The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked Nigeria’s Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Ms Sadia Umar-Farouk, to publish details of the proposed payments of N729bn (about $1.918 billion) to 24.3 million poor Nigerians for six months.SERAP, which is a Non Governmental Organisation, also wants the Minister to provide details about the mechanisms and logistics for the payments, list of beneficiaries, how they have been selected, projected payments per state, and whether the payments will be made in cash, through Bank Verification Numbers or other means.
The request by SERAP followed the announcement by the Minister last week that the Nigerian Government would pay about 24.3 million poor Nigerians N5,000 each for a period of six months.
She had disclosed the plan at the inauguration of the Nigerian Government’s emergency intervention database for the urban poor, saying the payments would serve as a cushion for those further impoverished by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its request dated 23 January 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Publishing the details of beneficiaries and selection criteria, as well as the payment plan for six months, would promote transparency and accountability, and remove the risks of mismanagement and diversion of public funds.
“Transparency and accountability in the programme would improve public trust, and allow Nigerians to track and monitor its implementation, and to assess if the programme is justified, as well as to hold authorities to account in cases of diversion, mismanagement and corruption.”
SERAP added that it was important for the Minister to get the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to jointly track and monitor the payments in order to ensure transparency and accountability,
In the statement released on Sunday in Lagos, SERAP said that it was giving the Nigerian government seven days from the receipt or publication of its Freedom of Information (FOI) request to grant it.
“If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions under the Freedom of Information Act to compel you to comply with our request,” it said.
It explained that although the provision of support and assistance to vulnerable Nigerians is a human rights obligation, the amount involved, which is five percent of the 2021 budget, requires anti-corruption safeguards.