The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has taken a bold step towards promoting financial transparency and accountability in Nigeria. In a recent initiative, the advocacy group has called upon the governors of all 36 states and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, to disclose detailed information regarding the federal allocations received for local governments since the return of democracy in 1999. This request extends to both the total amounts received and their actual disbursement to local governments.
SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oluwadare, emphasized the importance of this information in a freedom of information (FOI) request dated January 27, 2024. The organization highlighted the citizens’ right to know about the disbursement and expenditure of federal allocations in their respective states and the FCT.
The group has also urged these state leaders to invite the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a thorough investigation into the disbursement and spending of these allocations since May 1999. This move is in response to longstanding concerns over allegations of corruption and mismanagement of these funds, which have significantly contributed to widespread poverty and underdevelopment in various states.
Former President Muhammadu Buhari had raised alarms over this issue in December 2022, highlighting the discrepancy between the amounts allocated and the amounts reported as received by local government chairmen. According to Buhari, there is a practice where only a fraction of the allocated amount reaches the local government, with the rest being misappropriated.
In their FOI request, SERAP has given a 7-day ultimatum for compliance, failing which they intend to take legal action to enforce this demand in the public interest. They argue that transparency in the disbursement and spending of federal allocations is essential for increasing accountability, preventing corruption, and building trust in democratic institutions.
SERAP’s concerns are further backed by substantial figures, citing that over N40 trillion has been allocated to local governments across Nigeria and the FCT since 1999. They point out that despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, the average Nigerian has seen little benefit due to grand corruption and a culture of impunity.
The organization also calls for details of transparency and accountability mechanisms in place to ensure that these allocations are not embezzled or diverted. They reference sections of the Nigerian Constitution that mandate the maintenance of a ‘State Joint Local Government Account’ and the allocation of amounts for the benefit of local government councils.