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SERAP Urges Tinubu to Probe Payment of N585.2m Grant into Private Account

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Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to direct the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly probe the alleged payment by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu of N585.2 million meant for disbursement to vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, and Ogun states into a private account.”

SERAP also urged him “to direct Mr Fagbemi and appropriate anti-corruption agencies to promptly and thoroughly investigate whether the N585.2 million has been paid into any private account, and to identify and publish the names of anyone who may have received the money.”

SERAP said, “Anyone suspected to be involved in any improper payment or diversion of public funds should be brought to justice and any diverted public funds returned to the public treasury and paid directly to the rightful beneficiaries.”

In the letter dated 6 January 2024 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Paying public funds into private accounts may create the perception or appearance of impropriety and give cover to any potential wrongdoing or diversion.”

According to SERAP, “Investigating these allegations and ensuring that the public funds meant to take care of the poor are transparently and accountably spent and recovering any diverted public funds are serious and legitimate public interests.”

The letter, read in part: “The public interests in safeguarding against the perception or appearance of impropriety or corruption also require your government to remove the opportunity for abuse inherent in the payment of public funds into private accounts.”

“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the country’s financial regulations and international obligations impose a fundamental obligation on your government to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant for socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”

“Your government has a legal responsibility to ensure full compliance with the Financial Regulations 2009, prohibiting the payment of public funds into private accounts, to reduce vulnerability to corruption or risks of the funds being diverted for personal ends or other unlawful purposes.”

“Government officials hold positions of public trust. Public officials are expected to ensure compliance with Nigerian laws and international standards in the discharge of their public functions.”

“The persistent lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds meant to take care of the poor raises issues of public trust, makes the funds vulnerable to corruption or mismanagement, and undermines the integrity of poverty intervention programmes.”

“Your government has a legal obligation to probe and prosecute allegations of abuse of office and corruption in the spending of public funds meant to improve the conditions of vulnerable Nigerians.”

“SERAP is concerned that successive governments have failed to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds budgeted for social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes and projects.”

“Any risks of corruption in the spending of public funds meant to take care of the poor would erode the effectiveness of the government’s oft-repeated commitment to address the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy on vulnerable Nigerians.”

“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.

“Any failure to investigate these grave allegations, bring suspected perpetrators to justice and recover any diverted public funds would undermine the integrity of the government’s poverty intervention programmes”.

“It would also create cynicism, and eventually citizens’ distrust about the ability of your government to prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption in the programmes.”

“Nigerians have the right to be free from poverty. Any risks of diversion of public funds budgeted to lift vulnerable Nigerians out of poverty would pose both direct and indirect threats to human rights and exacerbate extreme poverty in the country.”

“It would also undermine your government’s legal obligations to effectively and progressively address and combat extreme poverty as a matter of human rights.”

“SERAP also urges you to direct Betta Edu to publish details of spending of public funds drawn from the account of the National Social Investment Program (NSIPA), an agency under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Allegation, including the names of beneficiaries and details of the amounts received by them since 29 May 2023.”

“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 any public funds drawn from the account(s) of the National Social Investment Program (NSIPA).”

“According to our information, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Betta Edu, in a memo dated 20 December 2023 reportedly requested the Accountant General of the Federation, Oluwatoyin Madein, to transfer public fund – N585.2 million – into a private account of an official in her ministry.”

“According to the memo, the money was transferred from the National Social Investment Program office account and is meant for disbursement to vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Lagos, and Ogun states, under the federal government poverty intervention project called Grants for Vulnerable Groups. N219.4 million is to be transferred to the vulnerable people in Akwa Ibom State, N73.8 million to Cross River State, N219.4 million to Lagos State, and N72.4 million to Ogun State.”

“SERAP is seriously concerned that years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the spending of public funds meant to support and assist vulnerable Nigerians and entrenched impunity of perpetrators have undermined the ability of successive governments to support those most in need.”

“Section 15(5) imposes the responsibility on your government to ‘abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power’ in the country.”

“Under Section 16(1) of the Constitution, your government has a responsibility to ‘secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity.’ Section 16(2) further provides that, ‘the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good.’”

“Chapter 7, Section 713 of the Federal Government’s Financial Regulations 2009, provides: ‘Personal money shall in no circumstances be paid into a government bank account, nor shall any public money be paid into a private account.’”

“Articles 5 and 9 of the UN Convention against Corruption also impose legal obligations on your government to ensure proper management of public affairs and public funds, and to promote sound and transparent administration of public affairs.”


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Ugo Onwuaso is an ICT enthusiast. He believes technology should be used for general good. He holds a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from the Lagos state University. Dear Reader, Your support matters. But we believe that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. That is why, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and finance and how they affect lives. Our incisive and analytical view of how technology news affects the daily life help individuals and organizations make up their minds. Quality journalism costs money. Today, we're asking that you support us to do more. Kindly support our effort to deliver technology and finance journalism to everyone in the world. Donate as little as N1,000. Bank transfers can be made to: UBA Plc 1017156876 Communication Week Media Ltd

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PalmPay Named Among Top 250 Fintech Companies in the World by CNBC and Statista

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Africa-focused fintech platform, PalmPay, has been included in the 2024 edition of CNBC and Statista’s prestigious list of the “Top 250 Fintech Companies in the World.” This recognition underscores PalmPay’s rapid growth and significant contributions to advancing financial inclusion.

