SERAP sues Buhari over overdrafts of N9.7 trillion taken from the Central Bank of Nigeria


The Socio-Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP) filed a lawsuit, asking the court “to compel President Muhammadu Buhari to disclose the details of spending on overdrafts and loans obtained from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN ) since May 29, 2015, including projects on which overdrafts have been spent, and refunds of all overdrafts to date.

SERAP is also seeking an order compelling the president to “explain and clarify whether the $ 25 billion (9.7 trillion naira) overdraft allegedly obtained from the CBN is within the five percent limit of actual government revenues. for 2020 ”.

This was revealed on Sunday in a statement from SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

The lawsuit followed SERAP’s Freedom of Information (FoI) request to President Buhari, stating that: “Disclosure of details of overdrafts and reimbursements would allow Nigerians to hold the government to account for its fiscal management and ensure that public funds are not mismanaged or misappropriated ”.

In case number FHC / ABJ / CS / 559/2021 filed last week in the Federal High Court in Abuja, SERAP also requests: “an order directing and obliging President Buhari to disclose the details of the overdrafts taken from the CBN by successive governments between 1999 and 2015. “

In the lawsuit, SERAP argues: “The secrecy and lack of public control over the details of CBN overdrafts and redemptions is contrary to the public interest, the common good, the country’s international legal obligations and a fundamental violation. of the constitutional oath. “

Federation Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami, SAN, joined the prosecution as respondents; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele.

SERAP also argues that: “Ensuring transparency and accountability in the spending of CBN overdrafts and loans would promote prudence in debt management, reduce any risk of corruption and mismanagement, and help the government avoid debt. pitfalls of excessive debt. “

The declaration read: “By the combined reading of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act, the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the African Charter on Human Rights. man and people, transparency obligations are imposed on governments to disclose information to the public regarding details of CBN overdrafts, loans and repayments to date.

SERAP also argues that “Nigeria’s Constitution, Freedom of Information Act and these treaties are based on the basic principle that citizens should have access to information regarding the activities of their government”.

The complaint, filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms. Adelanke Aremo, read in part: “Transparency and accountability in CBN overdraft spending would also ensure that public funds are properly spent, reduce the level of public debt and improve the government’s ability to invest in essential public goods and services, such as quality education, health care and clean water.

“It is the government’s primary responsibility to ensure public access to these services in order to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“Transparency and accountability in CBN overdraft and loan spending would also improve the government’s ability to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis. This means that the government would not have to choose between saving lives or paying off debts.

“The recent overdraft of $ 25.6 billion (around 9.7 trillion naira) allegedly obtained from the CBN appears to be above the limit of five percent of the federal government’s actual revenues for 2020, that is, – say 3.9 trillion naira, prescribed by Section 38 (2) of the CBN Act of 2007. SERAP notes that five percent of N3.9 trillion is N197 billion.

“While Article 38 (1) of the CBN Law allows the Bank to grant overdrafts to the federal government to remedy any temporary shortfall in budgetary revenue, subsection 2 provides that any outstanding overdraft” shall not not exceed five percent of the amount for the previous year. actual federal government revenues.

“Likewise, Article 38 (3) requires that all overdrafts be ‘repaid as soon as possible and before the end of the fiscal year in which the overdrafts are granted.’

“The CBN is prohibited from granting further overdrafts until all outstanding overdrafts have been fully reimbursed. Under the CBN Act, “no repayment shall take the form of a promise note or other promise to pay at a later date, treasury bills, bonds or other forms of collateral which must be subscribed by the Bank ”.

Likewise, the Fiscal Responsibility Law provides in section 41 that the government ‘shall borrow only for capital expenditure and human development’. Under the law, the government “must ensure that the level of public debt as a proportion of national income is maintained at a sustainable level”.

“Section 44 of the Fiscal Responsibility Act requires the government to specify the purpose of any borrowing, which is to be applied to capital expenditures, and to conduct a cost-benefit analysis, including economic and social benefits of any borrowing. Any borrowing must serve the public good and be guided by human rights principles.

“SERAP has consistently recommended that the federal government reduce its borrowing level and examine other options to finance its budget, such as reducing governance costs and tackling systemic and pervasive corruption in government departments,” departments and agencies (MDA). ) that have been documented by the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation.

“Our demands are made in the public interest and in accordance with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution; the law on freedom of information; the law on fiscal responsibility; the Central Bank Law; the Debt Management Office Act; and the country’s international legal obligations.
No date has been set for the prosecution’s hearing.

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