SERAP sues Buhari over move to borrow N895bn from Nigerians’ dormant accounts

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project
(SERAP) has filed a lawsuit asking the Federal High
Court in Abuja “to restrain and stop President
Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Government
from borrowing an estimated N895bn of Nigerians’
money in the form of their unclaimed dividends and
balances in dormant accounts, under the guise of
the patently unlawful, unconstitutional, and
discriminatory legislation known as ‘the Finance
Act, 2020.’”
The suit followed recent move by the Federal
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 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: “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’”.
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.”
According to SERAP: “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.”
ALSO READ: Drop plans to borrow from
dormant accounts, unclaimed dividends,
SERAP tells Buhari
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,
Ms 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 filed on behalf of SERAP by its lawyers
Kolawole Oluwadare and Ms Adelanke Aremo, read
in part: “By the combined reading of section 44(1)
of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended)
and Article 14 of the African Charter on Human and
Peoples’ Rights, the Federal Government has
absolutely no right to borrow Nigerians’ money in
the form of their unclaimed dividends and funds in
dormant accounts without their knowledge and
express consent.”
“The move to borrow Nigerians’ money amounts to
unlawful expropriation, as it is neither proportionate
nor necessary, especially given the unwillingness or
inability of the government to stop systemic and
widespread corruption in MDAs, cut waste and stop
all leakages in public expenditures. The borrowing
is also not in the public interest.”
“Respect for the right to property is important to
improve the enjoyment of other basic human rights
and to lift Nigerians out of poverty. There is a limit
on the ability of any government to interfere with
private property without legal just.”

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