14th March, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari has been dragged to court over the plans of his government to borrow an estimated N895billion from Nigerians.
The money is the accumulation of balances in dormant bank accounts and unclaimed dividends.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) filed a lawsuit on Friday asking the Federal High Court in Abuja to restrain Buhari and his government, perpetually, from going ahead with the plan.
It called the borrowing plan ‘unlawful expropriation’.
SERAP slammed the Finance Act 2020, which authorises the borrowing a patently unlawful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory legislation.
It said the same legislation explicitly excludes dormant official bank accounts by all branches of government and their agencies.
In the suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/31/2021 filed last Friday, SERAP is seeking a perpetual injunction restraining Buhari from collecting Nigerians’ money and transferring the money into a trust fund known as ‘Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund’”.
In the suit, SERAP is arguing that “the Federal Government should not be allowed to borrow Nigerians’ money.
“Borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts owned by ordinary Nigerians would negatively affect their right to an adequate standard of living, and access to clean water, quality healthcare and education.”
“Despite Nigeria’s dwindling oil revenue, the growing level of public debt, and widespread poverty, public officers including the President, Vice President, governors and their deputies, and members of the National Assembly have refused to cut their emoluments, allowances and security votes.
“At the same time, millions of Nigerians continue to bear the brunt of mismanagement and corruption.”
Joined in the suit as Defendants are Mr Abubakar Malami SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila; and the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
SERAP is also arguing that “For there to be a borrower, there must be a lender. The intention to enter into such borrower-lender relationship must be known to both parties. Any other arrangement that allows a borrower to access funds from a lender without the knowledge and express consent of the lender will amount to stealing.”
According to SERAP: “The Federal Government has repeatedly failed to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of public wealth and resources such as recovered stolen public funds, and the loans so far obtained, estimated to be $31.98bn, and failed to address the systemic and widespread corruption in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).”
The suit was filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo.