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N625Bn Oil Refund: SERAP Threatens 9 Oil Producing State Govs
… Publish Spendings In 7 Days Or Face Legal Action

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the nine oil producing states in Nigeria to provide and widely publish details of spending of the oil derivation refunds of N625bn recently paid to them by the Federal Government, including details and locations of projects executed with the money within seven days or face legal action

The Federal Government recently paid N625.43 billion oil derivation refunds to the governors of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers, Ondo, Imo and Cross River states.

The payments covered 13 per cent oil derivation, subsidy and SURE-P refunds. The refunds date from 1999 to 2021.

“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.”

“The public interest in obtaining the information about expenditures relating to the oil derivation refunds outweighs any privacy or other interests. The oversight afforded by public access to such details would serve as an important check on the activities of your state and help to prevent abuses of the public trust.” SERAP reiterated

In the open letter dated 10 December 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “It is in the public interest to publish the details of spending of the refunds. Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the refunds. It is part of their legally enforceable human rights”

SERAP said, “Disclosing the information would enable Nigerians to scrutinise the spending of the refunds. Publishing the details of the oil derivation refunds would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.”

The letter, read in part: “Widely publishing details of the spending of the oil derivation refunds would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties in the management of public funds.”

“SERAP also urges you to disclose details of spending of the refunds to local government councils through the state accounts, and to explain the role played by your government in the spending of public funds meant for the councils.”

“The constitutional principle of democracy also provides a foundation for Nigerians’ right to know details of spending of the oil derivation refunds. Citizens’ right to know promotes openness, transparency, and accountability that is in turn crucial for the country’s democratic order.”

“The effective operation of representative democracy depends on the people being able to scrutinise, discuss and contribute to government decision making, including on the spending of the oil derivation refunds.”

“To do this, they need information to enable them to participate more effectively in the management of public funds by their state governments.”

“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 how the oil derivation refunds are spent.

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, applicable throughout Nigeria, there are transparency obligations imposed on your state to publish details of spending of the oil derivation refunds.”

“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.”

“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 the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and. Enforcement) Act.”

“SERAP urges you to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of the oil derivation refunds by your state.”

“SERAP also urges you to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the derivation refunds are not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.”

“According to our information, under the 13 per cent derivation fund, Abia State received N4.8 billion; Akwa-Ibom received N128 billion; and Bayelsa got N92.2 billion. Cross River got a refund of N1.3 billion; Delta State received N110 billion; Edo State received N11.3billion; Imo State, N5.5 billion, Ondo State, N19.4 billion; and Rivers State received 103.6 billion.”

“On the 13 per cent derivation fund on deductions made by NNPC, Abia State received N1.1 billion; Akwa-Ibom, N15 billion; Bayelsa, N11.6 billion; Cross River, N432 million; Delta State, N14.8 billion; Edo State, N2.2 billion; and Imo State, N2.9, billion. Ondo State, got N3.7 billion while N12.8 billion was paid to Rivers State.”

“The nine states also received N4.7 billion each, totalling N42.34 billion as refunds on withdrawals for subsidy and SURE-P from 2009 to 2015. The Federation Account also paid N3.52billion each as refund to local government councils on withdrawals for subsidy and SURE-P from 2009 to 2015.”

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EDSG Trains Batch- 9 Vigilantes, Hunters.

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….. As Gov Obaseki Signs Edo Security Corps Bill into law

By Sim Omo- Benin City

As part of efforts to combat crimes, criminalities, cultism and other social vices bedeviling the state, the governor Obaseki led administration has commenced training of batch Nine hunters and operatives of Vigilantes, bringing a total of over ten thousand Vigilantes and hunters so far trained by the state to tighten security in every nook and cranny

Similarly Governor Godwin Obaseki has signed the State security Corps Bill into law

Speaking at the commencement of the batch- nine training exercise at the Police Training School in Ogida, the State Co-ordinator of the Edo security and Vigilantes network , Col. Kole Omomia( Rtd) commended Governor Obaseki and the state government for prioritizing security in the state and its continuous commitment to providing the necessary logistics for the state’s security apparatus to function

He noted that the training of the corps operatives which included the hunters, as in the instance of the batch- 9 who are currently here today, are concerted effort and determination of the state government to put her citizens at the fore front to enjoy peace, tranquility and have an enabling environment that would promote growth, development and investments.

Col. Omomia reiterated that the trainees would undergo series of exercises such as medical fitness, bio-data, teekwando, Judo, Drills, Parades and mental fitness and other activities ancillary to the job

According to the State Cord, the training would cut across the three senatorial districts in the state , with about One thousand, three hundred,(1300) Vigilantes and hunters expected to be trained in Batch- 9

He, however,urged the trainees to key into the program with keen interest and participate fully.

