Supreme Court judgment: SERAP threatens 36 govs, Wike with lawsuits if LG funds are not returned

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Nigeria’s 36 governors and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Mr Nyesom Wike “to immediately account for and return the local government funds which they have collected over the years.”

SERAP’s call is coming on the heels of the landmark decision by the Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional and unlawful the retaining and using by the 36 state governors and FCT minister of funds meant for the 774 local governments in the country.

In a statement on Thursday signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organisation said: “We applaud the Supreme Court for this groundbreaking decision which will end the persistent alleged misappropriation by several of trillions of FAAC allocations or public funds meant for local governments.”

SERAP said, “Following the Supreme Court judgment, there is now a clear legal precedent to hold governors and FCT minister to account for how they have spent the local government funds collected by them.”

The statement, read in part: “Implicit in the Supreme Court judgment is the requirement for the governors and FCT minister to immediately account for and return the funds meant for local governments but retained and used or allegedly misused by them.

“Accounting for and returning the LGA funds collected would build trust in democratic institutions and strengthen the rule of law.

“The National Assembly must urgently amend the provisions of Section 162 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended] to ensure that local government allocations from the Federation Account are directly paid to local government areas and not collected by governors and FCT.

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“If the governors and FCT minister fail to account for and return the funds meant for local governments in their states and FCT within 7 days, SERAP shall consider appropriate legal actions to compel the governors and FCT minister to comply with our requests in the public interest.

“It is in the public interest for the governors and FCT minister to immediately account for and return the funds meant for local governments in their states and the FCT since 1999.

“Accounting for and returning the local government funds collected 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.

“It would be recalled that former president Muhammadu Buhari had in December 2022 stated that, “If the money from the Federation Account to the State is about N100m, N50m will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The chairman will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.’

“According to Buhari, ‘If the money from the Federation Account to the State is about N100 million, N50 million will be sent to the chairman but he will sign that he received N100 million. The chairman will pocket the balance and share it with whoever he wants to share it with.’”

“The 36 states in Nigeria and the federal capital territory, Abuja, have reportedly 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.”

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