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CSO sues Tinubu over failure to account for loans collected by former presidents

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A Nigerian civil society group,
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has filed a lawsuit against the President Bola Tinubu-led administration over its the failure to publish details of spendings of loans obtained by former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.

The lawsuit filed on Friday at the Federal High Court, Lagos, on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Andrew Nwankwo, with the number FHC/L/CS/353/2024, has as defendants the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun, and the Debt Management Office (DMO).

In the suit, SERAP is seeking the court to “direct and compel the Tinubu government to publish the loan agreements obtained by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari.”

The group is also asking the court to “direct and compel the Tinubu government to publish the spending details of any such loans, including the interests and other payments so far made on the loans.”

“No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions on the spending of public funds which can be revealed without injury to the public interest. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires transparency,” the CSO said.

“Publishing the loan agreements would improve public accountability in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“Nigerians are entitled to information about what their government is doing in their name. This is part of their right to information.”

“Publishing the agreements and spending details would allow the public to see how and on what these governments spent the loans and foster transparency and accountability.

“Publishing the loan agreements signed by the governments of former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, and widely publishing the agreements would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it and to demand accountability for the spending of the loans.

“According to Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, the total public domestic debt portfolio for the country’s is N97.3 trillion ($108 billion). The Federal Government’s debt is N87.3 trillion ($97 billion.)

“Nigeria paid $6.2 billion in 2019 as interest on loans while the country paid $6.5 as interest in 2018. Nigeria also paid $5 billion as interest on loans in 2017 while the country paid $4.4 billion as interest in 2016. For 2015, the interest paid on loans was $5.5 billion.

“Substantial parts of the loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 may have been mismanaged, diverted or stolen, and in any case remain unaccounted for.

“Persons with public responsibilities ought to be answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of the loans obtained between May 1999 and May 2023.

“The Tinubu government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any loans obtained by the Federal Government are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.

“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 to copies of the loan agreements obtained by successive governments since 1999.”

“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria, the Freedom of Information Act 2011, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there are transparency obligations imposed on the Tinubu government to widely publish the agreements and details of the projects on which the loans were spent.”

“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.

“The Tinubu government should make it possible for citizens to have access to the agreements and spending details to judge whether their government is working for them or not.

“The information may help to explain why, despite several billions of dollars in loans obtained by successive governments, millions of Nigerians continue to face extreme poverty and lack access to basic public goods and services.

“Nigerians’ right to a democratic governance allows them to appreciably influence the direction of government, and have an opportunity to assess progress and assign blame.

“The accountability of government to the general public is a hallmark of democratic governance, which Nigeria seeks to achieve,” the SERAP filing said.

Metro

Expect new national minimum wage soon, Tinubu assures Nigerian workers

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The lingering new National minimum wage saga between the Nigerian government and organised labour may have been put to rest finally as President Bola Tinubu has assured workers that a new wage structure will soon be put in place.

Tinubu, who revealed this in his 2024 Democracy Day broadcast on Wednesday, said that a consensus had been reached on the new minimum wage between the Federal Government and organised labour, adding that an executive bill would soon be sent to the National Assembly to formalise the new minimum wage agreement.

“In this spirit, we have negotiated in good faith and with open arms with organised labour on a new national minimum wage.

“We shall soon send an executive bill to the National Assembly to enshrine what has been agreed upon as part of our law for the next five years or less,” President Tinubu said.

He went on to emphasize that in the cause of the long drawn battle between government and labour, his administration had chosen a democratic approach over dictatorship in addressing the demands of labour unions.

“In the face of labour’s call for a national strike, we did not seek to oppress or crack down on the workers as a dictatorial government would have done. We chose the path of cooperation over conflict.

“No one was arrested or threatened. Instead, the labour leadership was invited to break bread and negotiate toward a good-faith resolution.

“Reasoned discussion and principled compromise are hallmarks of democracy. These themes shall continue to animate my policies and interaction with the constituent parts of our political economy.

“I take on this vital task without fear or favour and I commit myself to this work until we have built a Nigeria where no man is oppressed. In the end, our national greatness will not be achieved by travelling the easy road. It can only be achieved by taking the right one.

“We dare not slumber lest the good things awaiting our immediate future pass us by. We dare not plant our feet in an idle standstill in the middle of the intersection of hope and despair. We know the proper way forward and we shall take it! The initial rays of a brighter tomorrow now appear on the early horizon.

“An abundant future and our capacity to achieve that future lie within our reach. Democracy and the institutions it begets offer to take us to our profound destination.
Let us board this progressive train together. Together, let us move Nigeria forward.

“Let’s continue to keep the fire of democracy burning. Let’s keep the torch lit for generations to come,” he added.

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Metro

Chinsali youth highlights challenges facing freelance journalists in rural Zambia

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Catherine Chansa, a youth from Chinsali District, has highlighted that limited resources were hindering journalists, especially freelancers, from fully utilising media freedoms.

Chansa pointed out that journalists, particularly those in rural areas, struggle to obtain adequate information to support their stories due to resource constraints.

Adding her voice to the debate on media freedom and the Cyber Security Act, Chansa told Zambia Monitor that harassment from those in authority was another significant challenge journalists faced in their line of duty.

“Many times, when a journalist writes a story critical of the government, they are followed, intimidated, and threatened with the closure of their media houses,” she said.

Chansa stated that although media freedom exists in the country, governments tended to exclude journalists and media houses from state functions for being critical or publishing stories that do not align with them.

Additionally, Chansa noted that limited resources and harassment from government officials had led the mainstream media to neglect coverage of marginalised groups, particularly in remote areas.

“The mainstream media does not effectively cover far-flung areas but concentrates on urban centers where information is more easily accessible, often due to better road infrastructure, which is not the case in rural areas,” she said.

Regarding laws regulating the activities of journalists, Chansa expressed the view that existing laws were insufficient to protect them and that the government should continuously refine or develop laws to ensure full protection for journalists.

This story is sponsored content from Zambia Monitor’s Project Aliyense.

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