THE SOCIO-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has given the 36 state governors a seven-day ultimatum to respond to its requests to urgently provide information on spending details on COVID-19 in their respective states.
The organisation also urged all the governors to immediately redirect public funds budgeted for security votes and life pensions to public healthcare facilities and access to quality education.
The SERAP’s requests were contained in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to all the 36 state governors in Nigeria
“We are concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds by several states to respond to COVID-19,” SERAP said.
“With a few exceptions, there is a lack of information on what exactly many state governors are doing to respond to the COVID-19. There are also increasing reports and allegations of corruption and mismanagement of resources linked to COVID-19,” the group said.
In the letter dated April 25, and signed by Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP Deputy Director, the organization said: “Redirecting security votes and life pension funds to invest in public healthcare facilities and access to quality education in your state would improve your ability to respond to COVID-19, provide palliatives and socio-economic reliefs to residents, and meet the expectations of Nigerians.”
“Given the rising number of deaths in Kano state reportedly linked to COVID-19, your state and other state governors now have to show leadership, transparency and accountability, if you are to effectively and satisfactorily respond to the COVID-19 crisis, curb the spread of the disease and save lives of Nigerians within your state,” SERAP added.
The organisation further noted that it would be a betrayal of constitutional oath of office by the governors to continue to receive security votes, pay life pensions and other needless allowances at a time of public health crisis in their states.
“Taking these steps, SERAP explained, would not only help save lives but also help ensure that the necessary institutional reforms in the health and education sectors occur within the states.
“According to our information, some states such as Kano are waiting for handouts from the Federal Government and are refusing to take any meaningful action to respond to COVID-19, stop the spread of the disease and save lives,” it said.
SERAP lamented that many state governors were spending scarce state resources to pay themselves security votes and their predecessors’ life pensions rather than using public funds to invest in public healthcare infrastructure and improve access to quality education in their states.
According to SERAP, the situation in Kano State was reportedly linked to lack of effective leadership, transparency and accountability in the state, which would lead to grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity if not urgently addressed.
It demanded that state governors should disclose the exact amounts that have so far been received from the Federal Government, private donations and other sources and details of spending of any such funds.
This, it added, must include details of palliatives and other socio-economic reliefs that they have so far provided to the poorest and most vulnerable people, including the list of beneficiaries of any such palliatives and reliefs.