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SERAP Gives Governors & Wike 7 Days To Account For ₦5.9trn, $4.6bn Loans

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Nigeria’s 36 state governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mr Nyesom Wike to “widely publish copies of the loan agreements and spending details of some N5.9 trillion and $4.6 billion loans obtained by their states and the FCT, including details and locations of projects executed with the loans.”

SERAP also urged them to “promptly invite the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the spending of the domestic and external loans obtained by your state and the FCT.”

SERAP’s request followed the disclosure last week by Governor Uba Sani of Kaduna State that the immediate past administration of Nasir El-Rufai left $587m, N85bn debt and 115 contractual labilities, making it impossible for the state to pay salaries.

In the Freedom of Information requests dated 30 March 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “It is in the public interest to publish copies of the loan agreements and details of how the loans obtained are spent.”

SERAP said, “Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the domestic and external loans obtained by the governors.”

SERAP said, “Widely publishing copies of the loan agreements and spending details of the loans obtained would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties in the management of public funds.”

The FoI requests, read in part: “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.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that many of the country’s 36 states and FCT are allegedly mismanaging public funds which may include domestic and external loans obtained from bilateral and multilateral institutions and agencies.”

“Transparency in the spending of the loans obtained by your state is fundamental to increase accountability, prevent corruption, and build trust in democratic institutions with the ultimate aim of strengthening the rule of law.”

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory is N5.9 trillion. The total public external debt portfolio is $4.6 billion.”

“Many states and the FCT reportedly owe civil servants’ salaries and pensions. Several states are borrowing to pay salaries. Millions of Nigerians resident in your state and the FCT continue to be denied access to basic public goods and services such as quality education and healthcare.”

“Several states including your state are also reportedly spending public funds which may include the domestic and external loans to fund unnecessary travels, buy exotic and bulletproof cars and generally fund the lavish lifestyles of politicians.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that the domestic and external loans obtained by your state and the FCT are vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. Your government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by your state are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

“Publishing copies of the loan agreements obtained by your state and the FCT would allow Nigerians to scrutinise them, and promote transparency and accountability on the spending of public funds including the loans obtained.”

“SERAP believes that providing and widely publishing the details of the spending of the domestic and external loans obtained by your state and the FCT would enable Nigerians to effectively and meaningfully engage in the management of the loans.”

“SERAP believes that the constitutional principle of democracy also provides a foundation for Nigerians’ right to know the details of loan agreements and how the loans obtained are spent. 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 scrutinize, discuss and contribute to government decision making, including on the spending of loans obtained by your state and the FCT.”

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

“The public interest in obtaining information about expenditures relating to the loans obtained by your state outweighs any privacy or other interest. Moreover, 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 is concerned that there is a significant risk of mismanagement or diversion of funds linked to loans obtained by state governments including your state. The accounts of Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT are generally not open to public scrutiny.”

“Your state has obligations under international anticorruption and human rights law, including a responsibility to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds, prevent mismanagement or diversion of public funds, and redress any abuse of public trust.”

“The Nigerian Constitution, human rights and anticorruption treaties to which Nigeria is a state party also impose obligations on your state to prevent mismanagement or diversion of public funds including the loans obtained.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds including the loans obtained by states have contributed to widespread poverty, underdevelopment and lack of access to public goods and services.”

“Opacity in the spending of loans obtained by states has continued to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.”

“Transparency would ensure that these loans are not diverted into private pockets, and increase public trust that these loans are used and any future loans would be used to benefit Nigerians resident in your state.

“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 the loan agreements and how the loans obtained are spent.”

“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 provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and. Enforcement) Act.


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Nigerian Banks Lost over N8Bn to Internet Fraudsters in 2022-  EFCC

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Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), yesterday said  that banks in the country lost over N8 billion to internet fraud, otherwise known as Yahoo-Yahoo Boys, in 2022.

Nigerian Banks Lost over N8Bn to Internet Fraudsters in 2022-  EFCC

Ola Olukoyede, chairman of the commission, also disclosed how Yahaya Bello, former governor of Kogi state allegedly moved a staggering $720,000 from the state account to pay his child’s school fees.

Olukoyede,  who made the disclosure during an interactive session with media executives in Abuja, narrated how cyber crime has hurt the companies and its negative effects in attracting direct foreign investment for the country. He lamented that no fewer than 71 percent of companies operating in Nigeria were victims of cybercrime in 2022 even as he argued that the Commission’s war against internet fraud is about safeguarding the country’s future.

“In 2022 alone, I’m waiting for the report of 2023, we discovered that more than 71 percent of Nigerian industries, companies and firms fell victim to cyber crime. Now, which country or company would thrive with this kind of thing? “You want to attract foreign direct investment; the moment you come in, Yahoo boys will attack your platform. You start losing money and you think they would stay?

