released to State Governments to solve ecological problems in their States.”
“Impunity for corruption in the management of Ecological Fund will continue as long as high-ranking public officials go largely unpunished for their alleged crimes. It is by pursuing these allegations and taking the evidence before the court that the truth will be revealed and justice best served.”
“SERAP is seriously concerned that years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of Ecological Fund and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined the ability of governments at all levels and emergency management agencies to prevent the impact of flooding on the human rights of socio-economically vulnerable Nigerians, and to effectively respond to the problem.”
“Allegations of corruption and mismanagement have undermined the ability of authorities at all levels to invest in drainage systems, and to tackle soil erosion and climate change challenges across several parts of the country.”
“SERAP also urges you to direct Mr Malami and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to urgently identify and ensure access to justice and effective remedies to affected victims.”
“SERAP also urges you to direct Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government to publish details of allocations from the Ecological Fund to the Federal Government, the 36 state governments, Abuja, the 774 local government areas of the country, and the National Emergency Management Agency, as well as state emergency management agencies between 2001 to date.”
“SERAP urges you to instruct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of Ecological Fund by the 36 state governors, the 774 local government areas, as well as all emergency management agencies across the country funded through the Ecological Fund.”
“SERAP is concerned about reports that the funds released for ecological projects are characterised by mismanagement, diversion of funds, substandard and abandoned projects fully paid for. Ecological funds have also been allegedly spent for other purposes such as election campaigns and political patronage.”
“Prevention of corruption in the spending of Ecological Fund, and preventing and addressing the challenges caused by climate change are serious and legitimate public interests.”
“There is a legitimate public interest in ensuring justice and accountability for alleged corruption and mismanagement in the management of Ecological Fund.”
“Nigerians have the right to know how the public funds budgeted to address ecological challenges are spent. Publishing the details of allocations of Ecological Fund since 2001 would promote transparency, accountability, and reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds.”
NAUTH Resident Doctors Suspend Strike
Resident doctors under the aegis of the Association of Resident Doctors, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, have suspended its five-day warning strike.
The group said it considered the plight of stranded patients who are in need of critical and emergency care before arriving at the decision to suspend the strike after an emergency meeting on Friday.
The doctors had embarked on a five-day warning strike on Wednesday to express displeasure over the assault meted out on one of its members by relatives of a deceased patient, whom the doctor was helping to resuscitate.
According to a statement signed by its President, Dr Ndukwe Chinwe, and General Secretary, Dr Egbue Obiora, on Saturday, the body said it unanimously resolved to suspend the strike, resume emergency services by 8 am on Saturday and routine clinic services/activities by Monday.
The doctors said it observed that the hospital’s management has shown commitment by ensuring the arrest of the culprits and has promised to follow the matter to a logical conclusion.
They also noted the commitment of the hospital towards fulfilling all the other demands outlined by the doctors.
The statement read, “Recall that on January 25, doctors under the aegis of Association of Resident Doctors Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi embarked on a five-day warning strike to express displeasure over the assault meted out on one of our members by relatives of a deceased patient, whom the doctor was helping to resuscitate.
“In an emergency general meeting held on Friday, January 27, 2023, the members observed that the hospital management has shown commitment by ensuring the arrest of the culprits and have promised to follow the matter to a logical conclusion.
“The management has begun the enforcement of compliance to visiting hours in the wards and has put measures to ensure that patient relatives are not found inside the wards at odd hours. A memo has been issued to that effect.
“The Hospital Management has also reiterated their commitment to fulfil all the other demands outlined by ARD.
“Congress observed the lamentations of patients who could not assess healthcare during the period of the industrial action since resident doctors make up the bulk of the doctors in the teaching hospital.
“The body unanimously agreed that the hospital management has shown a quick response to their demands which led to a total shutdown of services offered by Resident Doctors in NAUTH.
“The congress unanimously resolved to suspend the strike, resume emergency services by 8 am on Saturday and routine clinic services/activities by Monday 8 am.
“Congress also resolved that the exco should continue to engage the hospital management until other demands are met. That any other form of assault on any doctor will be met with stringent measures.
“That a rapid response team be instituted to quickly tackle this menace on the spot in the event of any re-occurrence.”
