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NIGERIA: Just how ‘sensible’ is it to share $300m looted fund to the poor?

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What to do with $300 million repatriated by the Swiss government from the stock stolen and stashed away in Switzerland by former military dictator, late General Sani Abacha, is threatening to drive a wedge between the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and members of the civil society in Nigeria.

The government, over the weekend, said that the money, stolen by Abacha in the 1990s, will be given to around 300,000 households, with each getting around $14 a month, beginning next month.

Given this projection, the payments – to be made to residents in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states – would most probably last for about six years.

However, government plans have met with some resistance from sections of the civil society. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on Sunday said that it was unimpressed with the Buhari-led administration’s plans to redistribute the recovered loot to some poor families, alleging that it didn’t make much of economic sense.

SERAP said, “The authorities have a legal obligation under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party to make sure that the returned Abacha loot is properly and efficiently used, both from the viewpoint of using asset recovery as a tool of ensuring justice to victims of corruption and breaking the cycle of grand corruption. But the plan to share the loot among households is mere tokenism and would neither have significant impact on poverty alleviation nor satisfy the twin objectives of justice and development.”

“The government should source funds elsewhere to continue its NAASP. The authorities should do the right thing with the returned loot and show Nigerians that they can properly and efficiently invest the funds in projects that would provide tangible benefits to the victims of corruption who are the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population.

“The authorities can use the loot to fund universal healthcare programme and a tuition assistance programme that would provide post-secondary/university education scholarships to young Nigerians from poor families and who would otherwise lack the resources to carry out their studies,” SERAP added.

The group also queried the efficacy and credibility of the entire plan, wondering the justification of leaving out some states from the exercise.

“In any case, distributing the returned loot to households in 19 states because the remaining 17 state governments have not yet put in place the appropriate platform through which to implement the NAASP is both unfair and discriminatory.

“The planned distribution is also vulnerable to abuse and corruption by state governors, who may push for the funds to be given to their supporters and thus used for parochial and political purposes. The proper and efficient spending of recovered funds is key for development and can support efforts to combat grand corruption, “ SERAP said.

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Kenya’s Ruto sacks cabinet amidst protests in major win for protesters

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In response to pressure from widespread protests that have produced the greatest crisis of his two-year government, Kenyan President William Ruto dismissed his entire cabinet on Thursday, with the exception of the foreign minister.

After beginning peacefully, the youth-led demonstrations against the proposed tax increases descended into violence, resulting in at least 39 deaths during altercations with the police last month. A few protestors briefly invaded the parliament before Ruto decided against the new levies.

“I will immediately engage in extensive consultations across different sectors and political formations and other Kenyans, both in public and private, with the aim of setting up a broad-based government,” Ruto said in a televised address to the nation, adding that he would announce additional measures later.

In addition, he fired the attorney general but claimed that this had no bearing on the deputy president’s position.

Kenyans had been requesting significant cabinet changes, seasoned anti-corruption activist John Githongo told Reuters.

“Let us see what happens now if the new ministers deal with big issues around corruption and just the arrogance and excess of his administration and the fact that a lot of Kenyans died during the demonstrations,” he said.

“Hopefully this should temporarily calm things.”

Ruto finds himself torn between a beleaguered populace reeling from the rising expense of living and lenders like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressuring him to reduce deficits. He suggested borrowing more money and cutting spending in approximately equal proportions last week to close the nearly $2.7 billion budget deficit left by the removal of the tax rises.

Although the government has no outstanding debt, many claim that Kenya is likely to miss its IMF targets as a result of the tax rollback. For the fiscal year that began on July 1, the estimated budget deficit is currently 4.6% of GDP.

Dismissing so many cabinet members, according to Ojango Omondi, a community organizer from the Social Justice Centers Working Group in Nairobi, was a “move towards justice,” but activists would want to see who Ruto chooses to replace them.

“It’s one thing to dismiss, the second is to ensure that the people that will be chosen in the cabinet are accountable to the constitution and the rule of law,” Omondi said.

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South Sudan’s president dismisses 6th finance minister since 2020

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Four months into the position, South Sudan’s President, Salva Kiir, has fired the finance minister, the sixth person to hold the position since 2020, according to state-run television.

The report stated late on Wednesday that Kiir did not explain the dismissal of Awow Daniel Chuong, who was appointed in mid-March of this year. Economist Marial Deng has been selected to take over as finance minister in Kiir’s place.

Due to intercommunal violence, South Sudan’s economy has been under strain recently. Since the civil war that lasted from 2013 to 2018, revenue from crude oil exports has decreased, and more recently, export disruptions have occurred because of the conflict in neighbouring Sudan.

The governor of the central bank, James Alic Garang, declared in May that the foreign exchange reserves of South Sudan had reached all-time lows.

This year, the International Monetary Fund predicts that consumer price inflation will soar to 54.8%.

After South Sudan separated from Sudan in 2011, Kiir was elected as the country’s first president.

In December, the nation is scheduled to elect a president, members of the legislature, and regional delegates.

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