BY BRIGHT JACOB
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged President Bola Tinubu to use his good offices and leadership position to “urgently publish details of spending of about N400bn so far saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit popularly known as petrol.”
He was urged by SERAP to “provide details of the plans on how subsequent savings from the removal of petroleum subsidy would be used, including specific projects on which the funds would be spent, and the mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that any such savings are not embezzled, misappropriated, or diverted into private pockets.”
According to reports, the Federal Government saved N400 billion in the four weeks following the implementation of the policy on the removal of petrol subsidy payments.
In the letter dated July 1, 2023, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said, “Your government has a legal responsibility to ensure that the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol are spent solely for the benefit of the 137 million poor Nigerians who are bearing the brunt of the removal.
“Prevention of corruption in the spending of savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol and preventing and addressing the challenges caused by the removal are serious and legitimate public interests.”
According to SERAP, “Nigerians have the right to know how the savings are spent. Publishing the details of the spending of the savings would promote transparency, accountability, and reduce the risks of corruption in the spending of the funds.”
The letter, read in part, “SERAP is concerned that the savings from subsidy removal may be embezzled, misappropriated or diverted into private pockets.
“Opacity in the spending of the savings from subsidy removal would have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 7 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.
“Unless the government is transparent and accountable to Nigerians in how it spends the savings from the removal of subsidy on petrol, the removal will continue to undermine the rights of Nigerians, and increase their vulnerability to poverty and social deprivation.
“Transparency would ensure that the funds saved from the removal of subsidy are not diverted into private pockets, and increase public trust and confidence that these savings would be used to benefit Nigerians.
“The implementations of the National Social Safety Net Programme and spending on the programme have been mostly shrouded in secrecy.
“Publishing the details of the spending of the N400bn and other savings from the removal of subsidy would also ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of the funds.
“Transparency and accountability in the spending details of the N400 billion saved as a result of the removal of subsidy on petrol, and on the spending of subsequent savings from the removal would mean that the savings can help poor Nigerians to overcome the effects of such removal.
“It would also help to avoid a morally repugnant result of double jeopardy on poor and socially and economically vulnerable Nigerians.”