With the agreement between the Nigerian and United States governments to return the over $23 million looted by the late dictator, General Sani Abacha to the country, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has demanded a copy of the document.
The rights group has written to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking him to “direct the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to provide our organisation with a copy of the agreement the Federal Government recently signed with the United States for the repatriation of $23 million stolen by late General Sani Abacha”.
In the letter dated 27 August and signed by its Deputy Director ,Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said that its demand is based on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, the 1999 Constitution as well as some international obligations Nigeria is meant to follow.
The letter reads: “By the combined reading of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended), the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, and the country’s international obligations, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to widely publish the agreement on the $23 million Abacha loot.
“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 group argued that the current administration has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any repatriated stolen funds are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.
It asked President Buhari to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the repatriated funds are not mismanaged, diverted, or re-stolen.
“We would therefore 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.
“Publishing a copy of the agreement signed with the US would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds. Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognised human right to information”.
“Publishing a copy of the agreement would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of repatriated loot”, SERAP added.
According to the group, the FoI 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 everyone the right to information, including to a copy of the agreement on the repatriated $23 million Abacha loot.
The letter was copied to the Justice Minister.