Okowa,Wike, Others Get 7 Days To Account For N625 Billion Derivation Refunds

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the nine oil-producing states in Nigeria to give details about how they spent the N625 billion in oil derivation refunds that the Federal Government recently gave them. These details should include what projects were done with the money and where they were done.

The Federal Government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, recently gave oil derivation refunds totalling N625.43 billion to Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo governors, Rivers, Ondo, Imo, and Cross River states.

The payments were made to cover 13 per cent of oil derivation, subsidy, and SURE-P refunds from the years 1999 through 2021.

SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare wrote in an open letter dated December 19, 2022, “It is in the public interest to publish the details of spending of the refunds.”

“Nigerians have the right to know how their states are spending the refunds. It is part of their legally enforceable human rights.”

The SERAP report states, “Disclosing the information would enable Nigerians to scrutinise the spending of the refunds. Publishing the details of the oil derivation refunds would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds.”

An excerpt from the letter reads, “Widely publishing details of the spending of the oil derivation refunds would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties in the management of public funds.

“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of this letter’s receipt and/or publication.

“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel you and your state to comply with our request in the public interest.

“The public interest in obtaining the information about expenditures relating to the oil derivation refunds outweighs any privacy or other interests.

“The oversight afforded by public access to such details would serve as an important check on the activities of your state and help to prevent abuses of the public trust.

“SERAP also urges you to disclose details of spending of the refunds to local government councils through the state accounts and to explain the role played by your government in the spending of public funds meant for the councils.

“The constitutional principle of democracy also provides a foundation for Nigerians’ right to know details of spending on oil derivation refunds. Citizens’ right to know promotes openness, transparency, and accountability, that is, in turn, crucial for the country’s democratic order.

“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 about how the oil derivation refunds are spent.

“Your state cannot hide under the excuse that the Freedom of Information Act is not applicable to your state to refuse to provide the details being sought, as your state also has clear legal obligations to provide the information as prescribed by the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and. Enforcement) Act.

“SERAP urges you to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the spending of the oil derivation refunds by your state.

“SERAP also urges you to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the derivation refunds are not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.”

SERAP said that, based on the information they had, Abia State got N4.8 billion from the 13% derivation fund, Akwa-Ibom got N128 billion, and Bayelsa got N92.2 billion. Cross River got a refund of N1.3 billion, Delta State got N110 billion, Edo State got N11.3 billion, Imo State got N5.5 billion, Ondo State got N19.4 billion, and Rivers State got 103.6 billion.

“The nine states also received N4.7 billion each, totalling N42.34 billion as refunds on withdrawals for subsidy and SURE-P from 2009 to 2015. The Federation Account also paid N3.52billion each as a refund to local government councils on withdrawals for subsidy and SURE-P from 2009 to 2015,” it stated.

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