The CNBC/Statista list honours fintech pioneers significantly transforming the financial services industry through technology. More than 2000 companies were evaluated globally based on general and sector-specific KPIs to determine the final selection.

In 2024, some of the most influential fintechs in the world were included in the list, including Alipay, Nubank, Monzo, and Revolut. Six other African firms made the list: Flutterwave (Nigeria/US) – Payments; Kuda (Nigeria/UK) – Neobanking; MTN (South Africa) – Payments; Piggyvest (Nigeria) – Financial planning; and Yoco (South Africa) – Payments.

PalmPay has developed an integrated platform that caters to consumers and businesses in the African market. The startup, which has been operating since 2019, pioneered a unique model in Nigeria that provides financial services such as money transfers, bill payment, credit services and savings via a one-stop-shop fintech ‘superapp’ and mobile money agents.

This dual approach of easy-to-use digital banking, combined with offline touchpoints for those without smartphones, has contributed to driving financial inclusion in a market where more than 40% of adults remain unbanked.

In 2023, PalmPay announced a major milestone of reaching 30 million registered users on its smartphone apps and 1.1 million businesses in its network of mobile money agents and retail merchants. A third of PalmPay customers report that the platform was their first-ever financial account.

PalmPay has quickly grown to become a market leader in Nigeria thanks to its user-friendly interface, reliable transactions, and focus on driving market share through fee-free transfers and promotions. PalmPay processes 15 million transactions on its consumer app daily and maintains a 99.5% transaction success rate.

To achieve this scale in a market where 10% transaction failure rates were common, the company built out its payment infrastructure, channel integrations and transaction routing systems. In addition to its consumer wallet, PalmPay offers services to businesses that leverage the PalmPay platform via its suite of POS machines, APIs and checkout solutions.

“It’s an honour for PalmPay to be recognised by CNBC and Statista as one of the World’s Top Fintech Companies,” said Sofia Zab, Global CMO, “This recognition validates our unique approach to financial services and our commitment to driving financial inclusion. We are actively expanding PalmPay’s reach and offerings, ensuring more people have access to essential financial services and promoting economic development in emerging markets”

PalmPay operates in several key markets across Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania, with plans to expand further in the region and other emerging markets. The company has global HQs in China and London.


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WiDEF Launches Round of Technical Assistance to help Close the Gender Digital Divide

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The Women in the Digital Economy Fund (WiDEF) announced today the launch of its second competitive round, this time inviting applications from large private sector enterprises seeking technical support to scale proven solutions to significantly close the gender digital divide.

Announced by the White House in March 2023, WiDEF is a joint effort between USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate progress on closing the gender digital divide, managed by CARE, Global Digital Inclusion Partnership and the GSMA Foundation.

This round of support takes the form of tailored technical assistance to scale products, services or approaches that can significantly increase women’s access to and usage of the internet. It follows WiDEF’s     first round of funding and support that closed on May 6th 2024 for local organisations.

The technical assistance on offer aims to help to unlock opportunities to significantly close the gender digital divide, rather than supporting an enterprise’s ongoing “business as usual” activities. Examples of the kind of technical support private sector enterprises might apply for might include:

–  Research into the principal barriers and needs of underserved segments of women to inform actions to better support them to access and use digital technology and the internet

–  Evaluation of existing products and services for women to inform their evolution and wider usage

–   Testing specific approaches and services to ensure they best meet the needs of underserved women

–  Product adaptation and iteration, including the analysis of service usage data, user feedback and further design research

Business modelling and support for scaling products and services

“From our experience, we have seen how the right technical assistance can truly help companies unlock impact at scale.

“Through this new round, we believe we can deepen the private sector’s contribution to the closing of the gender divide across low- and middle-income countries, in line with the GSMA Foundation’s unwavering commitment to addressing this challenge,” said Max Cuvellier Giacomelli, Head of Mobile for Development, GSMA.

WiDEF will provide successful applicants in countries where USAID operates with tailored technical assistance for up to two years valued in the range of $50,000 to $150,000 USD. This support will be provided by the WiDEF Consortium and third-party suppliers engaged by WiDEF.

WiDEF aims to support commercially sustainable, scalable and evidence-based solutions to help close the gender digital divide. Successful applicants will need to articulate how their solution – and the technical assistance they draw on – will address at least two of the following core priority areas for WiDEF:

Improved access to affordable devices and online experiences

Increased availability of relevant products and tools

Elevation of digital literacy and skills

Enhancement of safety and security

Additionally, all applications will need to generate insights and data that expand the collection and use of gender-disaggregated research and analysis.

Full eligibility criteria and the application process can be found here. Applications are due by September 12, 2024.

 


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Reps to Donate 50% of Salaries to Fight Hunger

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House of Representatives at a plenary session on Thursday pledged to give up 50 per cent of their salaries for six months to address the hunger across the country.

During the session presided over by Speaker Tajudeen Abbas, Deputy Speaker Benjamin Kalu amended the motion, urging his colleagues to sacrifice 50% of their salaries. He made this plea when it was his turn to speak, seeking their support for this gesture.

“This government is doing its best but one year is not enough to address the challenges of this country. I want to plead with our colleagues to sacrifice 50 per cent for a period of six months.

“Our salary is N600,000 a month. I want to plead that we let go of 50 per cent of our salary for a period of six months,” Kalu said.

With each member paying N300,000 into a common purse, the legislative chamber will be contributing N108m monthly to the Federal Government and N648m for six months.


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