“Is that not what we are seeing? We are rescuing the future of Nigeria by going into this cyber crime investigation and prosecution.

“Now, within that period, the Nigerian economy lost $706 million (via) these companies through cyber crime, to the activities of these Yahoo Yahoo boys because we don’t take them seriously now, not knowing that we are sitting on a keg of gunpowder.

“The alarming statistics continued with Nigerian banks losing over N8 billion to electronic transfer fraud in the first  nine months of 2022.

“A system lost over N8 billion to a particular scheme of fraud and you are asking EFCC to close its eyes to that kind of situation. Are we even fair to ourselves?”

He said the agency is prosecuting two of its operatives for violating the agency’s code of conduct.

He said the commission has made some reforms to enhance its fight against corruption, including the creation of the directorate of fraud risk assessment/control and ethics/integrity.

 

 


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Students Loans’ Beneficiaries to Start Repayment 2 Years after Graduation-  NELFUND:

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Nigerian Education Loan Fund (NELFUND) has said that students in tertiary institutions and approved vocational centres would start repayment of the loan two years after graduation.

Students Loans’ Beneficiaries to Start Repayment 2 Years after Graduation-  NELFUND:

However, NELFUND management specifically stated that the repayment of the loan would commence if the students secured a job or went into business.

Mr. Akintunde Sawyerr, managing director, NELFUND, said the Act specify a moratorium of two years after graduation for the students to begin repayment of the loan.

Sawyerr said if the students start work, his employer would be expected to remit 10 percent into NELFUND dedicated account.

He added: “The loan does not have a specified repayment tenure. It makes it easy for students to apply for the loan. NELFUND would pay according to the documents provided by the institutions. We cannot put tenure on the loan; some will die, drop out, ‘Japa’ or refuse to pay. While those who went into business would pay into same account.

“It is a revolving a loan. We will not put students under pressure to get the loan and we are not going to state a tenure because it is not a commercial loan.’’

According to him, the loan is meant for students in public universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and vocational institutes, who apply via NELFUND portal and are expected to present their JAMB admission letter, NIN and BVN.

He explained that non-students would not have access to the loan and that NELFUND has put the necessary machinery in place to ensure that beneficiaries can be reached when the need arises.

His words: “We are using technology to run the new system. The process of application is online through our dedicated portal and we are limiting human contact as much as possible. Once you have a Bank Verification Number (BVN) and National Identification Number (NIN), which are parts of the requirements, we will have access to your data and all your accounts. This will also help us to know if you are qualified or not,” Sawyerr stated.

The MD disclosed that students already in institution are eligible to apply for the loan at any level of their study and must be at the beginning of each academic session.

He noted that such students would have to provide their admission and matriculation details in addition to BVN and NIN.

Sawyerr added that about 1.2 million Nigerian students in tertiary institutions and government-recognized vocational centres would be among the first batch of beneficiaries and that the figure would increase as time goes on.

The NELFUND boss disclosed that the scheme would be funded from one per cent of the total annual revenue by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), which would amount to N194 billion if the agency meets its projection.

Sawyerr observed that the loan would be paid in two segments, the first, being the school fees, which would be paid directly to the institutions while stipend would be paid into students’ account for their day-to-day upkeep.

He added that the amount individual students would access varies because of the course of study, school fees and geographical location of the institutions.

“You don’t start paying back the loan until two years after your National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme and you have secured a job or business. A beneficiary can defer repayment if he has not secured a job, but if after due diligence, he/she defaulted, then the student becomes a criminal and we will work with government agency that can help us get the money back, for example, EFCC, ICPC,” Sawyerr stated.


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GPA Raises Alarm, Says Malaria Vaccine Can Cause Meningitis

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Global Prolife Alliance (GPA), global health organization, has told the National Assembly that the intended malaria vaccine currently proposed by Bill Gates, American billionaire, for Nigeria can trigger meningitis in the populace.

GPA Raises Alarm, Says Malaria Vaccine Can Cause Meningitis

Dr. Philip Njemanze, chairman of GPA, gave the warning in a statement released to newsmen in Owerri, the Imo state capital.

Njemanze, known for being pro-health in the Catholic church, charged the national assembly not to be in a hurry to succumb to the pressure of the bill currently before the house.

He said the vaccine may trigger the deaths of millions of Nigerian children prone to cerebral meningitis, especially in the northern part of the country.

Part of the letter read “Among the side effects is a tenfold increase in cerebral meningitis. Nigeria is endemic for cerebral meningitis. A tenfold increase could cause the deaths of millions of children, especially in northern Nigeria.

“Please intervene and call for a public hearing, for an open public discussion on the pros and cons with expert opinions from both sides. This will help the Nigerian people to be better informed about granting or withholding consent for the vaccination.

“Your intervention could save millions of lives, especially in northern Nigeria, where meningitis is most endemic, particularly at this time of serious insecurity,” Njemanze warned.

 

 


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