The group, therefore, commended the management of NAUTH for its swift response towards putting measures to forestall a future repeat of this condemnable act and ensuring that the majority of our demands received the needed attention.
NIPOST Workers To Begin Strike On Monday
Workers of the Nigerian Postal Service (NIPOST) staff are threatening to embark on industrial action from Monday, January 30th over alleged abandonment by the Federal Government.
The protesting staff urged the Federal Government to urgently intervene before the industrial action commences.
The General Secretary of the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government-Owned Companies, Ayo Olorunfemi, led the protest on Friday.
According to Olorunfemi, several staff members of the service have not been receiving any form of capital funding from Federal Government in the last 15 years.
He also asked the government to beam its searchlight on the finances of the agency.
“All we are saying is this: Reform must be open; [it] must be clear. Our fear must be addressed and the reform must be in the overall interest of Nigeria. Any reform that is targeting some individuals will not be accepted.
“Therefore, this is another process. We have been going on strike and they have been talking to us to suspend them,” he said.
But this time around, according to Olorunfemi, the industrial action is targeted solely at actualising a much-needed reform process.
“We expect a suspension of the process. Let the next government come and follow due process in ensuring that we have a sustainable reform procedure.
“We’re expecting that a percentage, even if it is not more than two percent of that fund, be released to NIPOST for infrastructure and the welfare of staff.
“Immediately the so-called Finance Bill was passed into law, the money was packed away. One naira has not been given to NIPOST and NIPOST is not on any capital budget of the Federal Government,” he said.
Lagos Estate Residents Lament Ordeal With Popular Gospel Singer, Testimony Jaga
Residents of Alagbado Estate Road in Lagos state have raised alarm over threats to their lives by a popular Nigerian gospel singer, Mr. Salau Olayiwola, known by the stage name, Testimony Jaga alleging that he has been unleashing terror on them.
One of the victims identified as Mrs. Agbede Abimbola alleged that the singer poured urine and water on her after she accused him of obstructing vehicular movement in the estate.
The victim, Mrs. Abimbola, told Vanguard that her trouble with him started after she invited her friend to deliver frozen foods to her in preparation for her son’s 15th birthday, last week.
According to her, when I confronted him over the way the whole streets are blocked during his church sessions, he unleashed his church boys on me and I was beaten and bathed in urine.
Speaking further, Mrs. Abimbola said she was still on the ground after being beaten when water was poured on her and also urine which splashed on some of the neighbors who tried to help her get up. “Jaga walked up to me and said it was women like me that would molest me. Immediately he said that with little strength left in me, I was about holding his clothes when he moved back and my hand grabbed his necklace. He stepped back further while my hand was at the chain and the chain cut. Immediately, his members took the chain from me.
“Jaga told his members not to let me go until I provide the chain. They also descended on my friend Agnes and held her on the ground. After the confrontation, we reported he case to the police.
Recounting the incident, Mrs. Abimbola’s friend, who gave her name as Agnes John narrated that when she entered the street, the road was blocked. “I was honking so that I could drive in; no one was ready to move. So, someone walked up to me and said that they were holding a programme and I should park my car.
“I parked, locked my car and walked to my friend’s house to inform her that I could not drive in because a programme was being held on the road and she would need to go and get the frozen foods from the car herself. She told me it must be Jaga because he holds his street gospel movement every Tuesday. So, I went along with her to the car to pack the frozen foods. It was while we were going that we met Jaga on the road and because I don’t know him, my friend pointed at him, showing me that it was him.
“Immediately, I called his attention. I thought he would walk out of the crowd to answer me but he said I should come, which I did. I told him whenever he is holding his programme he should create a space for others because we all are road users and it won’t be nice for him to disturb others with his programme. While I was leaving, I heard noise and when I turned back, I saw my friend on the ground with a crowd descending on her. I had to call people nearby to join them in the commotion and in the process of explaining to them what happened, the police arrived with their patrol vehicle and took me and my friend away for interrogation, leaving Jaga behind.
When contacted, the singer denied the story stating that he had nothing more to say as the case is with the police.
Lagos State police spokesman, Benjamin Hundeyin told Vanguard when called on phone: : “I am not aware of the incident but I will contact Alagbado DPO and get back to you.”