By Chioma Iruke
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has advised Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari to redirect the proposed spending of N4.8bn of public money to monitor WhatsApp messages, phone calls, and text messages of Nigerians, to pay salaries of striking resident doctors, improve their benefits, and improve public healthcare facilities for the sake of poor Nigerians who rely on those facilities.
In an open letter dated 14 August, 2021, and signed by SERAP Deputy Director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization also urged the president to send a fresh supplementary appropriation to the National Assembly “which reflects the redirected budget, for its approval”.
“Redirecting the proposed spending of N4.8bn would be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office, and the letter and spirit of the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 [as amended], as it would promote efficient, honest, and legal spending of public money.
“It would also remove the threats to fundamental human rights of Nigerians, and ensure access to quality healthcare for the socially and economically vulnerable people who rely on public hospitals, and have no opportunity for medical treatment elsewhere,” SERAP said.
“Any appropriation law ought to comply with the Nigerian Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations and commitments.
“The constitutional oath of office implicitly provides some safeguards on the appropriation and spending of public funds, and imposes a legally binding obligation on public officers to preserve the public money, and not to disburse it except conformably to the Constitution.
“SERAP believes that any proposed spending of public funds should stay within the limits of constitutional responsibilities, and oath of office by public officers, as well as comply with Chapter 2 of the Nigerian Constitution relating to fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.
“The mere threat of mass surveillance, even when secret, coupled with the lack of remedy, can constitute an interference with human rights, including the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,” it added.
The letter was copied to Mr Abukabar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice; and Mrs Zainab Ahmed Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.