November 20, 2022

133m poor: SERAP asks Buhari to probe ‘social intervention programmes’

The strike which has lasted more than 130 days jeopardising the future of Nigerian students also caught the attention of the organized labour threatening protest. The Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, on Thursday, said it would embark on a one-day protest to force the federal government respond to ASUU demands.

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “promptly set up a presidential panel of enquiry to thoroughly, impartially, effectively and transparently investigate spending on all social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes and projects executed between 2015 and 2022.”

SERAP also urged him “to ensure the findings of any such investigation are widely published, and suspected perpetrators of corruption, and mismanagement of public funds meant to take care of the poor should face prosecution as appropriate, if there is sufficient evidence, and any stolen public funds should be recovered.”  

Read also: Deal struck at COP27 to help countries worst-hit by climate change

A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows damning revelations that some 133 million Nigerians are poor, despite the government reportedly spending N500 billion yearly on ‘social investment programmes.’ Half of all poor people in the country are children.

In the letter dated 19 November 2022 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “The report suggests a grave violation of the public trust, and the lack of political will to genuinely address poverty, and uphold your government’s constitutional and international human rights obligations.”

SERAP said, “The report that 133 million Nigerians are poor suggests corruption and mismanagement in the spending of trillion of naira on social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes, including the reported disbursement of over $700 million from the repatriated Abacha looted funds to these programmes.”

SERAP also said, “Your government has legal obligations to effectively and progressively address and combat extreme poverty as a matter of human rights.”

SERAP said, “The failure to address extreme poverty has resulted in high levels of inequality, and serious violations of economic and social rights of Nigerians, particularly the socially and economically vulnerable sector of the population.”

The letter, copied to Mr. Olivier DE SCHUTTER, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, read in part: “These grim revelations by the NBS show the failure to fulfil your oft-repeated promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, and that no one will be left behind.”  

“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 your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”

“The report also shows that the purported social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes are clearly not working. It also shows a failure by your government to uphold the constitutionally and internationally guaranteed human rights of the Nigerian people.”

“SERAP also urges you to prioritise investment in quality education and healthcare, and to redirect some of the unnecessary spending in the 2023 budget such as spending by the presidency on feeding and travels, and money allocated to the National Assembly in the budget to address poverty as a human rights issue.”

“A supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the proposed redirected budget should be urgently sent to the National Assembly for its approval.”

“Your government has a sacred duty to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of the country’s resources, including the spending of public funds on social safety-nets and poverty alleviation programmes and projects.”

“Section 14(2)(b) of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended] provides that, ‘the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.’”

“Under Section 16(1)(a)(b), your government has the obligations to ‘harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynam.”