Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the Federal High Court, Abuja to order President Muhammadu Buhari to publish details of loans obtained by his government since May 29, 2015.
The details should include interest rates, total amount of debts incurred, as well as projects the loans were spent on.
Respondents in the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020 are Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance; and Patience Oniha Director-General of the Debt Management Office.
SERAP is seeking an order to compel Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, repayment conditions, whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans, and if there is a plan to audit the spending of the loans.
It wants the court to direct Buhari toward instructing the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the spending of all loans obtained since May 2015.
The body is arguing that opacity in the spending of loans would continue to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of citizens.
“Transparency would ensure that the loans are not diverted to private pockets, increase public trust that these loans would be used to benefit Nigerians, provide good value for money, and reassure Nigeria’s creditors.”
SERAP noted that the legal action is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party. Its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Adelanke Aremo, filed the suit.
They said the massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply.
Furthermore, the rights group is seeking an order compel Buhari to disclose information on details of spending of loans obtained by successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999.
Buhari has sought the National Assembly’s approval for a fresh loan of $5.513bn, reportedly to fund the 2020 budget deficit, critical projects, and support some states.
The National Assembly recently approved a N850billion loan. Another loan of $22.79bn, had previously been approved by the National Assembly.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the suit.