Recall that only recently, the state governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, singed the Bill establishing the State security Corps, formerly known as the Edo State Security Vigilante Network,ESSVN, into law

By the establishing Act, the Corps is now a statutory body recognised by law and would perform its roles as provided by the Act

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HAILING THE SUPREME COURT ON LG ALLOCATION JUDGMENT

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Prof Mike Ozekhome, SAN,CON, OFR

The supreme court judgement on

July 11, 2024, directing the Federal Government to pay allocations due to Local Government Areas directly to their account thereby abolishing the old practices of State-Local Government Joint Account,is timely and courageous.

What the judgement has done is more like interpreting section 162 of the Constitution, which provides for a joint State-Local Government Account. In which case, money is normally paid to state governors’ accounts and then for them to disburse to the local governments for them to share. But what has been happening is that, as I noted in 2020,over three years ago, the state governors, have been behaving like ”bandits”, waylaing local governments funds along the way and thus impoverishing them leaving them with nothing to work, just a little for salary. And nothing to actually work for the people whom they represent.
I agree totally with the judgement of the supreme court to grant full financial autonomy so that money is released and paid directly to the 774 local government councils which constitute the third-tier of government,to develop their places because the LGAs are grassrooted and nearest to the people. Rather than allow overbearing state governors throw their weight around and muzzle the local governments and seize their purse,they will now allow LGs breath some air of freedom.

If you take a look at our situation, Nigeria is operating a very lopsided federation,more like a unitary system of government. Where the federal government is supposed to be a small government,it is controlling 67 items on the exclusive legislative list. That is why the federal government gets the lion share of the federation account , the lion share of the money that comes to the federation account to the tune of 52.68%. The states get 26.72% while the entire 774 local government councils in Nigeria get just 20.60% of the monthly allocation by the Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission, RLASMC.

The question is, what is the federal government doing with almost 53% of the national income? That is because it is a government that is behemoth.That is elephantine. A government that intrudes and intervenes in areas that should not concern it at all. What is the federal government’s business with licensing cars and trucks for states? What is its business with the Marriage Act, dealing with how people marry and wed in Nigeria and how they live together as husband and wife and separate or divorce? What is the federal government’s business with unity schools? A whole FG operating secondary schools? What is their business? Why is the FG not allowing states generate their own power, operate their own railway stations, if they have the capacity? Why should the federal government not allow states have their own police force? Even for the local governments to have their own police force as we have in the United States and other advanced countries of the world where even tertiary institutions have their own police?

The truth is that the federal government is overbloated and overpampered. That is why it is using too much money and make the centre become too attractive,eating deep into funds that ought to be meant for the states and local government areas. The states take not only that which belongs to the states, but also waylays at source that which is meant for the local government areas. No Nation grows that way.

So, I see this judgment as epochal,having

far-reaching effect because money will now be made available directly to the local government areas who will no longer be subservient, like fawning slaves to state governors. In fact, the judgement even went further to say that no state government has the power henceforth to dissolve local government areas. This is because we have been seeing cases where inspite of the provisions of section 7 of the 1999 constitution that give autonomy to local government areas, states normally go ahead and dissolve local government areas ND appoint caretaker committees for them.This is whimsical and capricious.The Supreme Court has said this can no longer go on and that henceforth, no state government should ever be able to dissolve any local government area in Nigeria for any reason whatsoever and howsoever.

The judgement is salutary, timely and regenerative. It should be upheld by all governments and people in Nigeria for better democratic dividends.I see this as victory for our wobbling democracy, even if we are far removed from true fiscal federalism where the federating units control and utilize their God-given resources while paying royalty or tax to the central government. This case is one big plus for tested court room gladiator, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation, who initiated the case at the apex court, invoking its original jurisdiction.Surely,to jaw-jaw is better than to war-war. God bless Nigeria.

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Ex+Abia gov, Senator Kalu backs part-time legislature

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Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu has backed calls for part-time legislature at both federal and state levels.

Senator Kalu (APC Abia North) said this would help the nation cut costs and enhance the citizenry’s trust in the polity.

The former Abia governor said this in an interview published on his verified Facebook page over the weekend.

On calls for part-time legislature, Senator Kalu said, “I think it will be a very good idea if my colleagues and other members of the Houses of Assembly will agree that we can sit for three months and do constitutional amendment first.

“So we can sit four times a year and if there’s any emergency, there will be emergency sitting. We can come to do a presidential bid on that basis and go back instead of sitting on a full-time basis.

“Not only the Senate and the House of Representatives, but all the legislative houses in Nigeria will be part-time.”

Senator Kalu maintained that this would be part of austerity measures to reduce cost of governance, arguing that regional government is another viable alternative.

“If we’re going for regional government, it also means that the ministers, the legislators, will be the same. I’ve been tinkering with the idea of how we can save money to run Nigeria because the country needs money.

“I will encourage the President, the National Assembly to make these kind of laws. This will help him, and this will help the system, and this will help everybody,” he said.

The ex-governor explained that contrary to misconceptions among Nigerians, senators are not paid enough.
U
“But I want Nigerians and my colleagues to do a quick constitutional amendment so we can go and be a part-time sitting Senate and part-time sitting House of Representatives, and other 36 state houses of assembly in Nigeria.

“That will bring trust and bring relief to the Nigerian people,” the ex-governor said.

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