The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has tasked governors of the 36 states of the federation to channel their security votes and life pensions of ex-governors to the fight the coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
Deputy-Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, on Sunday, revealed that Freedom of Information, FOI, requests had been sent to all the governors to urgently provide information on spending on COVID-19 in their respective states.
SERAP said in the FoI requests that the public funds initially budgeted for security votes and former governors’ life pensions should be redirected by the serving governors to improve public healthcare facilities and access to quality education in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter written to the governors dated April 25, the organisation urged them to show leadership, transparency and accountability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
The organisation said in the letter: “Redirecting security votes and life pension funds to invest in public healthcare facilities and access to quality education in your state will improve your ability to respond to COVID-19.
“It will provide palliatives and socio-economic reliefs to residents, and meet the expectations of Nigerians,” it said in a statement.
SERAP said it would be a betrayal of the constitutional oath of office if the governors continued to receive security votes, pay life pensions and “other needless allowances” at a time of public health crisis in their respective states.
The FoI requests sent by SERAP said: “The situation in Kano State must be urgently addressed.
“The Kano situation shows the urgent need for all state governors to demonstrate leadership at a time of public health crisis.
“This should be done by immediately stopping payment of security votes and life pensions and redirecting the funds to respond to COVID-19, investing in healthcare facilities and access to quality education in your state.
“We ask you to provide the requested information within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter,” it further said.
SERAP noted that failure to respond to the request would spur the Registered Trustees of the organisation to take appropriate legal action under the Freedom of Information Act to compel the governors to comply with the requests.
“By the combined reading of the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, there were transparency obligations imposed on all public officials to disclose information to the public on spending details on COVID-19.
“We urge you to provide information on details of funds so far received from the Federal Government, private donations and other sources,” SERAP said.
The organisation said in responding to the FoI requests, the states should provide details of the exact amounts so far received from the Federal Government, private donations and other sources and details of spending of any such funds.
The states are urged to provide details of palliatives and other socio-economic reliefs so far provided to the poorest and most vulnerable citizens and the list of beneficiaries of such palliatives.
The FoI request urged the governors to provide details of what they were improving testing for COVID-19, provision of resources for isolation centres and safe protective equipment for health workers.
The governors are also urged to give information on the coordination and support that their states were providing to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, to improve their state’s capacity to respond to COVID-19.