A suit has been filed against President Muhammadu Buhari over a plan by Federal Government to borrow N895billion from dormant accounts in the nation’s banks.
In the suit filed at Federal High Court in Abuja by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the group wants the court to stop President Buhari and the government from borrowing the money “under the guise of the patently unlawful, unconstitutional, and discriminatory legislation known as Finance Act, 2020.”
The suit was filed following a recent move by the government to take over and borrow unclaimed dividends and dormant account balances owned by Nigerians in any bank in the country. But the same legislation that allows government to borrow the money explicitly excludes dormant official bank accounts operated by all branches of government and their agencies.
Specifically, SERAP is seeking “an order of perpetual injunction restraining and stopping President Buhari from demanding, taking over, borrowing, and collecting Nigerians’ money in the form of their unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts or transferring and moving the money into a trust fund known as ‘Unclaimed Funds Trust Fund.”
Among the arguments of the group is that borrowing unclaimed dividends and funds in dormant accounts owned by ordinary Nigerians would negatively affect their right to 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,” SERAP said.
Joined in the suit as defendants are the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila and Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ms. Zainab Ahmed.
“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,” the group argued.
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 $31.98billion, and failed to address the systemic and widespread corruption in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).”
No date has been fixed for hearing of the suit filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers, Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms. Adelanke Aremo.