The citizens’ interests to understand how public revenue is spent by government have prompted the probe of the missing Abacha loot by the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project, SERAP, simply to ensure that Nigerians are actively participating in the decision-making process of governance.
And the civil society group is heading to the courts following the inability of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to provide records on how 5 billion dollars was spent.
The intent for the inquiry was made known by the Deputy Director, SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, during a live phone conversation on Public Conscience on Radio, a program produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, and runs every Wednesday in Abuja on 95.1 Naija Info.
He said the Freedom of Information (FoI) request was invoked to aid SERAP gain access to the exact figures retrieved and expended from the loot as well as place their findings in public domains which would bridge the communication gap between the government and its citizens.
You will recall that the AGF in response to SERAP’s FOI request disclosed that government does not have record of the $5b recovered between 1999 and 2015.
“The fact that this information is not in the public domain suggests that there might have been a misspent, or a re-looting or possible diversion of these repatriated funds, but this is just what the public thinks, we cannot be sure.
“That is why I think it is in the interest of the government to put out this information to the public. When the citizens are aware that specific funds were budgeted for this particular project in their states, it would make them more involved.
SERAP’s Deputy Director made It clear that Nigeria has not fared-well as regards its attitude towards access of information to the citizens.
He connected this gap to the reasons why citizens would mainly kick against and not rally behind government’s plans to borrow, especially knowing that international nations condition Nigeria before returning stolen funds, and that our government is not accountable nor transparent.
On the role of citizens in holding government accountable, Oluwadare said that the citizens need to be more active in governance. “Participatory in governance means citizens must know so they can make informed choices through their representatives at the local, state and federal levels.
“I believe citizens in Nigeria are not participating enough due to different factors: one is the non-inclusiveness even on the part of the government and then the other is in apathy, a sought of arms that has taken hold of the citizens because of what they’ve seen over the years.
“So, citizens distrust the government and they even care less and even ask less. And when you look at the FoI that we do advocacy on when we talk to citizens that these laws empower them to ask questions, most of them are not even aware, and those aware are not even inclined to do so.”
Public conscience on radio is produced with the support from the MacArthur Foundation.