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SERAP urges Buhari to pay striking doctors with N4.8bn budgeted for WhatsApp monitoring

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to urgently redirect the proposed spending of N4.8bn…

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to urgently redirect the proposed spending of N4.8bn of public money to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians and other people, to pay some of the salaries of striking resident doctors, improve their benefits, as well as improve public healthcare facilities for the sake of poor Nigerians who rely on those facilities, and have nowhere else to turn.”“We also urge you to send to the National Assembly a fresh supplementary appropriation bill, which reflects the redirected budget, for its approval,” SERAP said.

In the open letter dated August 14, 2021, and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “Redirecting the proposed spending of N4.8bn would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended), as it would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money.”

According to SERAP, “Redirecting the proposed spending of N4.8bn would also remove the threats to fundamental human rights of Nigerians, and ensure access to quality healthcare for the socially and economically vulnerable people who rely on public hospitals, and have no opportunity for medical treatment elsewhere.”

The letter, read in part: “Any appropriation law ought to comply with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.”

“The constitutional oath of office implicitly provides some safeguards on the appropriation and spending of public funds, and imposes a legally binding obligation on public officers to preserve the public money, and not to disburse it except conformably to the Constitution.”

“SERAP believes that any proposed spending of public funds should stay within the limits of constitutional responsibilities, and oath of office by public officers, as well as comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution relating to fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.”

“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even when secret, coupled with the lack of remedy, can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

“The proposed spending of N4.8bn of public funds as contained in the Supplementary Appropriation Act, which you signed last month would give rise to serious violations of the human rights of Nigerians and other people, as it would grant free rein to government agencies to conduct mass surveillance of communications of people.”

“The proposed spending also fails to meet the requirements of public interests, legality, necessity, and proportionality. Additionally, the lack of any safeguards against discriminatory decision-making, and access to an effective remedy shows the grave threats it poses to constitutionally and internationally recognized human rights.”

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