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POVERTY INDEX: SERAP wants Buhari to probe N500bn allegedly spent yearly on social intervention programmes




Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), on Sunday, charged President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the alleged spending of a sum of N500 billion yearly on social intervention programmes in the country.

The organization also urged the Buhari-led administration to account for the spending of over $700 million returned from different countries as Abacha loot.

This followed a recent survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) putting the number of poor Nigerians to a total of 133 millions based on four indices including access to health, education, living standards as well as unemployment and shocks.

The District of Columbia had in 2014 ordered the forfeiture of approximately $500 million located in accounts around the world, as the result of a civil forfeiture complaint for more than $625 million traceable to money laundering by Sani Abacha, a Nigerian military Head of State between November 17, 1993 and June 8, 1998.

The Buhari-led administration had recovered $322 million from Switzerland in 2017 and $311 million from Jersey Island, United Kingdom, in February 2020.

The United States on Thursday had also returned another $20.6million as parts of the loots to the Federal Government.

SERAP, which commented on the development in a terse tweet, challenged President Muhammadu Buhari to commence thorough investigation into the utilization of the funds.

READ ALSO:SERAP threatens to sue Buhari if sponsors of attacks on INEC offices are not arrested

The tweet read: “133 million poor Nigerians: We’ve urged President Buhari to probe the reported spending of N500 billion yearly (including over $700m Abacha loot) on ‘social intervention programmes’ within seven days or face legal action.”

The group in a statement released on Sunday, also urged Buhari “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.”

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.

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

“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.

“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.”

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