Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to drag state governors in the country and the minister of the Federal Capital Territor1y, Abuja, Nyesom Wike, to court if they fail to account for the funds allocated for local governments since 1999.
SERAP, which made the threat in a Freedom of Information requests dated January 27, 2024, also urged them to invite Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local governments in their states and the FCT since May 1999.
The civil society organisation argued that Nigerians have the right to know the details of actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations in their states and the FCT. SERAP also maintained that the states and the FCT should be guided by transparency and accountability principles and proactively publish information pertaining to their actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local governments.
It further stated that the opacity in the amounts of federal allocations actually disbursed to local governments in their states has continued to have negative impacts on the fundamental interests of the citizens and the public interest.
The organisation said transparency in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local governments is fundamental to increase accountability, prevent corruption, and build trust in democratic institutions, and strengthen the rule of law.
SERAP argued that implicit in the freedom of expression is the public’s right to know what governments are doing on their behalf, without which truth would languish and people’s participation in government would remain fragmented.
It stated, “transparency would ensure that the allocations are not diverted into private pockets, and increase public trust that the money would be used to benefit Nigerians resident in these local government areas.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that years of allegations of corruption and mismanagement of federal allocations meant for local governments have contributed to widespread poverty, underdevelopment and lack of access to public goods and services in several states.
“Ensuring transparency and accountability in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations in your state would also improve the enjoyment by Nigerians of their right to natural wealth and resources.
“You have a legal responsibility to promote transparency and accountability in the actual disbursement and spending of federal allocations meant for local government areas in your state, and to ensure that the allocations are fully disbursed to the local governments.
“SERAP is concerned that despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, ordinary Nigerians have derived very little benefit from oil money primarily because of widespread grand corruption, and the culture of impunity of perpetrators.
“Combating the corruption epidemic in the spending of federal allocations meant for local government areas in your state would alleviate poverty, improve access of Nigerians to basic public goods, and enhance the ability of the local governments to effectively and efficiently discharge their constitutional and statutory responsibilities.
“According to our information, the 36 states in Nigeria and the federal capital territory, Abuja, have collected over N40 trillion federal allocations meant for the 774 local governments areas in the country and FCT.
“The Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) disbursed to states N225.21 billion federal allocations meant for local governments in November 2023 alone. States also collected N258,810,449,711.47 federal allocations meant for local government areas in December 2023.
“However, there is opacity in the actual disbursement of federal allocations to the local government areas in your state. States and the FCT have over the years failed and/or refused to disclose the portion of federal allocations that are disbursed by state governors.”
SERAP noted that former president Muhammadu Buhari recently alleged that state governors routinely pocket or divert federal allocations meant for local governments areas in their states.